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Take Charge Of Your Future By Investing

Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revie

If you haven’t got a heap of money to invest, don’t worry about finding a financial planner - just plunk what you can into a mutual fund.

You might want to spread it around between a few funds.

One stock fund.

Another bonds. A third money market instruments. Or a blended fund of some sort.

But rich or poor, there’s no excuse for not investing.

That was the bottom line at MoneyTalk ‘98, a day-long workshop on personal financial planning presented by Seafirst Bank and The Spokesman-Review.

“My parents were career Salvation Army officers,” recalled Tom Porter, who taught a class at the workshop on how to Get Your Assets in Shape. “They made eight bucks a week in their first assignment, and 135 bucks a week in their last assignment. They donated 10 percent to the church. And they saved 10 percent.

“So when somebody tells me that they can’t save I just have to smile. It’s your choice. You have to decide what to do with money you have,” says Porter, who wrote three books on financial planning and who is head of financial planning services for Seafirst.

“But to start investing, you obviously have to put something aside. Now. Today. It’s that basic.”

When enough money accumulates to be worth worrying about, the time has come to seek professional help. Meantime, Porter says, “Starting an investment program through a reputable mutual fund vendor is a very good way to begin.

“You don’t need a financial plan for that. But as you grow, you reach a point where you need a little more help.”

Fortunately, financial planning services are suddenly becoming much more affordable, says Porter.

Historically, a large segment of the market was neglected, lacking sufficient disposable income to be interesting and profitable to financial planners and investment advisers. But today institutions aggressively court the middle market.

“At Seafirst we charge $5,000 per plan at the high end,” says Porter. “People say, Good Lord! You have to produce a lot of value for that kind of fee.

“But in the middle market, we also can now put in place a planning product we call Financial Horizons for as little as $250.” It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the $5,000 plan.

“But,” says the man who has been chiefly responsible for shepherding the product the past year, “it’s a 31-page report covering every major area with which you are concerned, and it’s a pretty good little analysis.” “We are looking at launching it not only for Seafirst but throughout Bank of America,” he says.

James F. Reitan, Seafirst senior vice president, also sings the praises of mutual funds. “You can do it all with mutual funds,” says the financial planner.

“My rule of thumb,” Reitan says, “is that if you don’t have a million dollars, you ought to be in mutual funds.”

Why, then, if investing is that simple, do people need a financial planner at all?

Because they need the knowledge and expertise of a professional to help put their overall financial game plan together. More than just investing, financial planning includes insurance, educational funding, taxes, estate matters, and so on.

Reitan argues strongly that most people’s retirement portfolios are “far too conservative - especially after they retire.”

He says retirees figure they’ve got all the money they are ever going to get, so they had better do everything possible to preserve what they have and not take any risks.

“The good news is: Retirees are living a lot longer,” says Reitan. “The bad news is: The price of everything will at least double during our retirement years.”

Retirees must become much more aggressive in their investments, he counsels. They must allocate more for equities, he says.

Most people should be at least 50 percent invested in equities, even during their retirement years, Reitan is convinced.

“If you look at the historical performance of the stock market,” he says, “even if you are already retired, time is on your side.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

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