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Mark S. Gardner, RetireWellDallas, Completes Advanced Training from America’s IRA Experts at Ed Slott and Company, LLC

Local RetireWellDallas, Mark S. Gardner, Owner Completes Advanced Training from America’s IRA Experts at Ed Slott and Company, LLC

Members of Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor GroupSM Studied Latest Retirement Account Planning Strategies, Estate Planning Techniques and Tax Laws at Semiannual Workshop

Dallas, Texas – May 25, 2018 – RetireWellDallas, Mark S. Gardner completed his semiannual training with America’s IRA Experts at Ed Slott and Company, LLC in Philadelphia May 17-18, 2018. The workshop, which was attended by members of Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor GroupSM, provided in-depth technical training on advanced retirement account planning strategies and estate planning techniques, as well as an update on the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 on retirement planning.

“From lower tax rates and the elimination of Roth IRA recharacterizations to the doubling of the estate, gift and generation-skipping exemptions, tax reform has had a major impact on many key retirement planning strategies in recent months. Because of these changes, it is more important than ever for advisors to study and master these topics. I commend Gardner, who has been associated with our advanced training program for 1 year, for staying current with his retirement planning education so that he can best serve his clients,” said Ed Slott, CPA, founder of Ed Slott and Company and a nationally recognized IRA expert who was named “The Best Source for IRA Advice” by The Wall Street Journal. “With this ongoing training, Gardner can help their clients reduce their tax liability and adjust their financial plans in order to have a safe and secure retirement.”

Highlights from this event included: advanced IRA estate planning, including the difference between federal and state estate tax law; the rules and strategies for designating a trust as an IRA beneficiary; the tax implications and penalties surrounding prohibited transactions and how to avoid them and planning considerations for real estate and alternative investments within an IRA. Additionally, members analyzed recent tax law changes and their impact on retirement planning strategies, including the confirmed legitimacy of backdoor Roth IRA conversions, changes in the way a child’s unearned income is taxed, the impact on charity deductions and reasons why qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) are more desirable than ever, the temporarily reduced threshold for the medical expenses deduction and more.

Training was provided by Ed Slott and Company’s team of retirement experts, including Ed Slott, CPA; Beverly DeVeny; Sarah Brenner, JD; Jeremy Rodriguez, JD and Jim Glass, JD. Ed Slott and Company and many of the advisors in Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor GroupSM are the go-to resources for attorneys, CPAs, and other financial advisors because of their in-depth knowledge and expertise in all areas of retirement account and income planning.

Members of Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor GroupSM have year-round access to Ed Slott and Company’s team of retirement experts for consultation on advanced planning topics. The membership also includes step-by-step processes, including the Complete IRA Care Solution™ 30-module planning guide. Members also have access to proprietary worksheets and pamphlets, including The Definitive Guide to Required Minimum Distributions for Baby Boomers and Ed Slott’s 2018 Retirement Decisions Guide, that they can use when working with clients.

“There are many changes coming out of Washington, and it’s important for me to understand how these changes can impact my clients’ financial futures,” said Gardner. “Many are asking if they’re doing all they can to maximize their wealth. The training I receive as a member of this group allows me to serve as a trusted resource to those who want to evolve their financial plans in accordance with the changing laws and regulations.”

“The recent overhaul of the tax code has changed the way many Americans need to plan for retirement. It’s crucial for people to work with a financial professional who commits to ongoing education and maintaining the knowledge required to guide their clients through this post tax-reform era,” said Slott. “Advisors who fail to invest in their own education may make costly and irreversible mistakes on behalf of their clients. Our mission is to educate advisors so that they can help their clients make informed decisions about their financial futures.”

Mark Gardner can be contacted for more information on IRA and retirement-related questions. Please visit or call 214-762-2327.

ABOUT ED SLOTT AND COMPANY, LLC: Ed Slott and Company, LLC is the nation’s leading provider of technical IRA education for financial advisors, CPAs and attorneys. Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor GroupSM is comprised of nearly 400 of the nation’s top financial professionals who are dedicated to the mastery of advanced retirement account and tax planning laws and strategies. Slott is a nationally recognized IRA distribution expert, best-selling author, and professional speaker. He has hosted several public television specials, including “Retire Safe & Secure! with Ed Slott” Visit for more information.

Mark S. Gardner – Retirement Planning

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Using Your IRA for a Short-Term Loan

Using Your IRA for a Short-Term Loan

Reported By Mark S. Gardner, 214-762-2327

For many Americans, their IRA is their largest asset. It is not surprising then that in times of financial trouble they may want to turn to their IRA as a quick source of cash. If this is your situation and you are thinking about using your IRA for a short-term loan, here is what you need to know some employer plans include provisions where participants can take loans, but IRAs are different. There are no loan provisions for IRAs. In fact, taking a loan from your IRA would be considered a prohibited transaction and could result in the IRS considering your entire IRA liquidated and your retirement savings lost.

