At Sparks Financial Group, we strive to keep you informed about the issues that could impact your quality of life in retirement. Through financial education, we believe you can make better, more well-informed decisions about your financial future.

By reading our financial reports, you’ll gain access to a wealth of information that can help guide you toward the retirement you’ve always envisioned. Whether you want to learn how to reduce your exposure to stock market risk or how fixed-income investments can help you generate reliable income for retirement, our financial reports are a great resource.

10 Signs You Are Working with a True Retirement Income Specialist

Not all financial advisors are created equal. Many say they specialize in retirement planning, but only a select few have the tools or training required to make them a true retirement “Income Specialist.” How can you tell whether your advisor falls into this elite category? Here are 10 signs to help you identify a true…

7 Risks to Your Retirement

Most of us look forward to retirement, imagining that we’ll get to relax and enjoy activities we haven’t had time for such as traveling, reading, and exercising. However, as pre-retirees transition into full retirement, many don’t realize they are crossing the threshold into an entirely new way of living, one in which they’re increasingly vulnerable…

Annuities-Income for Life

You try to protect your car, home, and your health with insurance, but are you trying to protect your retirement income? With the potential for tax-deferred growth and a guaranteed income stream, annuities can be important in helping meet your retirement objectives.

Are Your Allocations Right for RMDs

There is an ideal order in which to pull from retirement accounts when taking IRS Required Minimum Distributions (RMD). The goals, which often go unheeded, are to help minimize taxes, try to minimize taking principal, and earn as much as possible. These goals are easy enough to understand, but there are many factors to consider.…

Are Your Allocations Right for Social Security

Nothing exists in a vacuum, meaning that even if you’ve determined the best time and method of taking your Social Security benefits based on your age, objectives, and lifelong earnings, it won’t matter unless you properly coordinate your benefits with your overall retirement income plan. Most people agree that Social Security is not enough to…

Bonds vs Bond Mutual Funds

Since many of today’s financial advisors got into the business in the 1980s and 90s, during the best stock market in U.S. history, most have become stock market specialists. Frankly, if they do fixed income, it’s usually an afterthought, and most will simply take the easy way out and invest their clients’ money in bond…

Building Blocks of Retirement

Traditionally, the key to a financially solid retirement plan has been to save early, ideally from the day you start working. It’s always been good advice to live by, but today’s retirement is more complex. It requires a different approach. It wasn’t always this complicated. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when you…

Don’t Let Long-Term Care Be Your Financial Blindspot

It’s no secret that Americans are living longer than ever. While that’s great news, it also creates many personal and social challenges. According to the Centers for Disease Control, for a couple in their mid-60s, there is a 50% chance that at least one of them will live into their mid-90s. That means Americans planning…

Estate Planning Myths

Dispelling myths, rumors and misinformation is an ongoing battle for financial advisors. Estate planning is a topic especially prone to myths and misinformation. In this report, I’m going to dispel 10 common myths about Estate Planning and give you the real facts — facts that could be critically important to helping protect your financial future.

Guide to Aging

Working Americans at or approaching retirement age today face many unprecedented challenges unique to their generation. That’s why it’s important to have a retirement plan that addresses these challenges and uncertainties head-on. One of the keys to doing just that is being aware of the retirement planning milestones that occur from age 50 onward. Several…

Hard Lessons of Stock Market History

If you’re like most people, you believe there’s a great deal of truth in the old adage that history tends to repeat itself more often than not. That’s an important adage to keep in mind when it comes to saving and investing for retirement because it allows you to get a glimpse into the future…

How Much Do I Need to Retire

One of the first things people do once they get serious about planning and saving for retirement is to look at a retirement calculator to find out how much they need to save. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, every person’s situation is completely different. What might be the right amount for one person will…

How To Give and Receive with Charitable Contributions

Most people are aware that charitable contributions to qualified recipients are tax-deductible, provided they are made by December 31 of the tax year for which you are filing. It’s a great benefit for people who feel strongly about supporting various causes and organizations, and it makes for a great year-end tax-saving strategy. Rather than donating…

Importance of Financial Defense

The great Alabama coach “Bear” Bryant once said, “Defense wins championships,” and you can bet that almost every great coach in nearly every sport has shared that same philosophy. Just think about some of the great sports dynasties, teams that won  championships year after year: the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi, the Boston Celtics…

Introduction to the Universe of Non-Stock Market Income Generating Investments

Aggressive instruments are those primarily invested in for growth. As the chart shows, they include things such as common stocks, stock mutual funds, commodities, Business Development Companies (BDCs), and speculative real estate. Again, these are typically invested in growth or capital appreciation, not income. They are considered aggressive because, while they can provide large short-term…

Investing for Income in the Stock Market

When people think of Investing for Income, the first thing that might come to mind is investing in non-stock market investments, like bonds. Yes, bonds and bond-like instruments are an important part of investing for income, but there is also a way for those with the willingness and ability to endure some level of stock…

