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In this episode of Life By Design Podcast, Royal Standley dives deep into the different retirement plan options and shares the key features of each. This is part one of a two part series. Tune in to hear the considerations you should make when choosing a retirement plan.
Intro: Royal Standley of Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors offering securities through United Plan or Financial Services member FINRA SIPC shares his planning approach to help people toward a place where they may be at peace regarding their financial goals. In this dynamic podcast, Royal will share his insights on how to design a retirement plan to help you plan for your future. Now onto the show.
Aric Johnson: Hello and welcome to Life by Design with Royal Standley of Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors. Good morning, Royal. How are you doing?
Royal Standley: Doing well, doing well, you know, excited to be here today. It's a beautiful rainy day here in Southern Oregon, so it’s nice to be inside and have something to do here.
Aric: I love the rain and it's raining here as well. A little bit of drizzle nut. Not too bad, but man, I'm from the Pacific Northwest just like you and I just love rain. I'm sorry, I don't know about how other people feel about it, but man, I love it.
Royal: So yeah, if you're going to grow up in the Pacific Northwest or live here for any considerable amount of time, you really have to at least enjoy or appreciate the rain a little bit. Otherwise it's just miserable.
Aric: Yeah, exactly. And I think that the people that enjoy it like me that were a little bit crazy, you know, I'll go out and play in the rain. I love that. And I think the other half that enjoy it, they enjoy it because I know it brings the beauty and the green, and that is just everywhere. And all the flowers. And my parents owned a rhododendron farm. You know, so I know that you probably have rhododendrons all over the place in your area. They thrive there, you know, and so, and they're just gorgeous. So I wish we could get those here in Nebraska. You just can't grow rhododendrons. It's just too cold in the winter time and it kills them all off. So no bueno.
Aric: But you know, the green is nice.
Royal: That's your fault for living in Nebraska.
Aric: It is. It really is. So let's move on. Shall we roll? What are we talking about besides the fact that I chose the wrong state to live in at this point?
Royal: Well, I thought what would do today is kind of shift our focus a little bit, and really do a podcast, I think to do something for a specific audience, and that is to business owners and plan sponsors of retirement plans.
Royal: There's a lot of different types of retirement plans out there. There's a lot of different options if you own a business. I just wanted to take some time and go over some of those things, talk about it, hopefully educate some people and what those different options are and kind of maybe what some of the terms mean and let people walk away with more understanding there in really what is, I think one of the great drivers in this country of building wealth,
Royal: Which is the 401(k) and other types of retirement plans.
Aric: Yeah. And we've talked about some retirement plans before on previous podcasts, so is there a different type of focus for today as far as within these retirement plans?
Royal: I think it's really just getting into the nitty gritty of the different types of retirement plans
Royal: And then talking about all the different features there. If you're a business owner or a plan sponsor that's either looking to set up a plan or you know, looking to kind of do that, uh, re-evaluation, you should do every few years on your retirement plan. You just want to kind of, kind of get your hands around all these different terms and what these basic options are so you can sit down and, you know, sit down with a professional and really go through what those options might be for you going forward.
Aric: Yeah. I remember us talking about the basic stuff early, so it's nice to dive into this, and I remember sharing with you that my first job at, you know, career type job at 22 I think, or the first company that actually offered me a 401(k). There was no explanation. It was all of a sudden around the table. Somebody kind of told us what a 401(k) was. Here's how you sign up. And there are three categories you can choose from. Higher risk, medium risk, low risk pick one.
Aric: That was it! So it's really nice to have the option and the opportunity to speak to a professional about it. And of course, I'm going to encourage everybody listening to this when you are facing one of these types of plans, please, please, please consult a professional. Don't leave it up to the HR person. No offense to them. They do good work in a lot of different areas, but there are professionals that deal with these like Royal all the time, and they can answer the deep, dark questions. So Royal, I'm ready to learn more.
Royal: Perfect. Perfect. Yeah, I think that I hear that story over and over again.
Royal: The guy came in, he said, you know, here's your options and good luck to you.
Royal: And then we never saw him again.
