The Perfect Storm for Retirees

Today’s retirees are unlike any other retirees in history: They’re living longer, and many of them want to spend more in retirement than previous generations. At the same time, the fear of running out of money is incredibly common, and for good reason.

The bargain made decades ago in the transition from defined benefit pension plans to the modern 401(k) gave workers control over their savings but also transferred longevity risk from the employer to the worker. As such, these days few retirees can rely on a significant pension and must make their savings last for decades. This may be even more difficult considering that we could see persistently low interest rates, higher inflation and market volatility in the coming years.

The result? Today’s retirees could face a perfect storm, and they may have to use different financial planning strategies than retirees of the past.

Low Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve recently announced that it would maintain the target federal funds rate (the benchmark for most interest rates) at a range of 0% to 0.25%. The Fed cut rates down to this level in March of last year in hopes of combating the crippling economic effects of the pandemic, and it may not raise them for years. Interest rates are expected to stay where they are until 2023. Even when they rise, they could stay relatively low for some time.

As the U.S. government borrowings increase dramatically, the motivation for holding rates down increases. This combination works in favor of immense government borrowing, but for retirees it creates an intrinsic tax in the form of persistently low rates paid on savings. Borrowers love low rates as much as savers detest them. This truth is very much in play today. This poses a problem to retirees who want to earn a reasonable rate of return while minimizing their investment risk.

The Potential for Inflation

Coupled with persistently low interest rates, retirees could face increased inflation in the coming years. Government spending increased significantly due to COVID, with the CARES Act costing $2.2 trillion and the American Rescue Plan Act costing $1.9 trillion alone. The Federal Reserve has said that there is potential for “transient” inflation in the coming months and that it would allow inflation to rise above 2% for some time. While most experts don’t think it’s likely that we’ll return to the high inflation rates of the 1970s, even a normal inflation rate is cause for concern among those nearing and in retirement. Over the course of a long retirement, inflation can eat away at savings significantly.

Consider this: After 20 years with a 2% inflation rate (the Fed’s “target” interest rate), $1 million would only have the buying power of $672,971.

The combination of low interest rates and higher inflation may drive many retirees to take on more market risk than they normally would to account for that.

Market Risk

Those nearing retirement and recently retired can expose themselves to sequence-of-returns risk if they take on too much market risk. This is when a portfolio experiences a significant drop in value while the owner is withdrawing funds, owing to nothing more than unlucky timing. This risk is actuated by the timing of the age of the individual retiree and when they plan to retire, not something anyone usually times around market levels or investment performance but rather around lifestyle or even health factors. As a result, often the portfolio cannot fully recover as the market bounces back, due to the burden of regular withdrawals, and may be left significantly reduced.

Today’s retirees live in an uncertain world with an uncertain market. No one could have predicted the pandemic or its economic effects, and similarly, no one can predict where the market will be next year, in five years or in 10 years. While younger investors can ride out periods of volatility, retirees who are relying on their investments for income may have significantly lower risk tolerance and need to rethink their retirement investment strategy.

Is There a Solution?

This leaves many retirees in a perfect storm. They need to make their savings last longer than any previous generation, but with interest rates at historic lows, they may feel pressured to subject their savings to too much market risk in hopes of earning a reasonable rate of return. The most fundamental step to take is committing to regularized, frequent reviews with your financial adviser. Depending on portfolio size and complexity, this is most often quarterly, but should be no less frequent than every six months. This time investment keeps retirees attuned to shifts in the portfolio that will sustain them for decades to come.

Finally, consider the breadth of options available to your adviser, or on the retail platform you use if you are self-managed. Sometimes having the right tool is everything in getting the job done.  Often advisers have a greater breadth of options available that can more than offset their cost. Remember there are options beyond equities. The best advisers have access to guaranteed income insurance products, market linked certificates of deposits and other “structured assets.” This basket of solutions can provide downside protection ranging from a buffer of say 10%-20% all the way to being fully guaranteed by the issuing insurer or commercial bank. Even within the markets themselves, there are asset managers who create stock and bond portfolios that focus on a specific downside target first, emphasizing downside protection above growth right from the start.