Because IRAs do not have loan provisions like qualified plans do, the only way to access your IRA funds on a short-term basis would be to take a distribution, use the funds as needed, and then replace them in the IRA by doing a 60-day rollover. There is nothing in the rules that prohibits you from taking a distribution whenever you want from your IRA and for whatever purpose you choose. There is also no rule that limits what you can do with your money while it is out of your IRA during the 60-day period before the rollover. So yes, technically you could take money from your IRA as a short-term loan using the 60-day rollover rule.

While you may be able to do this, the bigger question is whether it is a good idea. Doing a 60-day rollover can be tricky. There are many rules that must be followed, such as the one-rollover-per-year rule. This rule limits you, with some exceptions, to one IRA rollover in a 365-day period. That’s it! If you run afoul of this rule or any other rollover rule, your distribution will be considered taxable and will be subject to penalty if you are under age 59½. This is a mistake that can’t be fixed.
Another concern is the rule’s deadline. You must deposit the funds within 60 days from the day you receive the IRA distribution. What if you do not have the money to complete the rollover by the deadline? Again, you would be facing a taxable IRA distribution and potential early distribution penalties. Don’t expect any sympathy from the IRS. In many Private Letter Rulings, the IRS has refused to grant relief to taxpayers who used 60-day rollovers to take short-term loans from their IRAs but failed to complete a rollover by the deadline. A failed short-term loan is also nowhere to be found on the list of reasons why the IRS will allow a late rollover through the self-certification procedures.
The bottom line is that using your IRA for a short-term loan by doing a 60-day rollover is allowed, but best avoided if possible. The risks are high and the cost of things not going as planned could be a tax bill and the loss of retirement savings with no relief likely from the IRS.

Mark S. Gardner, Managing Partner
5307 E. Mockingbird Lane. Suite 900
Dallas, Texas 75206
Mobile: 214-762-2327 Fax: 469-914-6088 or or
Ed Slott Video about Tax Free Planning
Mark is a member of Ed Slott’s Master Elite IRA Advisor Group℠. He continuously trains with Ed Slott and Company, America’s IRA Experts, on in-depth technical training on advanced Pre & Post retirement account strategies, estate planning techniques and new tax laws, including an emphasis on tax reduction methods for retirees as they transition into the distribution phase of retirement. The Group is dedicated to being leaders in the retirement industry and protecting their clients’ families’ futures. Mark is Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies (CSSCS) designation.


Living Longer Means Greater Retirement Risk!

Living Longer Means Greater Retirement Risk!

Mark S. Gardner

There are important considerations that you need to make as people today are living 30 or more years in retirement. Longevity is a two-edge sword because the longer you live the more likely you’ll experience some form of financial hardship.

With the future uncertain one could face a need for some form of long-term care, a market crash or inflation creeping in and putting a hardship on your ability to live off your retirement portfolio. All these actions can have a devastating impact on your financial security.

With 10,000 baby boomers coming-of-age each day one of the major fears they face about retirement is running out of money. Many people still claim their Social Security benefits early and permanently reduce their benefits for the rest of their life.

― Willie Nelson said it perfect, “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” There are 567 strategies that are used to determined what is best for you to receive by maximizing your Social Security payment. Timing your Social Security benefits is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make for retirement. Many people spend more time planning their vacation, buying a car or refrigerator than they do contemplating this critical decision.

Per Social Security Administration, in 20 12/37% of men and 42% of women took their benefits at age 62, permanently reducing their monthly benefit. Redeeming news is that these numbers are down from over 50% in 2000. About 31% Amana 25% of women have waited until age 66. Only 1% of man into percent of women waited until age 70 and the rest started taking their benefits between age 66 and 69.

For most people, it comes down to two simple questions:

  1. How Much Can I Expect to Receive?
  2. At what age should I start my benefits?

It typically pays to delay collecting your benefits as your answer depends on several factors:

  1. What Is Your Current Health and Expected Longevity One should delay receiving benefits if you and your spouse are in good health and expect to live a long life. However, if you have a serious medical condition you may want to start earlier. Remember though the higher earning spouse’s benefit covers two lives!
  2. What other savings investments do you have? Having other savings and income can allow you to take money out of these accounts while you are delaying your benefits.
  3. Are you going to continue to work? It may not make sense to draw benefits if one continues to work due to your income.
  4. What kind of taxable income will you have in retirement? Your Social Security benefits may be taxed If you have a significant pension or other taxable income.
  5. What is your current family situation? Do you have a minor child? Are you divorce? Are you a widow or widower? Each of these situations call for different strategies

If you’re concerned about maximizing your Social Security benefits, I can help make it an easier decision and less stressful for you. Just call me 214-762-2327 or email me at

Your Money Matters” Committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and professionalism in our relationship with you, our client”. We endeavor to know and understand your financial situation and then provide you with only the highest quality of information, services, and products to help you reach your goals. We work hard on your behalf to tailor a solution that best fits your needs. Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies (CSSCS) designation.


