Financial Planning

Annuity Sales Are Surging. Do You Know What They Are?

By | Annuities, Financial Planning, Retirement

We’re here to help clear up some of the confusion about annuities during Annuity Awareness Month, which happens each June!

In the first quarter of 2024, U.S. annuity sales were $106.7 billion, the highest first quarter total since the 1980s, when LIMRA first started tracking annuity sales. Despite these high sales numbers, research indicates that many people don’t really know what annuities are.1,5

One recent study revealed that only 9% of consumers say they feel very knowledgeable about annuities,1 while other studies confirm this lack of understanding. Research by the American College of Financial Services gave older Americans a score of 12% out of a possible 100% for their knowledge of annuities based on their performance on a short quiz. And a TIAA Institute and Stanford University study showed that the annuity ranks dead last—respondents know more about Medicare, life insurance and long-term care than annuities.2

During Annuity Awareness Month, we wanted to cover some facts we hope will help you understand annuities better.

Annuities Are Ancient

The concept of the annuity goes back centuries. In fact, during the Roman Empire, soldiers and their families would receive annual payments for life known as “annuas” in return for their military service; this is the origin of the word “annuity.” In the Middle Ages, annuities were available in France during the 17th century, when lifetime annuities (called “tontines”) could be purchased from feudal lords in exchange for an initial upfront payment.3

In other words, for millennia, annuities have been around to provide regular income during retirement. Fast forward to today.

Annuities Are Contracts

When you invest in something, typically you assume all the risk. Since annuities are not investments, but instead are contracts between you and an insurance carrier, one of the main risks you assume with annuities is that the payouts will be made per the terms in your contract. Certain contractual guarantees* are made by any insurance company which issues an annuity, and these guarantees are subject to that company’s financial strength and claims-paying ability.

It is very important that you have a trusted financial professional, tax professional and/or legal professional by your side to examine the terms and language of your annuity contract as well as provide information about the insurance company’s financial rating before you make any decision.

In fact, this is good advice when making any decision that involves investing or entering into any kind of a contract. Some financial industry experts and academic leaders in the financial field, like Dr. Roger Ibbotson, have found that annuities belong in the fixed portion of some people’s retirement portfolios (depending on their individual situation) because of insurance company guarantees.

But there are many different types of annuity contracts.

Today’s Annuities Are Complex

Despite their simple structure in the beginning, annuities have become increasingly sophisticated over time. In addition to providing retirement income, insurance companies have added more features to provide retirees with coverage for spouses, long-term care, death benefit for heirs, etc., either as part of the basic annuity or added on as a rider for an additional cost.

While not a comprehensive list, below is basic information about how some annuities work. We recommend that you work with a financial professional to help you compare and choose between the hundreds of annuity contracts available from dozens of different insurance companies. As with any contract, it’s important to read and understand the fine print before you sign, and you should compare policies from multiple insurance companies to find the best value. That’s where a good independent financial advisor can help.

Fixed Annuities

Fixed annuities are probably the easiest type of annuity to understand because they work similarly to the way a bank CD (certificate of deposit) works. An insurance company will pay a fixed interest rate on your fixed annuity contract for a selected term, usually from one to 15 years.

Variable Annuities

Variable annuities were developed in the 1950s, and unlike most other types of annuities, before purchase they require that you be issued a prospectus, since part of your money will actually be invested in the stock market. This means that there is market risk involved with variable annuities—you can either make money on the amount invested in what’s called “sub-accounts,” or you can lose it depending on market performance.

Variable annuities are usually purchased with the expectation that at some point the contract owner will annuitize or begin taking periodic payments. But depending on contract terms, your annuity payments may fluctuate based on stock market performance, and it’s possible that some variable annuity policies can lose principal due to stock market losses.

Fixed Indexed Annuities

Fixed indexed annuities (FIAs) were first designed in 1995. The biggest difference between FIAs and variable annuities is that fixed indexed annuities are not actually invested in the stock market so they are not subject to market risk. Instead, a selected index (such as the S&P 500) is used as a benchmark for policy credits at periodic intervals, such as annually.

Many FIA contracts offer a minimum amount which gets credited, and nearly all FIA contracts will not credit less than 0%, which means even that if the benchmark index loses money, your FIA contract value will not go down. With fixed indexed annuities, after you have owned the policy for a specified number of years (called the “surrender period”) your principal is guaranteed* and credits, therefore any policy gains, are locked in.

In other words, with fixed indexed annuity contracts, you have the potential to participate in market gains but are protected from market downturns. And most FIAs offer the option of lifetime income no matter how long you live either as part of the main annuity contract, or available as a rider for an additional charge.

Other Things to Know About Annuities

*The guarantees provided by annuities rely on the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the issuing insurance company.

Some annuities can be purchased on a deferred basis, and some on an immediate basis, and you can use pre-tax or after-tax funds. It’s important to get professional help to understand the implications for your particular situation.

Annuities must be considered carefully based on your particular situation because they are not liquid. Almost all annuities are subject to early withdrawal penalties. Make sure you understand the contract terms and the type of annuity you are purchasing. Your financial advisor and tax and legal professionals can help you compare and analyze policies.

Are You Prepared for Retirement?

With people living much longer and pensions quickly becoming a thing of the past, annuities can help provide income throughout retirement and help quell the fear of running out of money. If you are considering the purchase of an annuity, it’s important to speak with a financial professional who understands them, and can explain the fine print of an annuity contract.

Contact us to explore your options!

This article is provided for general information purposes only and is accurate to the best of our knowledge. This article is not to be relied on or considered as investment or tax advice.










Any annuity guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company and may be subject to caps, restrictions, fees and surrender charges as described in the annuity contract.

Index or fixed annuities are not designed for short term investments and may be subject to caps, restrictions, fees and surrender charges as described in the annuity contract. Crediting methodologies can be complex and difficult to comprehend. You should make sure you understand the risks and rewards of any annuity before considering an investment.