Although market risk remains, it’s true that by focusing on acceptable downside first, those portfolios are likely to weather downturns better even if they do surrender some upside as an offset. And while none of these approaches is perfect, they can work as a component to offset a portion of the market risk retirees probably need to endure for decades to come.

The article and opinions in this publication are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. We suggest that you consult your accountant, tax, or legal advisor with regard to your individual situation. Securities offered through Kalos Capital Inc. and Investment Advisory Services offered through Kalos Management Inc., both at 11525 Park Woods Circle, Alpharetta GA 30005, (678) 356-1100. SouthPark Capital is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Kalos Capital or Kalos Management.

CEO, SouthPark Capital

George Terlizzi has worked in business for more than 25 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, dealmaker and executive for early and mid-stage companies. He has substantial concentrations in finance, technology, consulting and numerous forms of transaction work. Today George advises wealth clients individually and sets the strategic vision for SouthPark Capital. George’s insatiable curiosity, action-oriented approach, and broad-ranging interests are invaluable to those he advises.

Source: kiplinger.com

Are Financial Advisors Worth it for Medium Income Families?

Financial advice is mostly regarded as a service needed by the affluent in society. The argument is that with more money, one needs guidance on how and when to invest. However true that might be, it’s good to consider that even people with low to medium incomes have to contend with college fees, mortgages and eventual retirement among other financial obligations. So,

How much does Financial Advice Cost?

The input that financial advisors bring to the table does not come cheap. The usual fee ranges from 1% to 2% of a client’s portfolio, these kinds of charges works best for people with established wealth and assets north of $250,000. To cater to the middle class, financial planners charge hourly fees depending on the complexity of the service required.

Financial Advisors for Middle ClassFinancial Advisors for Middle Class

It’s hard to quantify financial advice because it is difficult to standardize its pricing. Some advisors charge a minimum or an initial set up fee that can be as low as $70 for budgetary advice.

A sound financial or investment plan can go for up to $400 hourly. There are firms or planners who charge a fee for ongoing service, this can be as low as $20 monthly. Others will charge a retainer and an annual fee of $600.

Middle-income earners can also take advantage of Digital Advisors; these are websites that offer financial advice at a fee. Routine monetary questions are answered for a couple of dollars. On the other hand, queries that require a great deal of effort is charged hourly at between $150 and $250 per hour.

Importance of Financial Advisors

While middle-income earners may not have vast amounts to plan for, it doesn’t make their financial decisions less sophisticated. They have to manage debts, decide on new purchases and plan on new investments. All this has to be done within the time of probably working two jobs or racking up overtime to boost the take home. This is where financial advisors come in.

  1. Steering a financial plan

They help you keep track of how and where your money is being invested. It is within their expertise to predict how such investments may change with time. They get to come up with changes that can be done to your portfolio so as to position yourself better.

With complete knowledge to your current expenses and income, your advisor can keep you from overspending on a given investment. This allows clients to free more of their income to go towards saving for future expenditures like college fees or a new car.

The investment market is riddled with new and never-ending opportunities. Some are good but not all amount to profits. A financial advisor helps in sifting through the buzz to keep clients off bad investments like pyramid schemes that plague the middle class.

  1. Protecting Client’s Investments

Every investment comes with a risk. Fidelity postulates that a safe investment is one that strikes a balance between different classes of assets. These include bonds, cash, mutual funds, and stocks. Advisors help clients to pick the right mix of products, this, in turn, diversifies their portfolio to minimize individual risks.

  1. Ensuring Investments Follow Regulations

When it comes to financial matters, it’s not easy to keep abreast of all the dos and don’ts contained in the fine print. Advisors help in navigating through the rules and regulations that govern different aspects of investments.

Apart from ensuring the client’s money is safe, the rules also lay out the expected taxation on different ventures. A planner will assist in choosing the most tax-efficient financial products.