Aric: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Royal: You know, in my mind, it really comes down there's two basic types of retirement plans. First of all, there's the defined contribution plan, which is really the most common type of plan that we see nowadays. And then there's defined benefit plans. Defined benefit plans were really the dominant type of retirement plan 50 years ago. And when you say defined benefit, you're really talking in most cases about a pension type plan.
Aric: Yeah, I was going to ask you if that's what that meant.
Royal: Exactly. Exactly. So the benefit part is what's defined. You're going to work for a company for X number of years. You're going to make this much money, and when you retire, you're going to get, you know, X dollars per month,
Royal: You know, for the rest of your life or for a specified period of time. So that's where that defined benefit comes in, is you're signing up for a plan that's going to give you a benefit down the road. The defined contribution plan really isn't necessarily worried about what it's going to look like at the end when you retire, but is instead designed to help you contribute money into the plan and allow that to grow over time and really not be too worried about what that number is when you retire. That's all gonna be based on the decisions you make of how much you save, how much you contribute, and then how much risk and a kind of financial expertise you bring to that account to have that grow over whatever time period you have left to save for retirement.
Aric: Let me ask you a quick question. Royal. With a 401(k) and I'll use that because that's the defined contribution plan. That's the one most people know, either 401(k) or 403(b), those can obviously be affected by the market, and that's something that we've talked about before and during this time,right now, the time we're in, we know the market has been incredibly turbulent, up and down and up and down and more down, and those are affected by that. But I've never really heard of a 401(k) failing where I have heard of pension plans failing. Is that, are those still possibilities with pension plans that still exist? Is it possible that those could fail because the company fails or are those protected better than they were.
Royal: There are better protections with pension plans and when we talk about a pension plan failing - because they've defined a benefit out there for the future for their workers and their participants - when we talk about a pension plan failing, what that really means is they're not going to be able to deliver those promised benefits to workers,
Royal: That they promised, you know, 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. And so when that happens, that's usually because, number one, the company goes out of business and just isn't able to continue on making contributions to the plan like they originally intended to.
Royal: Oftentimes what we'll see, and if you have a defined benefit plan, sometimes you'll get a statement saying how much of your benefit is funded and usually that's as a percentage. They'll say the XYZ company, their pension plan is funded up to 96%. Meaning that they have 96% of their money that they're going to need inside of that plan. So that's a fairly well-run plan. You know, you might even see one in a hundred or a little over that. Something that's overfunded, you know. Where it gets scary is, you know, we'll, we, we've only got 80% in there for future retirees.
Royal: You know, something like that is, you know, something that you want to be a little bit more concerned about. Maybe start paying a little bit more attention to what the company's doing to rectify that.
Aric: Yeah, that's a great point. Royal, it sounds to me like somebody needs to be paying attention obviously, and looking at what that percentage is and if it's low, there, there have to be other options. Are there, there should be some other options that they're thinking about. Maybe they start an IRA or a Roth IRA. Is that probably a good idea to make sure that they're supplementing what's happening in case something happens with that pension plan?
Royal: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And that's part of what we do as financial planners of,
Royal: Looking at all of your different retirement accounts and saying, okay, well, you know, there might be a chance that this one might be a little shaky down the road. The real issue here is if you've already reached retirement and you don't have that ability, then it gets into some tougher questions of you know, what did we spend in the off chance that this doesn't work out? How do we make those lifestyle adjustments? So that's really where sitting down with a financial planner can really help because we can kind of evaluate all those options and really look at, yeah, if I pulled this lever versus this lever, what's going to happen down the road?
Aric: Yeah. Fantastic.
Royal: Today, I thought we would just kind of really, probably focus on defined contribution plans. They really are the most common. You know, unless it's a very specialized company in a specialized situation, you're not really looking at setting up a defined benefit plan anymore. There's just not that many pensions out there now. If for some specialized, doctor practices, maybe attorney groups, there is an excellent defined benefit plan called the cash balance plan that we can look at for those specialized clients. But yeah, for most business owners, you're probably looking at a 401(k) plan or if you're a nonprofit, maybe a 403(b) plan. So we're going to spend the rest of the, today focusing on those, just to give plan sponsors, those business owners who are looking at or have already set up a 401(k) plan, that education that they need to be better equipped to make these decisions.
Aric: Mm-hmm. Alright.