This document is for informational purposes only. All information is assumed to be correct but the accuracy has not been confirmed and therefore is not guaranteed to be correct. Information is obtained from third party sources that may or may not be verified. The information presented should not be used in making any investment decisions. It is not a recommendation to buy, sell, implement, or change any securities or investment strategy, function, or process. Any financial and/or investment decision should be made only after considerable research, consideration, and involvement with an experienced professional engaged for the specific purpose. All comments and discussion presented are purely based on opinion and assumptions, not fact. These assumptions may or may not be correct based on foreseen and unforeseen events. Past performance is not an indication of future performance. Any financial and/or investment decision may incur losses.

Investment Advisory Services offered through Trek Financial LLC, an investment adviser registered with the Securities Exchange Commission. Information presented is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered specific investment advice, does not take into consideration your specific situation, and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any securities or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. For specific tax advice on any strategy, consult with a qualified tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. TREK 24-280

Diversification, Patience, and Consistency

By | Financial Planning, Investments

Here are three important principles you may want to include in your investment philosophy.

Regardless of how the markets may perform, it’s important to stick to an investment strategy that aligns with your goals and aims to help you potentially benefit from favorable market conditions while also seeking to mitigate risks during less favorable periods, including the possibility of loss. That’s why we encourage you to consider making the following three principles part of your investment philosophy:


The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has some application to investing. Over time, certain asset classes may perform better than others. If your assets are mostly held in one kind of investment, you could find yourself under a bit of pressure if that asset class experiences some volatility.

Keep in mind that diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if an investment sees a decline in price.

Asset allocation strategies also are used in portfolio management. When financial professionals ask you questions about your goals, time horizon, and tolerance for risk, they are getting a better idea about what asset classes may be appropriate for your situation. But like diversification, asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if an investment sees a decline in price.


Impatient investors can get too focused on the day-to-day doings of the financial markets. They can be looking for short-term opportunities rather than longer-term potential. Patient investors, on the other hand, understand that markets fluctuate, and they have built portfolios based on their time horizon, risk tolerance, and goals. A short-term focus may add stress and anxiety to your life, and it could lead to frustration with the investing process.


Most people invest a little at a time, within their budget, and with regularity. They invest $50 or $100 or more per month in their retirement account or similar investments. They are investing on “autopilot” to help themselves attempt to build wealth over time.

Consistent investing does not protect against a loss in a declining market or guarantee a profit in a rising market. Consistent investing, sometimes referred to as dollar-cost averaging, is the process of investing a fixed amount of money in an investment vehicle at regular intervals, usually monthly, for an extended period of time regardless of price.

Investors should evaluate their financial ability to continue making purchases through periods of declining and rising prices. The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

To start crafting a custom investment strategy, give us a call today! You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395


TREK 24-200

6 Financial Tips for Couples

By | Financial Planning

Money can be a major obstacle for couples. Here are a few ways to overcome it.

Do you remember when you first met your partner? So many things about them might have captivated you. Maybe it was their eyes, their hair or their smile. Maybe you started talking and you fell in love with their outlook on life, their fun-loving attitude or their sense of humor. We’re willing to bet, however, it wasn’t your aligned financial philosophies that initially drew you to each other, even if financial stability was high on your list of priorities for potential partners.

At the same time, maybe that should be something you look for in your other half. Nearly 50% of Americans say they argue with their significant other about money, while 41% of Gen Xers and 29% of baby boomers attribute their divorce to financial disagreements [1]. One of our goals is to work with you to create a financial plan that can possibly provide stability and reduce stress within your financial life.

Here are six tips for couples looking to achieve their financial goals together!

  1. Communicate Effectively

Of course, communication is the key to a healthy relationship. It’s no secret. In fact, you’ve probably heard this old adage your entire life, but hearing it is different from comprehending it and acting upon it. Additionally, while it’s important when sharing your needs and overcoming conflict, it’s just as important to have open, honest, confident communication about your finances. In our experience, the majority of the battle is normalizing the conversation. Remember, you’re not just combining finances; you’re combining your entire lives, so this discussion shouldn’t be taboo. To make it easier, it can be a good idea to start with simple topics. Go over things like income, how you feel about different retirement accounts, your experience investing or how comfortable you feel with risk. You can then let the conversation naturally evolve to encompass more complex topics, or you can tackle new problems as they arise. It’s key to consider that you’re equal partners, both in life and in money, and it’s crucial to have these discussions before and during a serious relationship.

  1. Choose a Strategy

Once you’ve broken the barrier to financial discussion, it can be helpful to choose a strategy for how you’ll combine your finances. Some couples, for example, find it easiest to simply combine all their assets, giving meaning to the phrase, “What’s mine is yours.” Others, however, may feel more comfortable keeping their assets separate and handling their own personal expenses. Most commonly, a couple will land somewhere in the middle with a few select combined accounts and some solo accounts. This can help each person maintain some of their individuality and independence while also offering some guidance as to who’s responsible for different financial obligations. Spend some time discussing these options with your partner, and be completely open and honest to foster healthy communication in the present and future.

  1. Set Measurable, Realistic Goals

Identify goals that are important to both of you, especially if you want to achieve them together. Whether those are short- term goals or long-term, this gives you something to work toward, unifying your vision and objectives to keep you on the same page. It can also help you maintain control over your financial decisions and your priorities. Ensuring those goals are measurable and realistic is also important. In addition to the satisfaction that comes with watching yourself climb toward your objectives, reaching measurable milestones can be motivating, pushing you and your partner to continue saving and spending with the future in mind.