Some financial matters may input from not only a financial planner but also attorneys. Without a qualified advisor to bring this to a client’s knowledge, they may find themselves in the murky waters of litigations all in the name of healthy finances.

In conclusion, everyone needs some financial advice at one point or another. It may be in the form of long-term rapport or independent sessions. This requires you to incur some costs. As a medium-income family, you may not afford to have an on-going relationship with a financial advisor but you can get some much-needed advice that can be accessed in sessions either online or in person.

Source: creditabsolute.com

10 Best Health Care ETFs of 2021

Technological innovation is everywhere you look, especially in health care. New technologies are making simple work of some of the most pressing medical conditions known to man.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic has been proof that the health care sector is evolving, with vaccines being created and marketed within a year of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Of course, the health care industry is massive. Well-researched investments in a variety of health care stocks and bonds have proven to be lucrative moves. But what if you don’t have the time or expertise to do the research it takes to make individual health care investments?

That’s where health care exchange-traded funds (ETFs) come in.

Best Health Care ETFs

Health care ETFs are funds that pool money from a large group of investors and then invest in health care stocks and other health care-focused investments.

As with any investment vehicle, not all health care ETFs are created equal. Some will come with higher costs than others, and returns on your investment will vary wildly from one fund to another.

With so many options available, it can be difficult to pin down which ETFs you should invest in. Here are some of the best options on the market today:

1. Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF (VHT)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.10%
  • One-Year Return: 29.89%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.10%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.42%
  • Morningstar Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UHC), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TOM), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 14
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

Vanguard is one of the best-known wealth managers on Wall Street. So, you can rest assured that when you invest in a health care ETF or any other Vanguard fund, your money is in good hands.

The Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF is focused on investing in companies that sell medical products, services, equipment, and technologies using a highly diversified portfolio.

As a Vanguard fund, the VHT comes with an incredibly low expense ratio and a strong history of providing compelling returns for investors.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up, you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals.


2. Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.12%
  • One-Year Return: 23.75%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.15%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.49%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 17
  • Years Down Since Inception: 5

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund is offered by State Street Global Advisors, one of the largest asset management companies on Wall Street. The firm behind this health care ETF is one with pedigree.

As a passively-managed fund, the XLV was designed to track the returns of the Health Care Select Sector Index, which provides a representation of the health care sector of the S&P 500.

As a result, the XLV ETF provides diversified exposure to some of the largest U.S. health care companies. The fund provides compelling returns and relatively strong dividends for the health care industry.

As is the case with most funds provided by State Street Global Advisors, this ETF comes with incredibly low fees, far below the industry average.


3. ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.75%
  • One-Year Return: 174.19%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 43.78%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.93%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Teladoc Health (TDOC), Twist Bioscience (TWST), Pacific Biosciences of California (PACB), Exact Sciences (EXAS), Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 4
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The ARK Genomic Revolution ETF is offered by ARK Invest, yet another highly trusted fund manager on Wall Street.

The ETF is designed to provide diversified exposure to companies that are working to extend the length and improve the quality of life for consumers with debilitating conditions through technological and scientific innovations in genomics.

Essentially, this fund invests in companies focused on the editing of genomes, or base units within DNA, to solve some of the most pressing problems in medical science.

With genomics being a relatively new concept that’s showing incredible promise in the field of medicine, companies in the space are experiencing compelling growth, making the ARKG ETF one of the best performers on this list.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the higher-volatility ETFs on the list, which adds to the risk of investing.


4. Fidelity MSCI Health Care Index ETF (FHLC)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.08%
  • One-Year Return: 29.76%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.11%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.46%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), Pfizer (PFE)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 6
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

Fidelity is a massive company that has grown to become a household name thanks to its insurance division. It’s also one of the biggest and most well-trusted fund managers on Wall Street.

The company’s MSCI Health Care Index ETF has become a prime option for retail investors who want to gain diversified exposure to the U.S. health care industry.

The ETF was designed to track the MSCI USA IMI Health Care Index, which represents the universe of investable large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap U.S. equities in the health care sector.