The Roth IRA Could be the 2016 Election’s Real Winner

With the 2016 presidential election completed, it’s time to start looking ahead to the coming year and focusing on changes that impact investment and financial planning decisions. Both President Elect Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have proposed tax reform plans that envision reducing personal income and corporate tax rates.

Both plans promise the lowest tax rates since WWII, and personal income tax brackets would be reduced from seven to three. Under Trump’s plan, the tax brackets would be 12%, 25% and 33%, a reduction from the existing highest rate of 39.6%. Capital gains rates would remain at a top rate of 20%, while business income would be taxed at 15%. Both the Trump and Ryan plans would raise the standard deduction limit for individuals.

Overall, lower personal and business taxes are anticipated across the board. For individuals thinking about making IRA and/or pension contributions, the question is whether they should be made pre-tax or Roth. A pre-tax or 401(k) contribution offers a current income tax deduction for the amount contributed, but will result in income tax on income taken out of the account. A Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) contribution is made with after tax funds, and will result in tax-free income later provided specific conditions are met. A Roth IRA does have an income limit of $194,000 for a married couple filing jointly.

In determining whether to make a pre-tax or Roth contribution, the key is to look at the financial impact a deduction would have on tax liability. Take the example of an individual earning $40,000 per year. Under the Trump plan, the tax burden would be $4800, compared to a 25% tax rate in 2016. The general thinking goes that if there is less tax to pay then taking a tax deduction would have less of a financial impact than in a higher tax environment. An IRA contribution deduction would reduce income tax due, but the deduction would have a lower financial impact than there would be with higher tax rates, making the Roth contribution more attractive. A lower income tax policy is likely to lead to more advisers recommending the Roth IRA or 401(k) option over a pre-tax contribution. Lower tax rates mean that deductions carry less value.

Some might suggest that lower tax rates means that saving money in a tax free retirement account, such as a Roth, would have less value given that there would be less tax due at distribution. But with tax rates at probably historical lows, those looking to retire in the next 10-20 years could be looking at a future with higher taxes.

My team and I can review your financial program and help you in deciding what are the best ways to allocate your dollars as well as guide you in what is the best way to claim your Social Security benefits.

If you or someone you know is retiring or nearing retirement please feel free to contact me at 214-762-2327 or


Will or Won’t Your 401(k) and IRAs Change in 2016?

Time is Priceless and So is your Money! I always say two pair of EYES are better than one. Let’s meet and discuss your most important next stage of your retirement investments—-Preservation & Distribution!!! We should talk 214-762-2327 or email me at

Next year IRA income limits will increase for spouses without retirement accounts. You won’t be able to save more in a 401(k) or individual retirement account in 2016. However, you can earn slightly more and still be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA and claim the saver’s credit. Note how the ways your retirement accounts will change in 2016.

Your 401(k) contribution limits remain unchanged. The contribution limit for 401(k)s, 403(b)s, most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan will remain $18,000 in 2016. The catch-up contribution limit for workers age 50 and older will also stay the same at $6,000. “The pension plan limitations will not change for 2016 because the increase in the cost-of-living index did not meet the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment,” according to a statement from the IRS. Most savers don’t come anywhere near the 401(k) contribution limits. Only about 10% of 401(k) participants contribute the maximum possible amount each year, according to Vanguard 401(k) plan data.

IRA contribution limits stagnant. The IRA contribution limit will continue to be $5,500 in 2016. Workers age 50 and older can make catch-up contributions of an additional $1,000. Many retirement savers max out their IRA each year. Some 43 percent of IRA investors contributed the maximum possible amount in 2013, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute analysis of IRAs. If you don’t let’s look at how you can do so.

Bigger Roth IRA income cutoffs. Workers can earn $1,000 more in 2016 and still be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. Eligibility to make Roth IRA contributions phases out for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is between $117,000 and $132,000 for individuals and heads of household and $184,000 to $194,000 for married couples. “This will make a few more folks eligible for the Roth,” says Kevin Brosious, a certified financial planner and president of Wealth Management Inc. in Allentown, Pennsylvania. However, there are a couple of ways you can contribute to a Roth IRA even if your income is above the cutoff amounts. “A backdoor Roth is where you contribute into a nondeductible IRA and then convert it to a Roth IRA,” Brosious says. “Also, the IRS now allows after-tax contributions made to a 401(k) to be converted into a Roth IRA.”

Traditional IRA income cutoffs remain the same. Savers who have a workplace retirement account can additionally claim a tax deduction for IRA contributions, unless their income exceeds certain annual limits. The IRA tax deduction is phased out for singles and heads of household whose modified adjusted gross income is between $61,000 and $71,000, the same as in 2015. The income phaseout range is $98,000 to $118,000 for married couples when the spouse who contributes to the IRA also has access to a workplace retirement plan. There are no income limits for the IRA tax deduction for people who don’t have a retirement account at work.