  1. Budget Effectively

As a couple, you’re a team. That means working together to reach common goals. There’s also power in finding financial strength together, so constructing a budget, controlling your spending, and expressing your thoughts freely can help you grow as a duo. When building that budget, it’s important to start by having a conversation about your priorities. Lay them out clearly, and work together to determine which expenses are “needs” and which expenses are “wants.” You’ll probably want to prioritize essentials, like food, your home, your transportation, and other necessary living expenses. You may want to move on to outstanding debt, determining how much you can realistically pay down in a given period. As partners, you should also hold each other accountable, knowing that sticking to the budget is what’s better for both. Then, know you can tweak your budget as your circumstances change and evolve.

  1. Choose the Right Financial Partner

The right financial partner or professional can help you develop and work toward your goals. Oftentimes, this means finding someone who understands your current circumstances, is able to read you and your partner as people, and is willing to work in your best interests. This can be tricky, but remember, this is your livelihood we’re talking about. It’s more than understandable if you’re skeptical when choosing someone to control your assets. Additionally, if you think it’s the right time to start working with a professional, ask many questions to determine if they’re the right person to help you achieve your goals. While you may feel like you’re on the hot seat as they ask about your saving and spending, it’s just as much of an opportunity for you to assess how effective or helpful they will be in the construction of your plan or portfolio.

  1. Develop an Actionable Plan

Once you understand your cashflow, habits, budget and goals as a couple, it’s time to develop a plan that offers specific direction and sets you into motion. Oftentimes, this is the blueprint for your future, giving both you and your partner rules to adhere to. It should also be comprehensive, meaning that it accounts for each aspect of your life. Determine how you’ll utilize specific retirement accounts, as well as if you’re comfortable having your money exposed to market risk. You can also explore options for insurance policies, which can be crucial if you want to protect your loved ones in the event of the worst. Furthermore, revisit your plan on a regular basis. Maybe your risk tolerance has changed, you feel you can contribute more to your savings vehicles, your beneficiaries have changed, you need different levels of insurance coverage, or you’re ready to graduate into retirement. Your plan plays a key role in achieving both your short- and long-term goals, and having one that you believe in can make all the difference.

We believe that money should never hinder your relationship. If you have any questions about how you can effectively combine and develop a plan for your finances as a couple, give us a call today! You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395





Trek 24-159

5 Things You Should Know if You’re Retiring in 2024

By | Financial Literacy, Financial Planning, Retirement

Heads up! If you plan to retire this year, you should know these five things.

Are you planning to enter the most exciting phase of your life in 2024? A phase where you get to do what you want to do, not what you have to do? With the right planning and preparation, it’s possible, but you should be aware of the year-over-year changes that occur for retirees, especially if this is your first year. Here are five changes you should know about if you plan on entering retirement in 2024.

  1. Higher Income Tax Brackets [1,2]

Traditionally, tax brackets rise with inflation on an annual basis, and 2024 is no different. For instance, the top end of the 0% capital gains bracket is up from $44,625 to $47,025 for single filers and from $89,250 to $94,050 for those who are married and filing jointly. Retirees who expect to withdraw from accounts subject to income tax—like traditional 401(k)s—may also expect to see a bit more relief this year in their income. See below for 2024’s ordinary income tax brackets.

Rate (%) Filing Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
10% $0 to


$0 to


$0 to


$0 to


12% $11,601 to $47150 $23,201 to $94,300 $11,601 to $47,150 $16,551 to $63,100
22% $47,151 to $100,525 $94,301 to $201,050 $47,151 to $100,525 $63,101 to $100,500
24% $100,526 to $191,950 $201,051 to $383,900 $100,526 to $191,950 $100,501 to $191,950
32% $191,951 to $243,725 $383,901 to $487,450 $191,951 to $243,725 $191,951 to $243,700
35% $243,726 to $609,350 $487,451 to $731,200 $243,726 to $365,600 $243,701 to $609,350
37% $609,351 or


$731,201 or


$365,601 or


$609,351 or



  1. Higher RMD Ages [3]

As of Jan. 1, 2023, retirees must begin taking required minimum distributions at age 73 unless they’ve already started. This was part of a gradual change made by SECURE Act 2.0 that will again raise the RMD age to 75 in 2033. This change can offer more flexibility to retirees who don’t need the money from their qualified accounts and otherwise would have incurred unnecessary income taxes. It also gives them an extra year to find other sources of income or to convert those funds to tax-free money. If you are turning 73 in 2024, your first year required minimum distribution from your qualifying accounts must be withdrawn by Apr. 1, 2025. In subsequent years, they must be withdrawn by the end of the year, or you may incur a 25% excise tax, which may be dropped to 10% if corrected in a timely manner.

  1. Elimination of RMDs for Roth 401(k)s [4]

One of the perks of the Roth IRA is that it does not come with required minimum distributions because you purchase them with already-taxed money. Roth 401(k) accounts through your employer were the same—except for the employer matching part. Before the passage of the SECURE 2.0 legislation, if your employer offered matching contributions and you chose a Roth 401(k) instead of a traditional 401(k) account, employer matching funds had to be placed into an entirely separate pre-tax traditional account which was taxable. Then, upon reaching RMD age, withdrawals were mandated for both accounts, even though taxes were only due on the matching portion.

Now, as of the passage of the SECURE 2.0 legislation, employers at their discretion can offer their matching amounts on an after-tax basis into Roth 401(k)s or Roth 403(b)s. If your employer offers this option and you choose it, you will owe income taxes on the employer match portion in the year you receive the money, but RMDs will no longer be due.

  1. Preparation for 2026 Tax Cut Sunsets [5]

Though tax cuts sunsetting at the end of 2025 won’t immediately impact 2024 retirees now, it may be crucial to begin preparing for the 2026 tax year. While the federal estate and gift tax exemption amount is currently $13.61 million per individual, it’s expected to drop back down to below $7 million in 2026. For those with larger estates, that could slice the amount of tax-free money going to beneficiaries in half. Income tax rates could also revert to what they were prior to 2018, meaning that it may be helpful to convert taxable income to tax-free income—for instance, by using Roth conversions—in the next two years. Additionally, those impacted by this change could also look to work with a financial professional to implement long-term tax strategies that give them the opportunity to pass their wealth to their beneficiaries as efficiently as possible.