As can be expected from the vast majority of Fidelity funds, the FHLC is a top performer on the market with a relatively low expense ratio.


5. iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 38.14%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.38%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.19%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Amgen (AMGN), Gilead Sciences (GILD), Illumina (ILMN), Moderna (MRNA), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 15
  • Years Down Since Inception: 4

iShares has become yet another leading fund manager on Wall Street, and the firm’s Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF is yet another strong option to consider if you’re looking for diversified exposure to the U.S. health care sector.

The fund was specifically designed to provide exposure to the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals subsectors of the health care industry. It does so by investing in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies listed on the Nasdaq.

As an iShares fund, investors will enjoy market-leading returns through a diversified portfolio of investments selected by some of the most trusted professionals on Wall Street.

The IBB expense ratio is around the industry-average ETF expense ratio of 0.44%, according to The Wall Street Journal, but the fund’s expenses are justified by its outsize returns.


6. iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF (IHF)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 31.67%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 16.5%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.54%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: UnitedHealth Group (UNH), CVS Health (CVS), Anthem (ANTM), HCA Healthcare (HCA), Teladoc Health (TDOC)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 13
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

The iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF is designed to provide exposure to a different area of the health care industry.

Instead of investing in companies that create treatments and therapeutic options, the IHF fund invests in companies that provide health insurance, specialized care, and diagnostics services.

To do so, the ETF invests in an index designed to track large U.S. health care providers.

The fund comes with an expense ratio that’s slightly lower than the average for ETFs while providing performance that’s hard to ignore. While IHF isn’t the best dividend payer, the iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF does provide compelling returns, making it a strong pick for any health care investor’s portfolio.


7. iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 36.77%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 23.60%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.50%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO), Medtronic (MDT), Danaher (DHR), Stryker (SYK)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF gives investors access to a diversified portfolio of stocks in the medical device subsector.

Investments in the company center around products like glucose monitoring devices, robotics-assisted surgery technology, and devices that improve clinical outcomes for back surgery patients.

In order to provide this exposure, the iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF tracks an index composed of domestic medical devices companies.

While the expense ratio on the fund is about average, its performance over the past 10 years has been anything but, with annualized returns throughout the period of more than 18%, earning it a perfect five-star rating from Morningstar.


8. iShares Global Healthcare ETF (IXJ)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 19.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 11.51%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.27%
  • Morningstar Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Roche Holdings (ROG), Novartis (NOVN), Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

If you’re not interested in choosing subsectors of the health care industry to invest in and would rather have widespread exposure to all sectors of health care in all economies, whether developed or emerging, the iShares Global Healthcare ETF is a strong pick.

The ETF comes with an expense ratio that’s nearly in line with the industry average, but its holdings are some of the most diverse in the health care ETF space.

Moreover, the IXJ ETF is known to produce relatively reliable gains year after year, closing in the green in 12 of the past 15 years.


9. Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care ETF (RYH)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.40%
  • One-Year Return: 27.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.81%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.51%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Illumina (ILMN), Eli Lilly (LLY), Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN), Abiomed (ABMD), Catalent (CTLT)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Founded in 1935, Invesco is a fund manager that’s been around the block more than a few times. It’s all but expected that the firm would make an appearance in just about any “top ETF” list.

Based on the S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care Index, the ETF provides diversified exposure to all health care stocks listed on the S&P 500. That means when you purchase shares of RYH, you’ll be tapping into a wide range of health care stocks.

In fact, the S&P 500 represents more than 70% of the market cap of the entire U.S. stock market, which is why it’s often used as a benchmark. So, by tapping into every health care stock listed on the index, you’ll be tapping into some of the highest quality U.S. companies in the space.


10. SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.35%
  • One-Year Return: 66.31%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 22.56%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.2%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings Include: Vir Biotechnology (VIR), Novavax (NVAX), Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), Agios Pharmaceuticals (AGIO), BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Another fund offered up by State Street Advisors, the SPDR S&P 500 Biotech ETF is an impressive option. While it’s the last on this list, it’s also been the top performer on this list over the past year and the third-best performer in terms of annualized returns.