Negative Spin on Annuities

Everyone understands that the mass media has changed drastically. Not so long ago, we relied on daily newspapers, TV, and radio for all the information we needed to help us make informed decisions and stay abreast of current events. Now, in the age of the internet, we seem to be constantly bombarded with headlines, updates,…

Passive Income for Retirement

Passive income has become a hot topic and for good reason. Who wouldn’t like to generate income without putting in a hard day’s work? From teenagers seeking recurring revenue from advertisements on social media to retirees turning their hard-earned nest eggs into a reliable income stream, more people are interested in creative ways to create…

Proactive Tax Saving Strategies

It seems that tax laws and regulations are constantly changing. And with a new president sitting in the oval office, it’s entirely possible that more changes could be on the horizon. With that said, chances are slim that any tax-saving moves you make now will be nullified by anything that happens on Capitol Hill, so…

Protect Yourself from the Dangers of Inflation

After more than a decade of hovering at normal-to-below-average levels, inflation became a hot topic again in 2021 when it rose to over 4%. By March 2022, it had hit a 40-year high of 8.5%. This prompted the Federal Reserve to take its usual course of action to combat inflation: raising short-term interest rates. Over…

Protecting Your Finances in the Age of Cybercrime

Few inventions in recorded history have revolutionized the way we live like the Internet. It has changed the way we communicate and has made thousands of previously slow, complex processes faster and more efficient. Yet, in the course of solving old problems, the Internet—like any invention—has also created new ones. Among the biggest of those…

Retirement Risk Report: Will You Outlive Your Money?

Using your current financial statements, knowledge of your own retirement goals, and some other easily obtainable information, this one-page document can quickly help you determine whether you’re carrying significant risks in your current financial strategy that may put you in jeopardy of outliving your money. It can also be the first step in helping you…

Secure Act 2.0

President Trump signed The SECURE Act into law on December 20, 2019—with many of its new provisions taking effect January 1, 2020. The SECURE Act, which stand for “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement”, is intended to strengthen retirement security across the country. Although the changes bring much-needed updates that could be beneficial to…

Surviving Child Financial Checklist

The loss of a parent is difficult enough, but it can be made worse when grief is compounded by worry and confusion over the prospect of dealing with their financial affairs. A recent study from the National Center for Health Statistics suggests: • Over 30% of retired Americans need assistance in managing their finances and…

Ten Warning Signs of Working with the Wrong Financial Advisor

Are you working with the wrong financial advisor? Is he still the advisor best qualified to help you meet your retirement goals—and to do so with confidence and peace of mind? It’s a crucial question, so we’ve compiled a list of “10 Signs You Might Be Working with the Wrong Financial Advisor” to help you…

The Case for Fixed Income

We hear the term “renewable resource” used often when referring to energy — solar, wind, and even tidal energy. Most agree that the practical use of renewable energy is essential for our future well-being. The same can be said for money, investing, and retirement. By planning ahead, Americans born in or before 1970 — a.k.a.…

The Income Generation Report

Starting about five years ago I began using the term “Income Generation” to describe the demographic encompassing my clients, prospective clients, and myself. To put it simply, the term refers to today’s generation of retirees and near-retirees. That means Baby Boomers but also older Gen Xers, who are also in their 50s now and nearing…

TR = I + G Guide

There are many misconceptions about investing. One is that the terms ‘growth’ and ‘return’ are synonymous. They are not. Total return is a sum of two things: income plus growth, as illustrated in the formula: TR=I+G.

Understanding and Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits

Before you retire, you should know what all your various sources of income will be, and how much you can expect to receive from each. Obviously, Social Security benefits will be one of those sources, but how much you can expect to receive depends on many factors. There are ways to help maximize your benefits…

Understanding Price-to-Earnings Ratios

Have you ever bought a pair of pants for your child or grandchild that were too big? It’s a common occurrence, and when it happens, you have two options: 1) you can throw the pants in the wash and try to shrink them, or 2) you can just sit back knowing that your child or…

Understanding Required Minimum Distributions

The idea behind Required Minimum Distributions, or RMDs, is that the government wants to give us a tax incentive to save for retirement, but they also want to make sure we don’t misuse it. For example, if we’re in the 24% tax bracket and we put money into a tax-deductible IRA or a 401(k), each…

Why Investing in Mutual Funds Could Jeopardize Your Retirement Plans

Unfortunately, since many financial advisors working today entered the business in the 1980s and 90s, during the best stock market in US history, they became stock market specialists, favoring growth instead of income. Many of them also became heavily focused on mutual funds. Mutual funds, in general, are a murky pool of investments that only…

Women, Money & Retirement- Separating Fact from Fiction

The 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S. occurred in 2020. During the last century, women have made great strides in educational achievement and career opportunities. Despite this progress, they continue to be at greater risk than men of not achieving a financially secure retirement. Today, a woman’s path to secure retirement…

Year End Financial Checklist

Americans are notorious for overspending when the holiday season rolls around, and while that may be good for the economy in the short-term, it often ends up being bad for household budgets. Ultimately, though, overindulging a bit on spending during the holidays doesn’t need to create hardships as long as you know your broader financial…