  1. Higher Medicare Costs but Increased Social Security Payments [6,7]

Medicare costs are also up in 2024. Though Part A is free to beneficiaries, it does come with an annual deductible, which is up $32 from $1,600 to $1,632. Medicare Part B premiums are also up in 2024 from $164.90 to $174.40, an increase of roughly 6%. It’s important to know that those premiums are traditionally deducted from Social Security payments, which typically also rises with a cost-of-living adjustment determined by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or the CPI-W. In 2024, that increase is 3.2%, so while the adjusted checks won’t be entirely proportionate to the higher Part B premiums, the COLA may help to offset the extra costs.

To learn more about what it takes to prepare for the next stage of your life, call us! You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395



Trek 24 – 115

Why Long-Term Care is an Important Part of a Financial Plan

By | Financial Planning, Long Term Care

It’s National Long-term Care Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to discuss the importance of preparing for the potential need for care.

Financial planning can be a complex process, especially for those looking for a comprehensive plan that accounts for every aspect of their life. That comprehensive plan traditionally includes budgeting, investing, tax-mitigation, estate planning, and as you get closer to retirement, should even include Medicare and Social Security. One aspect that often goes overlooked, however, is planning for long-term care. Let’s go over why it’s important to include long-term care planning as part of your holistic financial plan.

It Can Help You Preserve Your Hard-Earned Assets [1,2,3]

The unfortunate reality is that seven in 10 of today’s 65-year-olds will need some type of long-term care, and 20% will need it for longer than five years. When long-term care can cost more than $100,000 per year for a private room in a nursing home, it’s easy to see how even a short-term stay has the potential to be costly to a financial plan. Preparing early for the possibility of needing long-term care can help you take a more structured approach to managing future care expenses, potentially reducing the need for urgent financial adjustments.

It’s Not Covered by Medicare [4]

A common misconception is that long-term care or extended stays in assisted living or nursing home facilities are covered by Medicare. It does cover some stays in skilled nursing care if, for example, a medical condition has necessitated that level of service; however, long-term stays are typically categorized as non-medical expenses. As such, even with a carefully chosen Medicare or Medicare Advantage plan, there could be limitations for long-term care needs. This highlights the value of exploring additional financial strategies to prepare for potential long-term care expenses. Note that this is general information only. It is recommended that you consult with an experienced Medicare planning professional or contact Medicare directly for detailed coverage options.

It May be Able to Extend Your Independent Lifestyle

Planning for long-term care is about so much more than just the care itself. It’s about giving yourself the opportunity to make life-altering decisions in any scenario. A clearly defined plan to pay for long-term care can help you retain your agency and decision-making power, even if you’re no longer capable of living on your own. While this is a potential benefit of long-term care planning, outcomes vary based on individual circumstances. It can also be helpful to know that you have a plan in place in the event of the worst, potentially giving you confidence and saving you from the stress that can come with having to make a decision and arrange for your care at the last possible moment.

You Can Shoulder the Burden for Loved Ones

Just as your plan is about more than the care itself, your plan is also about more than you. Creating a comprehensive plan which outlines your care preferences and financial strategies for potential long-term care needs can be a proactive step. Such planning might assist your family in navigating decisions more effectively, potentially reducing the emotional and financial strain associated with urgent or unexpected care needs. However, it’s important to recognize that each individual’s situation is unique, and the effectiveness of any plan can vary based on personal circumstances. Additionally, a plan can give your family the same assurance it gives you, as they can potentially gain confidence that you’ll be in capable hands should you need high-level care for an extended period.

You May Prepare to Access Care

Early financial planning may provide more options for managing long-term care needs, though it’s important to note that each person’s situation is unique, and the impact of planning may differ. While planning can help in exploring different care options, such as at-home care or nursing facilities, and potentially aid in financial preparation, it doesn’t guarantee specific levels of care or event facility availability. We encourage thoughtful planning to explore potential strategies for funding long-term care, recognizing that each individual’s needs and capabilities are unique. While approach aims to support informed decision-making, but it’s important to note that it does not eliminate the complexities and uncertainties associated with long-term care arrangements and costs.

There Are Modern Options to Pay for It

Modern times have brought about innovative solutions to pay for long-term care. Traditional long-term care policies still exist, offering coverage that may or may not be utilized, but now, long-term care insurance can be integrated with other types of insurance products, such as permanent life insurance policies, to combine benefits. Such integration can address concerns related to traditional long-term care policies, potentially offering more flexibility in policy utilization. The cash value portion of the hybrid policy that is protected and guaranteed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance carrier can be used to pay for long-term care if you need it or as a death benefit for your beneficiaries if you don’t. As with any insurance product, these policies have their own intricacies, fees, and charges, so it’s important to work with a financial advisor to understand your options and see if one of these hybrid policies matches your goals.

If you have any questions about how you can prepare to fund long-term care, please give us a call today! You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395



Trek 23-766

Your 2023 Year-End Financial To-Do List

By | Financial Planning, Tax Planning

The end of the year is upon us. Here are some tasks to check off before 2024 arrives!

As the year wraps up, it can be a great time to take financial inventory. Your circumstances are constantly changing and evolving, and the proper financial plan is not meant to be a set-it-and-forget-it thing. With the end of the year presenting the perfect chance to revisit your goals, here are a few areas you may want to check in on before we flip the calendar to 2024.

  1. Review Your Financial Plan

As the year comes to a close, it can be a great idea to reassess your financial circumstances and make necessary adjustments to your financial plan. Maybe your goals have changed. Maybe you’re on a fast-track toward goals you expected to take longer to reach, so you can move some dates up. And remember, it’s always important to make sure that your beneficiaries are up-to-date annually on all of your accounts, investments and insurance policies.