Royal: In my mind, there's benefits on both sides of this equation, both for the business owner and the business to set up a 401(k) plan, and there's giant benefits there for the employees as well. You know, one of the biggest things I see over and over again is if you don't have a retirement plan, it's tough to, you know, retain your workers. It's tough to recruit new workers, especially if you're, you know, in a professional environment there's a lot of demand there. A 401(k) is a great incentive there. And if it's between, you know, your company and a company that, you know, doesn't offer a 401(k) plan, you know, you're going to have a little bit more cache with that uh, uh, employee who's going to want to look for that added benefit package.
Royal: Having a 401(k) plan with a profit-sharing option is also a great way of being able to reward your employees after, you know, a great year. It's a great way of incentivizing employees, and giving them a little piece of, or a little sense of ownership there that they're able to profit on top of their normal salary in the positive outcomes for the company.
Royal: And then, you know, ultimately what we see here is, there is a giant benefit for the owner of the company to set up a 401(k) plan just in the sense of if it's structured properly, they can put a lot of money into the retirement plan and, save quite a bit on taxes.
Aric: Alright. Well, what about the employees though?
Royal: So, for the employees, the employees are going to get access to a very high-limit tax advantaged account, where they can defer really quite a bit of money into a retirement account. Most 401(k) plans also offer some type of employer match, which, you know, we like to call the free money. Or it might offer profit sharing contributions as well and, honestly, most 401(k) platforms, if they're structured correctly with a good investment company, um, they're pretty easy to use, are pretty seamless. Oftentimes they'll have features there that will make it very easy for employees to start saving, such as auto-enrollment, where a new employee is automatically enrolled once they become eligible into the plan. Auto-escalation, which basically says, once you're enrolled in the plan, the amount you save is going to go up by a certain percentage each year, so that as you grow in the company and continue to get raises, you're saving more and more for the future. It's really, if it's well-designed, a great way for employees to build wealth and become more financially stable for the future.
Aric: Yeah, absolutely.
Royal: You know, all of this, however, comes down to, you know, is it the right 401(k) plan for that business? So, we kind of want to just transition right here into explaining some of those basics of what goes into a 401(k) plan. Now, a 401(k), that is simply the tax code where this is broken out. The basics of a 401(k) plan, you're able to defer a certain percentage if you're an employee into the plan each year. So in 2020, that's a $19,500 per year of earned income you can put into the plan. Now, any income you put into a 401(k) plan, that has to be earned at your job. If you're over the age of 50 you also get a $6,000 catch up on top of that. So you're able to really kind of slam away quite a bit of money into that 401(k) plan.
Royal: All 401(k) plans allow you to put money in and defer the tax on it. So in this case, if you're deferring 5% of your income into a 401(k) plan, you're not taxed in that tax year on that 5%. So, it actually lowers your current tax hit for that tax share. Now, once the money is in the 401(k) plan, it's going to grow tax-deferred, meaning that you don't have to worry about any of the investment gains or interest that are earned inside the 401(k). And once you get to retirement and begin taking the money out of that, that's actually where they're going to get you on taxes. The assumption has been for quite some time that, well if you are in retirement, your tax bracket is probably going to be lower than when you are working and you'll be able to take those dollars out at a lower tax rate. We've seen that work out most of the time, but there are certain cases where that's not always true.
Royal: We also have a lot of plants that are now offering the Roth 401(k) option. With this option, you actually have the ability to, instead of deferring those dollars, and not paying the tax on it, you can pay the tax on it and then defer the money into the 401(k), and that's the Roth 401(k) option. With that option once the money has gone in there, it's already been taxed and now becomes tax-free for the future. It starts growing tax-free, and when you get to retirement, you can begin taking that money out tax free. So really in our mind, you know, if we're looking at the hierarchy of what type of an account you should look to get the most money into, oftentimes it is that Roth IRA or 401(k) that we really push people to, especially younger people, as they're starting off to really try to try to pre-fund those tax-free accounts.
Aric: Royal, you mentioned it's great with the Roth 401(k) to get somebody while they're younger. When you're saying that, are you saying it's great to get somebody younger, maybe a married couple that has a couple of kids because they've got a lower tax bracket, with, you know, having the exemptions and so on and so forth? Because I would think that a single person starting in their career is going to be at a pretty high tax bracket at that point. What are your thoughts on that?