The XBI ETF was designed to track the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index, an index designed to track the biotechnology subsector of the health care industry. As a result, an investment in this fund means you’ll be investing in all biotechnology companies listed on the S&P 500.

Not to mention, while returns on the XBIO have been impressive, to say the least, the expense ratio on the fund is below the industry average.

While the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF isn’t the biggest income earner on this list, it is a strong play with a relatively consistent history of producing gains far beyond those seen across the wider market.


Final Word

Health care ETFs are a great option for investors who are interested in using their investments to create some good in the world.

Not only are the top ETFs in this space known for producing incredible returns, it feels good knowing that your investment dollars are helping companies produce medications, devices, and services designed to improve quality of life and extend the length of the lives of your fellow man.

Although investing in health care ETFs is a promising way to go about building your wealth in the stock market, it’s important to remember not all ETFs are created equal. So, it’s best to do your research, looking into key stats surrounding historic performance and expenses before diving into any fund.

Nonetheless, the ETFs listed above are some of the strongest performers in the health care industry and make a great first watchlist for the newcomer to health care ETF investing.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Wondering How to Become an Audiobook Narrator? Here’s How

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. 

While readers and writers have skeptically watched the fluctuating publishing industry in recent years, one literary market has caught us all a bit by surprise: audiobooks.

Somewhere along the path of lengthy commutes and ubiquitous smartphones, a market for audiobooks erupted: people who don’t otherwise read much.

This exploding market makes it imperative for authors and publishers to get books into audio form and on the most popular platforms — Audible (Amazon) and iTunes.

Enter Amazon’s Audiobook Creative Exchange (ACX), which connects audiobook narrators with books to narrate.

Like other publishing services you’ll find at Amazon — CreateSpace for print-on-demand books, CDs and DVDs; and Kindle Direct Publishing for ebooks — ACX simplifies the process of producing an audiobook from start to finish.

If you’re an actor or voice-over artist, you could make money working in this market.

Not sure where to start? Here’s our guide.

How to Become an Audiobook Narrator

Actor Kris Keppeler has been doing voice-over work for over a decade.

“I got started through freelancing and bidding on work,” Keppeler said. “I bid on a short audiobook and got that, and it went well. When ACX came along, I started auditioning there… It’s taken a little bit to discover where my voice fits.”

Based on her experience, Keppeler shares some advice — and warnings — for anyone interested in doing audiobook work.

What You Need to Know Before Auditioning

Before you spend months auditioning to land your first gig, we have some tips to help you get started.

“My voice just fits with audiobook work,” Keppeler said. “Actors are especially tuned in for audiobook work, by the nature of our training.”

That’s because actors learn how to represent multiple characters, necessary for fiction narration in particular. Even for nonfiction, acting training can help you animate narration and make a book interesting.

“You definitely have to have some training,” Keppeler said. “If you regularly listen to audiobooks and like them, that’s a good starting point. But you have to have a real desire to do this kind of work, because it’s a lot of work.”

How is narrating an audiobook different from just reading a book aloud?

“When you read a book, you’re seeing and hearing things in your mind,” she said. “When you’re narrating that book, what you’re seeing and hearing in your mind you have to then vocalize. That’s not easy!”

Because an audiobook listener relies entirely on your narration, painting the picture just right (and meeting the author’s vision) is vital. It’s a distinct difference from other voice-over work, like commercials, where images or video complement the narration.

Because of this need to draw the reader into a made-up world, narrating fiction requires acting skills. Not everyone is cut out for it.

But, “nonfiction has its own challenge,” Keppeler said. “Sometimes what you’re reading is kind of dry, but you still have to make it interesting.”

She says it doesn’t necessarily matter whether a book is interesting to her.

“At this point, whether it is or not, I am narrating it and finding the interesting bits for me and putting it into my voice,” Keppeler said.

Even if you don’t enjoy the subject matter, you can still enjoy the process of producing the book for readers.