  1. Adjust Your Monthly Budget

Now that we’re in the final quarter of the year, you may be in a good position to revisit your budget and adjust as needed. Maybe you received a nice annual bonus or raise, or maybe you’ve recently had a baby and haven’t had a chance to fine-tune your budget through the sleepless nights. No matter your circumstances or the new milestones and stages of life you reached this year, it can be a good idea to look at how your income keeps up with your expenditures and tweak accordingly.

  1. Review Your Investments

It’s important to know that diversifying with different asset classes can help protect your overall portfolio, especially important during times of increased market volatility. Be sure that your investment portfolio positions you with a level of risk you’re able to tolerate, especially as you get closer to retirement.

  1. Recalibrate Your Retirement Account Contributions [1,2,3,4]

As you traverse your career and attempt to carve out a lifestyle that will be sustainable once you get the chance to quit working and chase your retirement dreams, it’s important to know how much you’re allowed to contribute to your various accounts. In 2023, the contribution limit is $6,500 for traditional and Roth IRA accounts, and it is $22,500 for 401(k)s. In 2024, those limits are expected to increase to $7,000 and $23,000, respectively. If you’re 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 to your IRA and $7,500 to your 401(k). Those limits are expected to remain the same for 2024.

  1. Take Your RMDs [5,6]

Below we’ve created a chart to show the age at which you must begin taking required minimum distributions from your tax-advantage accounts that mandate them. Failure to adequately withdraw funds will result in a 50% excise tax, and the deadline to withdraw the minimum amount from tax-deferred accounts is Dec. 31. If you’ve reached the age at which you must take the distributions, withdrawing the proper minimum amounts from the correct accounts can help you avoid that hefty penalty. We’re also available to help you calculate your RMDs to ensure that you withdraw the right amount!


Date of Birth RMD Age
June 30, 1949, or Before 70 ½
July 1, 1959, to Dec. 31, 1950 72
Jan. 1, 1951, to Dec. 31, 1959 73
Jan. 1, 1960, or After 75


  1. Spend Money Left in Your FSA [7]

Unlike health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible savings accounts (FSAs) do not typically allow you to roll your excess funds into the next year. You may have a grace period provided by your employer, but even the grace period often comes with a limit as to how much can roll over. Some ideas to avoid losing funds left in your FSA include booking general wellness appointments like visits to the eye doctor, annual physicals and dental cleanings.

  1. Talk to Your Financial Professional or Advisor

The job of a financial professional, planner or advisor is to assist you with your unique circumstances and goals. We aim to provide guidance that aligns with your vision, and together we’ll navigate the path to a financial future you are comfortable with. Whether you’re looking to check off all of these boxes as the year ends or start 2024 with fresh goals, we can help!


If you would like to discuss your situation with a financial professional or advisor, give us a call! You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395




Investment Advisory Services offered through Trek Financial LLC., an (SEC) Registered Investment Advisor. Information presented is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered specific investment advice, does not take into consideration your specific situation, and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any securities or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. For specific tax advice on any strategy, consult with a qualified tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Trek 23-732


Financial Freedom at Each Stage of Life

By | Financial Planning

What does financial freedom mean to you? It could give you the opportunity to pursue personal goals and milestones while shouldering less of a financial burden.

It’s true. Money can’t buy happiness. You can’t simply walk into a store and purchase it over the counter or off the shelf. It can, however, open avenues that allow you to pursue happiness, giving you the flexibility to chase what makes you feel fulfilled, understood and complete. That flexibility is called financial freedom, and it occurs when you’re no longer beholden to restrictions placed upon your goals and your desires by your unique circumstances.

We also truly believe that financial freedom is achievable for everyone, no matter their income level, present outlook or future objectives. But what opportunities does financial freedom typically unlock, and how do those change as you age and progress through both your life and your career? Let’s go over a few phases and milestones as well as the possibilities that may be availed to you through securing your financial independence.


It’s never too early to begin your quest for financial freedom. Similarly, it’s never too early to actually achieve it. In your 20s, it might begin with the ability to start paying off those expensive student loans that can potentially bog you down later in life. You should be in the beginning phases of your career, looking to make your mark, climb a ladder and experience a tremendous amount of growth as you learn who you are in a professional capacity. Use this time to learn and accept the traditional lessons while also voicing what makes you unique, all while collecting paychecks that ideally allow you to pay down high-interest debt, make a down payment on your first home or consider starting your family. While young and spry, financial flexibility can also allow you to travel, plan for a wedding, move cities to chase career opportunities, or start a side hustle or passion project. In your 20s, the possibilities are endless, and detaching yourself from financial limits can help you make the most of your youth. And remember, saving any amount, no matter how small, can have a huge impact on your future financial freedom because of compound interest. As Einstein said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”


By your 30s, you might be a bit more settled, either with a family or an idea of when you’ll begin your family. You may also have a better idea of who you are, your goals, your dreams, your passions and your desired lifestyle. Financial freedom in this stage can allow you to indulge in those dreams, potentially with grander vacations, elimination of hand-cuffing debt, continued repayment or payoff of your home loan and car, and the ability to provide for your loved ones. If you’re lucky enough to eliminate debt, it can be a great time to consider saving or investing more for the future while continuing to maintain your current lifestyle expenditures. You can also consider an estate plan or a life insurance policy to protect those who might rely on you, giving both you and your beneficiaries some peace of mind should something happen to you.


Once you reach your 40s, you’re likely quite used to the life you’ve built and the family you’ve raised. You may also be more comfortable financially, as you’re deep into your career and have adapted with the industry you work in. That’s why in this stage, freedom is about satisfaction. With more security in your profession and better backing in your bank account, you could continue to travel, look for a second home and provide for your beneficiaries. Additionally, your children may be reaching the point at which they need to consider how they’ll pay for college. Though parent-owned 529 accounts do figure into how much federal aid a student qualifies for, other methods, such as permanent life insurance policies, may not, making them a potentially valuable tool. At the same time, your parents may be progressing into their next stage of life, and they may need your help whether that’s simply via your time or your funds. Proper preparation may be able to help you accomplish all of these.