Royal: Yeah, I would say for that single person, it depends on what they're doing and where their income limits are or where their income is actually falling for the year. I still encourage people, especially in their twenties and thirties, that just do the Roth option. You know, the tax savings over that 40-year period of time. You know, unless, you're coming out of school, a dentist or an orthopedic surgeon, you can probably stand to pay a little bit more in tax early on, and then just allow that tax-free account to grow and accumulate. You know, especially somebody starting off, that's probably the least amount of money they're going to be making in their career. So you know, we can kind of make those new decisions down the road for a married couple, you know, that has kids and are getting those tax credits. And, you know, I think it's just such a no brainer then in that case to really look at doing the Roth option because they're able to save at, at kind of a lower tax rate there because they have so many incentives there. It just makes sense for that married capital to try to get as much as possible into the Roth 401(k).
Aric: Yeah, absolutely. No, that makes sense. For sure.
Royal: So, the next piece of the 401(k) that we're going to look at here is the employer-match or the employer-contribution. When we talk about this, that an employer doesn't necessarily have to put any of their own money into a 401(k), they don't have to do a match.
Royal: They don't have to make a contribution. Yeah. Now, if they're looking to really, I think, maximize participation and really get the most out of a retirement plan I'd probably really encourage an employer to look at doing some sort of match or contribution there. But if an employer does provide a match, usually, there are some limitations there, in most plans. Really that limitation there is how much is the employer going to match the participants contribution? And oftentimes we'll see a formula where the employer will match, let's say, a hundred percent of the first 3% that the participant puts in. So if the participant's putting in 5%, the employer will match the first 3%, but not match anything above that. Other times we'll see, you know, some sort of formula where the employer's gonna match 50% of the first 6% that an employee is going to put into a 401(k) plan. So really what this looks like is the employee has to put in 6% to get a 3% match.
Aric: Got it, okay.
Royal: That does help encourage the employee putting in more, and it's just really, how best do you structure that for,kind of, your population of employees of what that match should look like. The other part of all this is how much are you as the business owner, or the executive wanting to put into the 401(k) plan?
There is annual testing that happens inside of a 401(k) plan around the idea of discrimination. The IRS doesn't want to allow an employer to set up a 401(k) plan, give them this great tax incentive to defer a lot of money into a plan, but yet not provide some basic benefits to the employees.
Royal: So, they don't want to see a 401(k) where only the owner and the executives are putting money into the 401(k) plan, and none of kind of the, the line employees are. So that's where we see discrimination testing, come in, really looking at, you know, what is the total amount of contributions each year made by the different classes of employee. And also looking at, you know, how much of the 401(k) balances are attributable to the owner and the highly compensated employees versus the line employees. So that testing can kind of come in there and affect an employer's decision on how best to structure this. Now, the IRS did allow a, what they call a “Safe Harbor” there, which we'll get around that, uh, 401(k) testing. The Safe Harbor Match or contribution really basically says that if you're an employer or a plan sponsor and you do one of these two options or something that's better than that, um you don't have to do that testing. So the Safe Harbor Match is basically an agreement that you're going to match up to 4% of an employee's contribution into the plan. Now oftentimes we'll see this structured as we're going to match a hundred percent of the first 3% that employee puts in and then 50% of the next 2% to get to that 4% match. The other thing you can do with a Safe Harbor is instead of doing a match, you can do a contribution and that contribution can just look like we're going to contribute regardless of if the participant is going to put any money into the plan, the employer is going to contribute 3% of their payroll into the participants 401(k) plan as a Safe Harbor.
Royal: So oftentimes what we'll, we'll look at, there is what we expect, contribution level to be at for that population of employees. If everyone in the 401(k) is contributing to the plan already, it might make sense just to do the 3% contribution to everyone,
Royal: Because that'll probably save you some money as far as that matching formula goes, if everyone's already participated. If you have a plan where not everyone participates, in that case, it might make sense to do the match and try to incentivize those people to put money into the plan.
Royal: And I, I've talked to a lot of business owners over the years that are really of the opinion that if the employee isn't going to put some, some of their skin in the game, they really don't want to add to an employee's retirement plan, which I think makes a lot of sense. You know, there's that desire to see your employees kind of take that initiative to put those funds in and begin planning for themselves.