Learn Proper Technique

Before landing her first gig through ACX, Keppeler submitted auditions to the platform for well over a year.

Why does it take so long to land a gig?

Some of it, Keppeler says, is just learning how to narrate correctly. “I had some coaching that finally brought me to the point of doing a fairly good job.”

Author Joanna Penn recorded the audio versions of some of her own books. If you can’t afford coaching, she offers some tips for beginners at The Creative Penn to help you get started.

Some tricks to consider:

  • If you’re new at recording, schedule sessions a few days apart to ensure you have enough energy.
  • Try to avoid dairy before recording. Same goes for foods like peanut butter or anything that clogs up your mouth or throat (yeck!).
  • Try to modulate your breathing so you don’t end up holding your breath. This has a real effect on stamina.

Find Your Niche

Once she’d mastered the audiobook reading techniques, Keppeler said, she had to find her niche.

She used trial and error. She took whatever narration work came her way, and listened to client feedback. When an author liked her voice, she knew it was a good fit.

“In voice-over in general, there are so many different genres,” she said. “Most people find you have certain specialities and certain ones don’t fit.”

Once you know your voice and which genres are the best fit, she says, jobs come much more quickly.

Only audition for gigs that fit your voice, and the success rate is much higher. You can even search for books by genre.

“I’m becoming a bit of a nonfiction specialist,” Keppeler said. “[When it comes to fiction], it’s hard to learn to do the different voices… Fiction books are heavily character-based, so you’re going to have to handle [those] unless you’re hired to work with a group, but that’s not that common.”

The Challenges of Audiobook Narration

Some of the work involved goes beyond just recording the voice-over. “Especially if you work through ACX, you have to do the producing yourself,” Keppeler said. “[That’s] editing and mastering yourself. There’s a technical learning curve.”

Audiobooks require hours and hours of editing, making them much more labor intensive than a lot of other voice-over work.

“What I learned editing smaller jobs contributed a lot to being able to jump into audiobooks,” Keppeler said.

So you might consider starting small.

Search online for voice-over jobs — you’ll find promotional videos under five minutes or corporate training videos of five to 15 minutes.

Even online course videos requiring a few hours of voice-over are much shorter than most audiobooks, which run closer to 10 to 15 hours. Hone your skills on smaller jobs and work your way up to the lengthier projects.

What about contracting the technical stuff out to an audio editor? Keppeler says that for what you’re paid, it’s not usually worth it for an audiobook.

You’re expected to record, produce and deliver a finished product. Any additional help you bring in will cut into your pay. Keppeler says you’re better off just learning to do it yourself.

The Creative Penn also offers a few editing tips:

  • Avoid page turning noises — read from a tablet, Kindle or other electronic device.
  • Turn off any devices’ Wi-Fi connections and set them to Airplane mode to avoid static noises. (They may be there, even if you can’t hear them.)
  • Each ACX file needs to be a single chapter of the book. It’s easier to record these as separate files rather than cut it up later.
  • The ACX technical requirements mean you have to add a few seconds of Room Tone at the beginning and end of the file.

How Much Money Can You Make Reading Audiobooks?

ACX doesn’t set or recommend rates for producers to charge.

But it does point out many narrators are members of the SAG-AFTRA union, which lists minimum rate restrictions.

These guaranteed rates vary by publisher/producer. Author Roz Morris tells authors to expect to pay around $200 per finished hour for audiobook narration.

However, Keppeler says most freelance audiobook work will be paid in royalties. As you might guess, this reduces an author’s upfront cost — as well as their risk in hiring you.

While ACX may be a good place to find the work, the pay is usually lower, especially compared with freelance broker sites that aren’t dedicated solely to audiobook narration.

When you record an audiobook with ACX, you’ll choose between setting your own per-finished-hour rate or splitting royalties 50/50 with the rights holder (usually the book’s author or publisher).

If you charge a flat rate, you’ll be paid upon completion of the book. Royalties are paid monthly based on sales from the previous month.