If you experienced financial freedom in previous decades and were able to pay off outstanding debt, home loans, car loans, student loans and more, your 50s could be the perfect time to sock money away for retirement. You’re now closer than ever to retirement, making this the most important time to ensure that your accounts are well-funded, you’re prepared to move on to a fixed income, and you’re protected from market volatility in the final years of your career and first few years of your retirement. If you haven’t in a minute, it could also be a good idea to reassess your beneficiaries, your estate plan and your life insurance policy. You may be able to make necessary tweaks and plan to pass your wealth as tax-efficiently as possible. Additionally, if you’ve shored up all aspects of your financial and retirement plans, you may have some flexibility to spend on things like vacations, charities, vow renewals or other recreational expenditures.


In your 60s, you may be on the cusp of retirement or already in retirement. You can file for Social Security at age 62, but it’s important to remember that filing prior to your full retirement age will permanently reduce your benefit. That’s why this could be a good time to do your final pre-retirement planning, which could include the creation of income streams to keep you afloat while you wait until your full retirement age. You may also be in a comfortable enough position to begin looking at vacation homes, pursuing your various hobbies, checking off bucket list items or even just enjoying a little bit of downtime. Grandchildren may also be on the way, or you may already have them. In that case, financial freedom can grant you the power to spoil them, either with memories that will last or with a long-term college fund. Unlike parent-owned 529 plans, grandparent-owned 529 plans do not count when calculating how much aid a student qualifies for, so they may be helpful tools for your grandchildren looking to achieve higher education.


At this point, it’s likely that you’re retired. Not only have you reached your full retirement age; you may have also permanently increased your benefit by waiting through that special birthday. Now, with financial freedom, you may have the monetary means to match your ample free time. The world is your oyster, and with sufficient retirement funds, you can plan fun things depending on your hobbies and your passions. If you enjoy travelling, it could be a great time to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip that you no longer have to request time off work for. You might also be able to tack onto a collection you’ve been building for decades. Maybe retirement simply means more time to spend with friends and family, and now that your time and your finances are flexible, you can develop those relationships without any inhibiting factors.

80s and Beyond

Though you may slow down as you get older, financial freedom never becomes less important. In this phase of life, it may be critical to consider the possibility of needing long-term care. Roughly 70% of Americans over the age of 65 will need some type of long-term care [1], so while it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it can be a good idea to be prepared. Still, however, you don’t have to stop living your life. You can continue to utilize your free time as you please, but your hobbies may change. You may want to prioritize your health and your personal connections. You may also discover that you have a shift in philosophy, finding joy in activities that require less physical activity such as visiting art shows or attending theatre performances. Furthermore, though you should consistently be revisiting your estate plan throughout the years, this is perhaps the most crucial stage. Reviewing your beneficiaries and ensuring that your tax professional and estate attorney are helping you pass your wealth in the most tax-efficient manner possible can help your loved ones attain financial freedom themselves.

Financial freedom may look different for everyone, but universally, it can be the key to unlocking the comfortability and security to achieve your dreams. Give us a call today to see how we can help you design a plan to become financially liberated and bring those dreams to life! You can reach Bulwark Capital Management in Tacoma, Washington at 253.509.0395


This article is not to be construed as financial advice. It is provided for informational purposes only and it should not be relied upon. It is recommended that you check with your financial advisor, tax professional and legal professionals when making any investment or any change to your retirement plan. Your investments, insurance and savings vehicles should match your risk tolerance and be suitable as well as what’s best for your personal financial situation.




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Are Weddings Worth the Money?

By | Financial Planning

While so many people dream of their special day, it’s worth asking the question: Is it worth the price?

Love conquers all, right? It’s a nice thought, but as the price of having a fantasy wedding continues to soar, so many couples are left wondering if it’s worth it to have a grand showcase and celebration for their first moments bonded in holy matrimony.  In fact, the numbers appear to back these concerns, as the average cost of a wedding in 2022 was $30,000, a $2,000 increase from the 2021 total [1]. When the median household income in the United States is just over $70,000, it’s easy to see how a large wedding can upset the delicate financial balance inside your home [2].

Now, we aren’t telling you to elope, arrange for a courthouse marriage or even forgo the ceremony you’ve been looking forward to since you were young. We are, however, suggesting that there might be areas in which costs can be cut, possibly freeing up funds for potentially more important or desirable expenses and luxuries. The Knot, a popular wedding-planning site, assembled a list of just some of the most common expenses you should expect to incur when planning for your wedding, along with their average price in 2022[1].

-Average cost of reception venue: $11,200
-Average cost of wedding photographer: $2,600
-Average cost of wedding/event planner: $1,900
-Average cost of live band: $3,900
-Average cost of reception DJ: $1,500
-Average cost of florist: $2,400
-Average cost of videographer: $2,100
-Average cost of wedding dress: $1,900
-Average cost of wedding cake: $510
-Average cost of catering: (price per person): $75
-Average cost of transportation: $980
-Average cost of favors: $440
-Average cost of rehearsal dinner: $2,400
-Average cost of engagement ring: $5,800
-Average cost of wedding invitations: $510
-Average cost of hairstylist: $130
-Average cost of makeup artist: $120

While this can add up quickly, it can give you a good idea of where you might spend the majority of your budget as well as where you may be able to make some cuts. First and foremost, the guest list appears to be the best place to start. In 2022, couples hosting weddings with 50 or fewer guests spent an average of nearly $15,000, while couples who invited between 51 and 100 people paid nearly $25,000. The average price for a wedding with more than 100 guests was just over $38,000, so trimming your guest list to only those who absolutely must be there can be helpful if you’re looking to bring down the bill [1].