IRA income limits increase for spouses without retirement accounts. Savers who don’t have a workplace retirement account but are married to someone who does can claim the full tax deduction on their IRA contribution until the couple’s income exceeds $184,000, which is $1,000 more than in 2015. The IRA tax deduction for spouses without retirement accounts is gradually phased out for couples earning between $184,000 and $194,000 in 2016.

Higher income limit for the saver’s credit. Workers with slightly higher incomes will qualify for the saver’s credit in 2016. Single retirement savers are eligible for the credit until their adjusted gross income exceeds $30,750, which is $250 higher than in 2015. The income limit for married couples will climb by $500 to $61,500. And heads of household qualify for the credit if their income is $46,125 or less, up from $45,750 in 2015.

This tax credit for people who save for retirement isn’t well known, with only 30 percent of workers saying they are aware of the saver’s credit, according to a survey of 4,550 workers by Harris Poll for the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. For people who qualify, the saver’s credit is worth between 10 and 50 percent of the amount contributed to a retirement account up to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples, with the biggest credits going to people with the lowest incomes. “Now, even more low- and moderate-income American workers can benefit from this valuable tax incentive to save for retirement,” says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “The saver’s credit literally pays workers to save for retirement. It’s a free matching contribution from the IRS.”

Reported by Mark S Gardner, RetireWellDallasat 214-762-2327. Your Social Security Doctor and Ira & 401(k) Specialist!


Divorce Can Be Nasty And Getting Through It Can Be Gut-Wrenching

bride groom divorce  

My Father and Mother had a normal loving relationship…however, when my mom was 44 years old she faced the loss of my dad who passed away from cancer at the early age of 53, leaving her with 4 kids to raise. She was a super-mom who made sure all her children got a college degree and additional educational and professional degrees.   Most people have heard the saying—Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. When it comes to divorce, men can turn on the testosterone and be nasty. However, women don’t have a monopoly on character either, but certain scenarios reveal a uniquely male potential for nastiness.   Commonly said, 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Take, for example, a divorcee named Suzy, whose ex-husband after seven years of marriage asked for a divorce, complaining she “had gained too much weight and was no longer a trophy wife.” Or, take Jennifer, whose former husband she had thought of as her “best friend.” Yet after years building a successful business together, her “best friend” completely blind-sided her when he told her he “fell in love” with a girl he met on an online dating site. Then there are guys, like Anne’s controlling ex-husband, who insisted she look and dress a certain way, challenged her personal decisions and eventually deprived her of access to their finances … and car. How about Susan who had ovarian cancer — told her he wanted someone younger and healthier with whom he could have children.   All these women were shattered by these cruel ex-husbands, but found dignity and self-respect through a program providing women with information about the legal, emotional and financial aspects of divorce.   While men naturally divorce as much as women do, the female orientation of the program is by design. I have often found that women, when they’re in a group with men aren’t comfortable asking the questions they have. However when “women in a group of other women create a sense of community that allows them to speak freely.” This also takes into account widows whose plight is as severe as the loss of their partner. Most men control the finances and the woman often is not as involved so her lack of experience and naiveté and know how to make financial decisions can be challenging. Then one day she is hit over the head with terrible news and her world goes into a tail spin.   I will be hosting workshops for divorcees and widows which will be conducted by volunteers in three areas, addressing women’s basic legal, emotional and financial questions. CPA Ronald Blumka, Wills & Estate Attorney Barbara Clark, PhD in Counseling Psychology L. Scott Luff, Realtor, Virginia Cook Real Estate Karen Marti Hale, Family Law, Carol Wilson, Personal Banker Capitol One Katrina Leal, Credit Repair Specialist Steven Palmieri, (looking for forensic accountant to add to our list) to round out our team of professionals.   At the divorce workshops, each participant is asked to make a small donation (waived in cases of extreme need) as all funds are donated to two nonprofit organizations helping women – both seeking to empower women around money and/or family issues. The Vogel Alcove provides childcare and case management for children and their families while The Dallas Jewish Family Service offers food, resume assistance and development, employment services, and counseling. The divorce workshops are an opportunity to give back, but it’s also an opportunity as an advisor to differentiate myself from everybody else out there by giving back in a very different way.   While many of the attendees are down and out, because divorce is so pervasive in American society, the population served by wealth managers — that is, the wealthy — are usually there as well. Our goal is to provide a safe place where women can meet and get answers in a comfortable environment and not feel their questions and concerns are foolish or have no merit.   Divorce is the great equalizer and I wish to serve as an advisor to women in all degrees of issues and finances. The trauma of divorce typically leaves women in a heightened state of emotion for which my calm and rational approach is the antidote.   I’m working with a potential client right now who is so distraught that she cannot think rationally about her situation. The woman’s suspicion that her husband is hiding assets has deepened her lack of tranquility, so I am (in addition to working with the prospect’s forensic accountant) working to keep the client focused on the basics: how to maintain her standard of living over the next 30 to 35 to 40 years.   Women learn basics which can range from what is a retainer; can they divorce without a professional’s help; how do they deal with a hostile spouse; how do they help their children deal with the changes; should they keep their house; how do they deal with retirement; when they get a large sum of money how do they manage it and the list goes on.   When a person goes through a divorce, feelings of love for that spouse changes to survival. Then law is simply the way to untie the knot; what really concerns people going through divorce is the children and the money.  A divorcing spouse focused on keeping her home, for example, may not fully grasp the impact that decision would have on her prospects for eventual retirement. Our goal is to show women and help them not only understand the ‘if, what’s and about’ in what they are going through.   Our mission is to provide a safe environment for women where we can address all issues, concerns and frustrations that one may go through during the divorce process. Our group will bring our individual expertise to make a significant difference in people’s lives.   Contact us at 214-762-2327 if you are interested in signing up or know of someone who is going through or has gone through a divorce or is a widow and you feel may need this support group. Stay tuned for my next program. Date and time will be announced in a future blog…or simply call us to be included on our list.   – Mark S. Gardner (214-762-2327)