Mostly, Keppeler focuses on short books she can quickly complete. And she gets paid a flat rate of about $100 per finished hour, rather than royalties.

“I have done royalty deals but only on ACX with short books,” she said.

“I don’t want to tie up my time, because you [typically] make very little on royalty books… I have four royalty books [on ACX], and about $20 trickles in every quarter.”

Whether or not a royalty deal pays off is largely based on an author’s platform, The Creative Penn points out. Research an author before signing an agreement.

If you’re just looking for a quick job and aren’t concerned with long-term sales, you can work with an author regardless of their audience. Set a flat rate, and get your money when the job’s done.

But if you want to develop a long-term relationship with an author and you’ve found someone with a sizable audience, you may be better off with the royalty deal.

Long term, you could make much more money in sales royalties. Your working relationship with the author also will be strengthened, because you’ll be invested in the book’s success.

Where to Find Audiobook Work

As with any freelance work, booking a gig directly with the client in your network allows you the most autonomy in setting your rate.

Connecting with a client through a freelance broker like Upwork and Freelancer offers less autonomy and usually lower rates than working with someone directly.

Bidding through an exchange site like ACX offers the lowest of both.

“I only go out to ACX when I don’t have other paid work,” Keppeler said.

ACX also makes it difficult to achieve one of the staples of successful freelance work: repeat clients.

Keppeler said the platform isn’t really set up to connect authors with narrators long-term. Instead you audition for each job. It eliminates a huge opportunity for narrators to work with an author on a series or future books.

Directly connecting through a freelance broker does offer that opportunity. Keppeler said it’s how she found the author of this series of books on Wicca, which offered her ongoing work.

What ACX is good for, she said, is building your portfolio.

If you’re just getting started, the platform gives you an opportunity to hone your chops.

Practice your narrating and editing skills through auditions, and improve from author feedback. Once you land a few gigs, use those as samples to land clients elsewhere.

As audiobooks increase in popularity, Keppeler is seeing more audiobook work appear on Upwork. Freelancers, she says, tend to be better for general voice-over gigs, but not audiobook narration.

Audiobook Narrator Must-Haves

Keppeler’s top tip for anyone getting into voice-over work is to invest in a good microphone and headphones.

Early on, she says,  “I lost out on work because I didn’t have a really great pair of headphones, and there was background noise that I wasn’t hearing. If you send something out that’s not good enough, they will never hire you again.”

Eventually, she hired a professional to help improve her set-up. She says she wishes she had done it up front, instead of DIYing.

A good pre-amp or audiobox can also help clean up your sound and eliminate background noise. But Keppeler warns against buying a cheap one — it’s a tool worth spending money on.

Finally, “You have to have a desire to learn the technical part of it,” she said. “You can ruin an audiobook with bad editing.”

How to Get Started

ACX offers comprehensive guides and FAQs for authors, narrators and publishers, so review those before you get started.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

  1. Create a profile to detail your experience.

  2. Upload samples to your profile to showcase your various skills — accents, genre, style, etc.

  3. Determine whether you’ll always want to be paid per finished hour or by royalty agreements, or if you’re open to either.

  4. Search for books authors/publishers have posted, and record a few minutes of the manuscript to audition for the gig.

  5. When you’re chosen by the author/publisher, they’ll send you an offer. To take the job, accept the offer. All of this should happen through ACX (not over the phone or via email) to ensure the contract terms are on record.

  6. Record and edit a 15-minute sample for feedback before recording and editing the full project. They’ll also have the right to approve or request changes once you’ve submitted the full project.

  7. You’ll be paid a flat rate upon completion and approval of the project or monthly royalty payments based on book sales.

If you’re just getting started in voice-over work, try browsing Upwork for smaller projects you can use to find your voice, build your technical skills and grow your portfolio.

Or reach into your network, and get creative to find freelancing gigs on your own.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a former branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

COVID-19 Super Savers Need to Carefully Navigate in a Post-Pandemic World

A little over a year ago, COVID-19 hit the United States, altering the fabric of our daily lives and turning the average American’s personal finances upside down. Within weeks, 52% of all households slashed their spending.  From all the upheaval and radical change emerged a new generation of risk-averse, financially conservative people: Meet the super savers.