Aric: Got it. Absolutely. Royal, I have one question for you about this section that you just spoke about. You ready?
Aric: Can a business owner call you and ask you to explain this again? I mean, this is complicated. I mean, I'm a business owner and I'm listening to you and I've got the gist of it, but man, there's so many options it sounds like, and so many things just to make sure that you're careful of and so on and so forth. I'm not going to ask you any follow up questions to explain anything else because we're pretty deep in the weeds. But I'm going to encourage every business owner out there that if you're thinking about this or you haven't done it, or even if you have, and you want somebody to take a look at it, they have to give you a call because you're talking over my head right now, Royal. I'll be honest. I mean, this is fantastic stuff. But man, there's a lot to learn. And I know that that's why you're the professional. So can they call you?
Royal: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Royal: You can always call us at 541-772-1116, or visit our website https://www.opfa.com/ you know, we've got a lot of good resources there for plan sponsors that can kind of go over the basics of this. But oftentimes what we see just over and over again is kind of shoddy plan design. Where maybe a 401(k) plan was set up years ago. These options weren't explained. Maybe the person who set it up just said how much do you want to match? How much do you want to contribute? And they just wrote something down.
Royal: And the employer can't get some of their maximum benefit out of the plan because every year they try to max that out and they're told, oh, you can't put that much in because you didn't have enough of your employees contributing. And you know, we just see this over and over again and it's such a simple fix. And most employers, once they kind of gain an understanding of all these different moving parts and we're really just scratching the surface on a 401(k) plan design here, it really starts to, to grab hold and makes sense to them of, oh, okay, I can provide this benefit that will be appreciated by my employees.
Royal: And I'm able to take full advantage of my 401(k) plan that, you know, I've set up, you know, partially for my employees, but also for myself to be able to save this money for my retirement down the road.
Aric: Got it. Yeah. Absolutely. All right. What else are we covering today?
Royal: So I thought we'd talk a little bit about the investments inside of a 401(k) and what that would look like. Now, in most cases, when you set up a 401(k) plan, you're going to set it up with an investment company of some sort. You know, some of the big ones, there are Fidelity, Vanguard, Principal. There's just a lot of different types of 401(k) platforms out there that we can use. You know, we have access to virtually all of them here at Oregon Pacific, and so we have a lot of experience there of, you know, depending on what type of plan and what you're looking for, uh, what's going to best suit your participants and you as the administrator of the plan. So, we can make it, you know, as cost-friendly as possible. We can make it as user-friendly as possible. You know, there's tradeoffs with all of this. So once, once you've kind of decided on which type of company that you want to go with, you know, we're looking at what are, what is what, what is the participant going to see on their statement? What options are the participants going to have to invest their own money? And so this brings up kind of a whole other myriad of decisions that have to be made of, you know, what types of investment offerings do you want to offer to your clients? And so. Well, let's just spend some time kind of chewing over this because I think there's a lot of factors that go into this. You know, I review a lot of 401(k) plans, and what I see is the client will bring in their options for what's inside of their 401(k) plan. And sometimes it's, well, you can, you can invest in, you know, these four options, and that's really it.
Royal: I think that does a little bit of a disservice to people. On the other hand, I've also seen clients bring in a list of a hundred different mutual funds that they're able to invest in with no education, no guidance on what they should do. I think both of those are not ideal situations for our participants. You know, they've done a lot of studies as far as what's the appropriate number of investment options for, you know, a 401(k) or retirement plan, and it comes in at about 16 to 20. Anything above that, it's just too many. There's too many choices for our participants to make.
Royal: I was reviewing a 401(k) just recently, and they had, I think, three or four different small-cap growth funds. I'm not exactly sure who that serves. You know, if you're looking to build an allocation, you know, small-cap growth might make up probably not more than 5% of your overall portfolio. I'm not sure why you would need four funds to accomplish that.