Obviously for some with larger families, this might not be an option, but the average couple spends roughly $266 per wedding guest, so slicing your guest list by 50 people can save you an average of more than $13,000. It’s also important to know that being more selective with your guest list doesn’t necessarily mean that your wedding will be less significant or impactful. In fact, you might even enjoy the feeling of a more intimate wedding with your closest friends and family whom you expect to be around for the rest of your life.

Another great way to save money is by hiring a wedding planner and using a budgeting tool [3]. While the services of a wedding planner average about $2,000[1], the entire job of the event planner is to remain within budget. They may also know other ways of saving or finding deals that aren’t available to a couple that plans for a wedding just one time. Furthermore, whether you’re keeping tabs or your planner is, a budgeting tool can help you track your spending and ensure that you don’t spend in excess on one particular category. It might also help you get more creative and work within your means and imagination, possibly even making your wedding a more personal experience.

Moreover, if you’re certain you’d like to bring your childhood dreams to life, you can save money by planning early. In addition to increasing your options by aligning your timeline with venues and vendors, you might be able to secure a more buyer-friendly rate while still allowing yourself the flexibility to opt for better or more cost-effective options should they avail themselves in the near future. Remember, pushing out your wedding doesn’t lessen the strength of your bond. Marriage is intended to last forever, and extravagance at the cost of debilitating debt can potentially lead to a more difficult happily ever after.

Additionally, your wedding may be more reflective of your financial circumstances than you even realize. For example, it’s important to communicate and prioritize. Work with your partner to find areas in which you’re willing to compromise and areas in which you aren’t. If you’re a foodie and you want to remember how delicious the various dishes were, it might be a good idea to spring for your top choice in caterers. At the same time, if your family doesn’t drink alcohol, you might be able to save around $2,500 by having a dry wedding [4].

So, to answer the original question of whether or not a wedding is worth the money, yes, but it’s probably only worth it if you plan within your means, which can depend on your unique situation, your relationship and your goals. If a grand wedding is within your budget, you aren’t interested in sparing any expense and your pursuit of other goals isn’t hindered, it may be worthwhile to invite extra people or tack on an open bar. However, if you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to show your love, you can explore other avenues or cut costs without sacrificing or devaluing your marriage.

Whether you are planning on paying for your own wedding—or helping your grown children or grandchildren pay for theirs—let’s talk about how a wedding fits into your financial plan. You can reach Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395.





What To Do with Inherited Money

By | Financial Planning

Whether planned or unplanned, many are unsure of how to proceed after inheriting money. Here are a few steps you can take to make the most of it.

So, you’ve inherited money. Depending on the circumstances, it may have been expected or unexpected, and it may or may not have come with a great deal of heartache. Nevertheless, too few people know what to do when they inherit large sums of money, imposing more pressure than they might have imagined. Here are a few things you should consider when you inherit money.

  1. Take a Brief Moment to Think

When you first inherit money, it can be overwhelming, but it’s a good idea to take a moment to consider all of your options. Although it’s a myth that all lottery winners end up destitute, there is some truth to the fact that it’s easy to spend too much of a good thing too fast and blow through money that could have cleared debt, funded college costs or paid for your retirement. Know that your hand isn’t forced, and you don’t have to make a decision as to what you’re going to do with it or how you will allocate it on a timeline that you aren’t comfortable with. Additionally, the time at which you inherit money is naturally stressful, and making decisions under duress can cause unforced errors and complications. Take some time to determine a course of action you feel comfortable with and confident in.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Tax and Inheritance Laws [1,2]

Once you’ve let the initial pressure of the situation dissolve, it’s a great idea to understand the implications of your inheritance. Whether those implications are determined by the terms of your inheritance or the tax obligations on the funds, it’s crucial that you know how the money may or may not be used. For example, even if your inheritance comes with no tax obligations, it can come with time requirements or required minimum distributions. As of the signing of The SECURE Act of 2019, non-spousal beneficiaries must drain an inherited traditional IRA, 401(k) or similar tax-deferred retirement account within 10 years, and that money is taxed as ordinary income unless it is a Roth IRA, potentially pushing you into a higher tax bracket.

It’s important to be aware of the implications of retirement accounts subject to income taxes, but depending on the amount you inherit, you may also owe federal or state estate taxes. The federal estate tax exclusion is currently $12.92 million per person, but it is set to drop back down to 2017 levels of around $6.8 million in 2026. Some states’ estate tax threshold amounts are much lower than federal levels; for example, from $1 million in Oregon and Massachusetts to $9.1 million in Connecticut. It’s important to check with a tax professional familiar with both federal and state tax laws.

  1. Pay Outstanding Debt [3]

After knowing what you’re obligated to do with the money, you can start to explore some of the freedom offered by coming into extra funds. One option that many tend to lead with is paying outstanding debt. Debt can hang over the heads of investors, pre-retirees and retirees, causing stress and potentially getting in the way of greater saving and investing goals. It can be extremely helpful to pay off debt, especially if it comes with higher-than-average interest rates. For instance, while personal loans, credit cards and student loans can be beneficial in the short term, they can be accompanied by unfavorable repayment terms. Paying them off can be a great way to prevent interest from piling up even further. If you are getting close to retirement, paying off your mortgage may also make sense depending on your situation.

  1. Establish an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can offer flexibility when unexpected expenses arise, and while having one can be extremely beneficial, for some it can be difficult to grow the balance of your emergency fund while trying to maintain your current lifestyle. Committing at least a portion of your inheritance to an emergency fund can mean that you can easily tap into a flexible and liquid account to pay the deductible for a new roof after a storm, replace an appliance that goes bad or afford an unexpected auto repair. Most experts advise putting away at least three to six months’ worth of expenses, but you may want to put away more depending on your age and employment situation.