Four Setbacks You Could Face! Why Do We Save So Little?

bump in the road
What’s good for the economy isn’t necessarily good for our future. Will I outlive my money?  If not what can I do to avoid this situation?

Provided by Mark S. Gardner

Our parents & grandparents saved much more than we do. Most people who have read up on the economy for any length.

of time have heard of the personal saving rate (PSAVERT), which the Commerce Department calculates as the ratio of personal saving to disposable personal income. The January personal spending report released by the Commerce Department in early March showed the PSAVERT at 4.3%.1

As recently as January 2013, households were saving just 2.3% of their disposable incomes – so this can be labeled a short-term improvement. It still pales in comparison to the way Americans used to save.2

The “greatest generation” had a culture of saving. Its thrift was reinforced further by hard times and a call for personal sacrifices as the economy endured the Great Depression and stateside rationing during WWII. The Commerce Department began measuring household saving in 1959, and as unbelievable as it may seem today, households saved 10% or more of their disposable incomes through nearly all of the Sixties. In May 1975, the personal savings rate reached a historic peak of 14.60%.1,2

From 1959 to the present, the PSAVERT average has been 6.84 percent – but the 21st century shows evidence of a significant decline. The savings rate fell into the 1-3% range, dropping to a record low of 0.8% in April 2005.2

To some analysts, a declining personal savings rate signals a stronger economy. It implies more spending, and consumer spending has the biggest impact on GDP. You can’t have it all, however; more spending means less saving, and Americans are plagued by insufficient retirement reserves.

Are credit cards the problem? We borrow greatly, but there are other factors in play. You may have heard about America’s “shrinking middle class.” That is no exaggeration.


The most recent Census Bureau data shows the median U.S. household income for 2012 at $51,017. By comparison, median U.S. household income in 1989 – when adjusted for inflation – would work out to $51,681 today. From 1989-2012, annualized consumer inflation was mostly in the 2-4% range. All this illustrates a slow but notable erosion of purchasing power.3,4


During the same time frame, the cost of college went up dramatically, health care costs increased, and real estate values fluctuated. People saved less and borrowed more, and not simply on impulse; they wound up borrowing more to maintain a middle-class standard of living.


Real incomes aside, we are often lured into unnecessary spending. Advertising can convince us that we have unmet needs and desires, and that we must respond to them by buying goods and services. Urges, emotions, ennui, living without a budget – these can all lead us to spend more than we really should, especially given how much money we will need to adequately retire.


Our parents and grandparents really knew how to pay themselves first – and while economic pressures make it harder for many of us to do so today, that doesn’t make it any less of a priority.  


It might be useful to think about future money when you think about making a discretionary purchase. Are those dollars you are spending at a mall or restaurant today better off saved or invested for tomorrow?


Think about your big dreams and goals, the ones you have looked forward to realizing for years. How many dollars are you putting toward them? Is your spending aligned with them, or in conflict with them? Could you spend less here and there and devote more money to those priorities?


Sometimes we have to borrow and spend more than we would like, but often we have a choice – and the choice we make may affect our ability to retire sooner or later.     


In a 2013 survey of people aged 50 to 70 with $100,000 or more in financial instruments, 90% reported that they had experienced at least one setback in saving for retirement.

In fact, the average respondent had experienced four setbacks with an average loss or missed opportunity of $117,000.1

The future is always uncertain, and as the saying goes, “Life happens.” It would be wise to prepare for the unexpected and react logically rather than emotionally when faced with retirement challenges. Here are some obstacles you might need to overcome.

Surviving market downturns. More than half of those surveyed said their nest egg had been reduced by index losses during the Great Recession.2 Yet another survey suggested that about 50% of workers who were 32 to 51 when the recession started actually showed gains in their retirement dollars during the 2007 to 2009 period.3 This group may have had lower balances when the recession began, and it’s likely that they continued saving throughout the downturn.