Royal: So, we do a lot of analysis of what's going to go inside of a retirement account, what options are going to be available there for participants. You know, we can spend a little bit of time right now talking about what's called the Qualified Default Investment Alternative, or QDIA. The QDIA is, I think, an important decision for a plan sponsor to understand about that is really the default. If someone decides that they don't want to make an investment decision, this is what their investments are going to default into. And there really are only a few different types of investments that can qualify as a QDIA. You know, these are, you know, balanced funds, a target date funds or managed funds, like a pooled account of some kind.
Royal: And we'll touch on pooled accounts. If you have a properly structured QDIA, an employee can't come back against the plan sponsor and say, I didn't want to be invested in this. I didn't know you were going to put my money into this. You spell that out in the plan document and the Department of Labor who really oversees a lot of this regulation has basically said if you choose a QDIA in these categories, that's going to provide you as the employer with some additional protections, basically saying, you know, you're not going to be found at fault if you choose a QDIA that fits into these categories. Now, what's interesting, the thing I didn't list on there was a money market account. For years and years before this new regulation came out, the default investment, if somebody didn't make a choice of how they want it to be invested. Oftentimes they would just select the money market account. You know, the plan sponsors would say, okay, we'll just take the safe option. The issue with that though, is there's really no money to be made in this environment, in the money market accounting any longer.
Royal: So the purpose of a retirement account is to get those funds invested. So that's why the Department of Labor really came out with these regulations saying, hey, we want this money to be invested. We want to provide plan sponsors with some protection, for making this decision. And we want to look at what options are available there on the table. So, one thing I mentioned there was target date funds. Target dates, you know, if you look at your 401(k) case statement, they’re usually broken up in five-year increments. So, you might see a 2020 or 2025, 2030 on down the road. And for most target date funds, that's really looking at what, what year are you expected to retire around.
Royal: You know, so if you know, let's say 55 years old right now, you might be looking at a 20, 30 fund as what might be appropriate. That fund will adjust over time and get more conservative. The closer you get to retirement it'll always be invested in the market.
Royal: But if nothing else, if you know nothing else about your, your retirement account, you don't want to kind of think about it. A target date fund is a decent option for you to look at. Because really you're shifting that management off to the investment company, to kind of make those changes and get more conservative. The closer you get to that retirement, when you'll need that money.
Royal: So I know we've covered a lot today and honestly, we haven't even really scratched the surface right now. So I think what we need to do is, throw up the to be continued sign.
Aric: got it, yes.
Royal: There at the end of this podcast, and probably transition this into a two-parter because I think there's a lot here too, that you know, plan sponsors need to know and need to understand. And I don't want to rush through the rest of what we have to go through today. So, let's go ahead and maybe pause there and come back next time with the second part of what you need to know as a plan sponsor for your retirement plan.
Aric: That sounds fantastic. Hey Royal. Are you a fan of tiktok talk by any chance?
Royal: [laughter] No.
Aric: Okay, well, my wife and I-
Royal: I didn't mean to put so much judgment in my voice there.
Aric: There was a lot of judgment there, but I'll take it, Royal. That's fine, because it is, it is kind of crazy. My wife and I enjoyed every once in a while. Just, there's some funny stuff on there. The funny thing is that they put little videos on there, Royal, and they say “like and subscribe for part two.” It just drives me nuts because you're like, Oh no, I'm not going to do that. But here's the thing. For all of you listening, you don't have to like and subscribe for part two. There's going to be a part two. You can just listen to it. If you want to subscribe, that'd be great because Royal puts out great information every time we get together, but there's no requirement by any means to like and subscribe for part two. It's coming up. All right, so please tune into that. Royal, thank you so much for your time today.
Royal: My pleasure. My pleasure.
Aric: All right, and again to your listening audience. Thank you so much for tuning in to the Life by Design Podcast with Royal Standley. If you have not subscribed to the podcast yet, please click the subscribe now button below. This way, when Royal comes out with that part two, that we're all looking forward to, it'll show up directly on your listening device. You don't even have to try to find it and download it. It just shows up and says, Hey, it's ready, and then you can listen. Also, this makes it much easier to share these podcasts with your friends, families, or business partners. If you own a business and you're thinking about the 401(k) situation,403(b) or whatever they are, there's so many letters and numbers, Royal, I know that you can clear that up on the next one as well. Thanks again for listening today for everyone at Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors. This is Aric Johnson reminding you to live your best day every day and we'll see you next time.
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