  1. Invest in Your Future

This can truly mean anything, whether you’re looking to grow your investment portfolio, you want to pay for classes to grow one of your skills or you’d like to provide yourself with the financing you need to start a new business venture. The opportunities for investing in your own future are virtually endless. A larger sum of money can also give you the opportunity to employ different investing strategies, like further diversifying your portfolio. Furthermore, freeing up cashflow so that you can contribute the maximum amounts to your 401(k) and IRA accounts might be a great idea depending on your circumstances, and other retirement strategies could offer lifetime monthly income that could allow you to retire sooner. There’s no doubt that inherited funds can offer you more flexibility and options.

  1. Finance Higher Education [4]

Higher education, attending college or pursuing an advanced degree can offer a leg up, both in the job market and with general skills; however, it can be an extremely expensive endeavor. Using inherited money to fund that further education can be a great way to avoid student loans and achieve the skills you’ll use for the rest of your life. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily have to be for your own education. There are options like 529 plans for grandparents and permanent life insurance with cash value that can help pay for your children’s or grandchildren’s educational expenses, too—without causing them to qualify for less financial aid.

  1. Speak to Your Financial Advisor

It’s always best to speak with your financial advisor—as well as attorneys and tax professionals—before making any major financial decisions about inherited money. Your team of advisors should work together and have a good grasp on your goals so that they can offer custom-tailored advice that can best benefit you and your family now and in the future.

If you have any questions about inherited money, please give us a call. You can reach Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395.



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This article is provided for general information only and is not to be construed as financial or tax advice. It is recommended that you work with your financial advisor, tax professional and/or attorneys when you inherit money.

6 Ways to Protect Yourself From Financial Downturn

By | Financial Planning

Though the United States may avoid a full-fledged recession, it’s undoubtedly a difficult time to be a consumer. Here are some ways to protect yourself.

The fear of a recession looms large, and though it isn’t certain that we’ll enter recession territory in 2023, there’s no doubt we’re in a period of constraint for consumers. Inflation is still high despite the efforts of the Federal Reserve to cut spending with interest rate increases, and 2022 brought the worst annual performance for all three major indexes since 2008[1,2,3].

Understandably, this can cause panic among American consumers and pre-retirees, whether they have assets invested in the market or they’re simply looking to continue with their current lifestyle. With the times, however, our behavior and spending habits must change to give us the best chance to protect ourselves during periods of financial downturn. Here are some things you can do to counter volatile markets and economic declines.

  1. Cut Unnecessary Spending

One of the best ways to avoid a financial crisis is to cut unnecessary spending. That could mean more trips to the grocery store instead of your favorite restaurant, fewer luxury purchases or delaying your upcoming vacation. A properly structured and maintained budget typically accounts for all of your incoming and outgoing funds, so it can likely be a great place to start when looking for places to cut back. You may be forced to make some hard decisions, but the idea is for those decisions to pay dividends in the long run.

  1. Build an Emergency Fund

While an emergency fund might be seen as the most obvious form of protection against difficult financial times, nearly one-in-four consumers don’t have one [4]. Furthermore, 39% have less than a month’s worth of income saved in an emergency fund, and less than half would be able to cover a surprise $1,000 expense. A general recommendation is to have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved in your emergency bucket, giving you some flexibility if you’re forced to access that money. Additionally, you don’t need to make one lump sum contribution to your emergency fund. You can build it gradually, adding little by little until you have a balance you’re comfortable with.

  1. Pick Up an Extra Job

One way to supplement the difference in difficult times is to pick up an extra job to increase your total income. Though your finances often seem cut-and-dried, this is one area where you have the freedom to be a bit flexible and creative. Some ideas for an extra job include freelance or contract work, consulting, starting your own business, or even finding a part-time role at a local establishment where you already enjoy spending time, like a golf course. The possibilities are nearly endless, allowing you to have some fun with this secondary source of income. And who knows? It could lead you down a different career path that leaves you even more satisfied than your primary source of income does.

  1. Prioritize Financial Obligations

Market volatility, inflation, high interest rates, supply chain issues and other economic factors can be scary, but they’re even scarier when compounded with outstanding debt. It can always be a good idea to tackle debt to avoid falling into a situation where you’re beholden to that debt, seemingly allowing you little-to-no flexibility with your income. The sooner you enact a plan and clear that debt, the sooner you can begin building your emergency fund, making larger contributions to your retirement accounts or enjoying the perks of increased financial freedom.

  1. Look for Advantageous Investment Opportunities

While there are certainly no guarantees when it comes to investing in the market and no current iron-clad ways to dictate market performance or protect yourself from declines, opportunistic investors with a long time-horizon to retirement can take advantage of dips. Investors may be able to utilize these periods to their benefit by entering the market at a low point, or they could use a strategy called dollar cost averaging to continue investing or putting away money in their 401(k) at consistent intervals, thereby lowering their average cost per share. Though the big three indexes were down in 2022, they have a sustained history of long-term growth, potentially making declines a favorable time to enter the market.

  1. Use Protection-Based Strategies

Though growth can be enticing, sometimes protection for what you already have can be even more important. Diversifying your portfolio with a protection-based asset class, such as an annuity or a permanent life insurance policy, could be helpful through guaranteeing principal protection and index-linked growth. Despite allowing you to participate in market upside, these policies are not investments. Rather, they’re contracts with issuing insurance companies, and the guarantees are made by the claims-paying ability of those companies. These products and strategies can help you create a tax-free stream of income in retirement while protecting you from market volatility on the way there. If you think a protection-based approach may be the right strategy for you, we can help you decide based on your unique circumstances.

If you have any questions about protecting yourself from financial downturn, please give us a call. You can reach Bulwark Capital Management at 253.509.0395.



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This article is for informational purposes only and is accurate to the best of our knowledge. It is not to be taken as investment or tax advice. in all cases we recommend that you work with financial, tax and legal professionals to find the strategies best suited to your individual situation.