Saving too little or too late. To accumulate sufficient retirement dollars to retire at age 65, one rule of thumb suggests stashing away 15% of income starting at age 25. Someone starting at age 35 might need to put away about 30% each year, and the percentage would increase to about 64% annually for someone starting to save at age 45!4 To maximizing your retirement nest egg, you may also need to adjust your lifestyle and control your spending. Once you reach age 50, you are eligible to make additional “catch-up” contributions.

Experiencing a traumatic event. A job loss, unexpected medical expense, death of a loved one, or divorce might make it difficult to save for retirement. Having three to six months of living expenses in “emergency dollars” would prevent you from tapping into your retirement nest egg, especially tax-deferred IRAs and 401(k)s. This is because withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income and may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty if taken prior to age 59½.

Balancing college and retirement. When these two priorities compete, many people stop putting aside money for retirement to pay for their children’s educational costs.1 The key is to balance your children’s needs with your own retirement goals and find an appropriate strategy.

The road to retirement is long, winding, and seldom smooth. But with patience and a steady commitment, you could reach your destination regardless of how many obstacles you encounter along the way.

Let me help you get started with a sound retirement strategy today. Just Ask Mark S. Gardner 214-762-2327

1–2), May 14, 2013
3) The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013
4), September 24, 2012
5), March 4, 2013


Mark S. Gardner may be reached at 214-722-7555 Office or 214-762-2327 Cell.


1 – [3/3/14]

2 – [3/6/14]

3 – [9/20/13]

4 – [3/7/14]


Ten Things To Help Make Your Money Work Harder for Retirement



Little Things You Could Do That Could Help You Leave Work a Little Sooner.

Provided by Mark S. Gardner

Little things matter. When planning for retirement, people naturally think about the big things – arranging sufficient income, amassing enough savings, investing so that you don’t outlive your money, managing forms of risk. All of this is essential. Still, there are also little financial adjustments you can make at mid-life that may pay off significantly for you down the road.

Drop some recurring expenses & do something else with the money. How much do you spend for cable or satellite TV? Could you drop that expense or find a cheaper provider? How about the money you spend each month on a storage unit? A service contract? A subscription to this or that? Two or three such monthly expenses might be setting you back $100, $200 or more. What if you used that money to pay yourself? What if you saved it? What if you invested it and let it compound?

Assign your investments to appropriate accounts. This could be a route toward tax savings. When you retire, you will probably want to structure your retirement withdrawals so that money comes out of your taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred accounts, and then tax-free accounts. This gives assets in tax-deferred and tax-free accounts a little more time to grow.

Before that time arrives, you will likely find it ideal for your taxable accounts to hold investments taxed at lower rates, and your tax-advantaged accounts to hold investments taxed at higher rates. Various investment classes (stocks, commodities, bonds and so forth) are taxed differently, and some investors ignore that reality.

How much of a difference could such placement make? Here’s a long-range hypothetical example. Imagine putting $4,000 each year in a mutual fund returning 8% annually, with 3% of that 8% coming from income. If that fund is held in a tax-deferred account under those circumstances for 40 years, it grows to $1,036,226, and $880,792 when adjusted for taxes. Put that fund in a taxable account (annual contributions adjusted to $2,880, the return taxed annually at 15%) and you wind up with $841,913, actually $771,789 adjusting for taxes.1

Investigate fees. High fund and account fees can eat into your retirement savings effort, and most people never check on them. If your 401(k) plan charges 0.4% in annual fees and you contribute $10,000 or more to it annually over the decades, those tiny fees could shave tens of thousands of dollars off the account balance by your retirement date. Investment fees of 0.5% for index funds and 1% for actively managed funds are probably enough to make you think twice about putting up with anything greater.2

Ditch a zero-interest savings account for a better one. Interest rates are rising, but they are still far from historical norms. If you have money in a savings account that is yielding 0.15%, then search online for one that might yield 1.5% or 2% or more.

Strategize with your credit cards. If you always pay the full balance off each month, look for a card with rewards points – you could use them instead of cash someday. If you can’t pay off monthly balances fully, your strategy is simple – you want a credit card with the lowest interest rate you can find.

See what you’re spending. Few pre-retirees do this, and that’s because when they think “track monthly expenses,” they think of pen and paper and a couple of dull hours poring over receipts and bills. Good news: software exists to do some of the work for you, software that can keep you apprised of household budgetary limits, trends and progress. Some of the budgeting software out there now can help you retain more money to save for the future.

Spend less on food & clothes. Online discounts (and coupons) abound, and it is astonishing how many people don’t take advantage of them. Your smartphone and your PC aren’t the only sources; the Sunday paper can pay for itself this way. In the rear-view mirror, many food and clothes purchases are less than necessary, sometimes frivolous.

Reduce your debt. Some of the above moves may help you do just that. According to the most recent study from credit card comparison website CardHub, American households averaged $6,690 in credit card debt in the third quarter of 2013. Whether you owe more or less than that, such debt is certainly worth whittling down.3

Annual Portfolio Review. As one ages you should reduce your exposure and risk. Historically when interest rates increase the stock market retreats. Common sense says our government is printing money for going into further and further deficits. So ask yourself where do you see interest rates go? If you feel are going up and especially if you have a portion of your assets and fixed income bond portfolios or if you are concerned that we are closer to a top than a bottom in the stock market what can I do with my money or a portion of it. One of the answers is Fixed Income Annuities.

 As this quarter is coming to an end let’s sit down and review where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow.

Mark S. Gardner may be reached at 214-762-2327 or Web Site


1 – [1/2/14]

2 – [1/19/11]

3 – [10/23/13]


The Fed Finally Tapers Seven Things to Know and One Alternative Investment Solution

The FOMC authorizes a minor reduction in bond buying starting in 2014.December 18 turned out to be T-Day: the day on which the Federal Reserve finally tapered QE3. In making the move, the Fed acknowledged an improving economy; Wall Street quickly and enthusiastically applauded its decision.

The Fed will reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion.

QE3 will continue, but the central bank will buy only $75 billion of bonds per month starting in January. The $10 billion cut comes evenly across Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities; next month, the central bank will purchase $40 billion of the former and $35 billion of the latter.1,2

Fed officials voted 9-1 in favor of a taper.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren was the lone dissenter on the Federal Open Market Committee, terming the action “premature” as the jobless rate had not yet descended to the Fed’s target of 6.5%.1,3

Market reaction: thumbs up.

The 2:00pm EST announcement gave stocks a real boost; the Dow rose 292.71 for the day to 16,167.97, the NASDAQ gained 46.38 to 4,070.06 and the S&P 500 ascended 29.65 to 1,810.65. Judging by the rally, Wall Street seemed to agree that it was time for action.4

“I think logically, this is what they had to do,” JPMorgan Funds managing director David Kelly told CNBC, reflecting a broad opinion. “If you look at what’s happened this year, the unemployment rate has come down to 7 percent. We’ve got housing starts over a million units. We got the S&P 500 up 25 percent. In this economy, you have to pull back from the most extreme monetary policy in a century. So I think it’s overdue. I’m glad to see it.”3

Additional gradual reductions in QE3 may follow.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke noted that the central bank’s quantitative easing effort may be reduced in “further measured steps” determined in upcoming FOMC meetings.5

Could an interest rate decision be coming?

The FOMC addressed that topic in its policy statement. It noted its intention to keep the federal funds rate at current levels “well past the time” unemployment reaches its target of 6.5%.5

What does this mean on Main Street?

As the noted economist Peter Morici told MarketWatch: “The stimulus program was supposed to boost spending going in, so it’s going to reduce spending going out.”6

It may become slightly tougher to finance big-ticket purchases in 2014, especially if the Fed keeps reducing the scale of its monthly asset purchases as the year unfolds. National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun commented to Market Watch that homeowners who want to move (or move up) “need to realize that it could be more challenging a year from now.” Yun thinks the average interest rate on a 30-year home loan could hit 5% or even 5.5% sometime in 2014. Home improvement projects, student loans and auto loans may all grow costlier.6

Retirees, on the other hand, may see some financial positives if the Fed opts to tinker with interest rates next year. “Interest rates close to zero punish savers and retired folks,” University of Michigan-Flint finance professor Mark Perry reminded Market Watch. “Right now, consumers are getting almost zero interest on their checking or savings account.” Perry estimates that under present conditions, American savers could realize $76 billion in additional interest income for every 1% that the Fed raises the key interest rate. Retirees and pre-retirees who dream of traveling more might also benefit in the near term – the dollar strengthened versus a basket of currencies prior to the central bank’s announcement, and an appreciating dollar certainly buys more overseas.6

One may consider investing in a Fixed Annuity.

An Annuity is a financial product that allows a contract holder to accumulate money on a tax-deferred basis and receive a series of payments at regular intervals. People purchase annuities to obtain an income or to supplement retirement income they will receive from Social Security, pension benefits, investments and other sources.

Annuities can help eliminate one of your fundamental concerns: Outliving your savings. They can offer you guaranteed lifetime income payments, which may give you:

  • Freedom to fulfill your retirement dreams
  • Financial peace of mind
  • Flexibility to use your cash however you choose
Unique among insurance products, annuities can offer you:
  • Guaranteed lifetime income payments that you can’t outlive
  • Tax-deferred growth which may minimize the taxes you have to pay when you start receiving payments
  • Flexible payout options that can help meet your financial needs.

There are many factors to consider when determining the best retirement strategy for you and your family. If you are interested in safety and guarantees without giving up great earning potential then an annuity may be right for you.

And due to market fluctuation an investor never has to work about losing a penny of ones principal and can be guaranteed a guaranteed return on your investment. Call me if you wish to learn more how you can get a positive return on your money whether the Stock market is up or down.


  • 1. [12/18/13]
  • 2. [12/18/13]
  • 3. [12/18/13]
  • 4. [12/18/13
  • 5. [12/18/13]
  • 6. [12/18/13]

Mark S. Gardner may be reached at 214-722-7555 office or 214-762-2327 cell or



Seven Things You Should Know About Your Financial Co-Pilot

If anything happens to you, does your family have someone to consult?

If you weren’t around, what would happen to your investments?

In most families, one person handles investment decisions, and spouses or children have little comprehension of what happens each week, month or year with a portfolio.

In an emergency, this lack of knowledge can become financially paralyzing. Just as small business owners risk problems by “keeping it all in their heads,” families risk problems when only one person has an understanding of investments.

This is why a trusted relationship with a financial advisor can be so vital.

If the primary individual handling investment and portfolio management responsibilities in a family passes away, the family has a professional to consult – not a stranger they have to explain their priorities to at length, but someone who has built a bond with mom or dad and perhaps their adult children.

You want an advisor who can play a fiduciary role.

Look for a financial advisor who upholds a fiduciary standard. Advisors who build their businesses on a fiduciary standard tend to work on a fee basis, or entirely for fees. Other financial services industry professionals earn much of their compensation from commissions linked to trades or product sales.Look for a financial advisor who upholds a fiduciary standard. Advisors who build their businesses on a fiduciary standard tend to work on a fee basis, or entirely for fees. Other financial services industry professionals earn much of their compensation from commissions linked to trades or product sales.

Commission-based financial professionals don’t necessarily have to abide by a fiduciary standard. Sometimes, only a suitability standard must be met. The difference may seem minor, but it really isn’t. The suitability standard, which hails back to the days of cold-calling stock brokers, dictates that you should recommend investments that are “suitable” to a client. Think about the leeway that can potentially provide to a commission-based advisor. In contrast, a financial advisor working by a fiduciary standard has an ethical requirement to act in a client’s best interest at all times, and to recommend investments or products that clearly correspond to that best interest. The client comes first.

You want an advisor who looks out for you.

The best financial advisors earn trust through their character, ability and candor. In handling portfolios for myriad clients, they have learned top professionals earn much of their compensation from commissions linked to trades or product sales.

Commission-based financial professionals don’t necessarily have to abide by a fiduciary standard. Sometimes, only a suitability standard must be met. The difference may seem minor, but it really isn’t. The suitability standard, which hails back to the days of cold-calling stock brokers, dictates that you should recommend investments that are “suitable” to a client. Think about the leeway that can potentially provide to a commission-based advisor. In contrast, a could alert you to egregious fees and work with you to find alternatives.1,2

Many investors have built impressive and varied portfolios but lack long-term wealth management strategies. Money has been made, but little attention has been given to tax efficiency or risk exposure.

As you near retirement age, playing defense becomes more and more important. A trusted financial advisor could help you determine a risk and tax management approach with the potential to preserve your portfolio assets and your estate.

Financial advisor working by a fiduciary standard has an ethical requirement to act in a client’s best interest at all times, and to recommend investments or products that clearly correspond to that best interest. The client comes first.

The best financial advisors earn trust through their character, ability and candor.

The best financial advisors earn trust through their character, ability and candor. In handling portfolios for myriad clients, they have learned to watch for certain concerns, and to be aware of certain issues that may get in the way of wealth building or wealth retention.

Take account and fund fees, for example. These can subtly eat into retirement savings. According to Investment Company Institute research, annual expense ratios of stock funds averaged 0.77% in 2012. So why do many investors endure annual fund fees well above 1%? (The typical equity mutual fund charges an investor 1.3-1.5% a year.) An advisor acting in your best interest

Your family will want nothing less.

With a skilled financial advisor around to act as a “Co-Pilot” for your portfolio, your loved ones have someone to contact should the unexpected happen. When you have an advisor who can step up and play a fiduciary role for you today and tomorrow, you have a professional whose service and guidance can potentially add value to your financial life.

If you’re the family member in charge of investments and crucial financial matters, don’t let that knowledge disappear at your passing. A will or a trust can transfer assets, but not the acumen by which they have been accumulated. A relationship with a trusted financial advisor may help to convey it to others.

Having spent over 4 decades on Wall Street I have several clients who I work for as a Trustee.

Concerns to address—Do you have a Will, Directive to a Physician and Power of Attorney? If so is it current? Do you have a list of all your Holdings, Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, Banker, CPA and other Valued Advisors—Name, Numbers and Contact Information? Tell me are your Executors holding copies of these papers?

Mark S. Gardner may be reached at 214-722-7555 office or 214-762-2327 cell or