After COVID reached the United States, we saw a pronounced jump nationwide in the personal savings rate — the amount of people’s disposable income that gets saved or invested. For the last two decades that savings rate sat at just under 10%. In April of 2020 it exploded to 33.7%, more than three times its usual number, according to Federal Reserve data. 

Fast-forward to 2021. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc, and a staggering 61% of Americans say they are in danger of running out of their emergency savings. Super savers are on the opposite end of that spectrum. They are middle-class families who’ve embraced an aggressive level of precautionary saving, or they are people with high incomes who’ve seen their disposable expenses, like entertainment and travel, drop off drastically.   

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for COVID-19: The current administration expects 300 million vaccines to be administered by the end of July. Things may be on their way back to normal, but where does that leave the super savers who’ve embraced extreme and unsustainable frugality? They had the luxury of an altered pandemic budget working in their favor, but when a sense of normalcy returns to our daily lives later this year, how will they cope?

Super savers will be faced with the opportunity to spend their new nest egg and may feel like they deserve to make up for lost time. When quarantines finally come to an end there will be infinite temptation. If super savers aren’t careful, the pendulum could swing the other way, paving the way for bad spending habits to emerge. They will need to sensibly allocate their funds ahead of time instead of falling into the trap of overindulgence.

Here are some practical tips to keep in mind as they move forward into a return to normalcy:

Don’t Stop Investing

We’ve experienced a high degree of societal turbulence over the last few months, which has bled into the long-term investment practices of so many Americans. Households guided by extreme frugality may have decreased their 401(k) contributions to have more liquid cash on hand. That’s a corner you can’t afford to cut. In the post-pandemic world, super savers must continue their long-term investment strategies. 

Despite a historic level of stock market volatility during the past few months, super savers should not let their hallmark level of risk adversity affect their willingness to invest. This year has been filled with incredible investment opportunities for those willing to embrace even a little risk. But for those geared toward frugality, the age-old advice holds true: Stay the course. Maintaining a solid investment portfolio is worth more than hanging onto your cash, and super savers are in an opportune position to ride out market instability.

Keep Your Debt Under Control

Too much extra cash on hand and nowhere to spend it? That’s the challenge facing super savers when COVID-19 subsides. It’ll be tempting for even the most frugal person to go on a spending spree; that’s human nature. Whether it’s a major home improvement, a new car or extra spending on entertainment, super savers will be hard-pressed to guard the nest egg they’ve built. 

With interest rates at all-time lows, now is the time to make those rates work for you. Look for ways to curb your existing debt —by refinancing your mortgage or seeking lower APR on your credit cards — instead of accruing new debt. 

Curb Extraneous Monthly Expenses 

COVID-19 transformed our homes from a simple living space into a hub for work, school and entertainment. Over the course of the pandemic, it’s been too easy to justify paying for dozens of streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or HBO Max. 

As the world opens back up, it’s time to analyze the services you pay for and cut back where you can. As things like travel and entertainment expenses come back online, little recurring charges can add up without providing the same level of value that they previously did.    

Keep Your Budget Flexible and Plan for the Near Future

COVID-19 has made many households fiscally conservative by accident. Families with stable income and a lack of goods and services to spend it on might seem responsible on the surface, but quick and radical changes to personal finances can breed bad spending habits down the road. 

A more realistic budget is one that is flexible and geared toward the near future. When things return to normal, as they inevitably will, super saving patterns will no longer be feasible. To continue enjoying good financial health, avoid large impulsive purchases that further saddle your household with debt, and think about real world costs, such as child care, gas and food. Plan for the concrete and build in money for emergencies, but don’t hoard for a doomsday scenario. By adopting a solid and sensible budget now, super savers can avoid financial pitfalls when we all come back down to earth.   

Securities and investment advisory services offered through Royal Alliance Associates Inc., (RAA), member FINRA / SIPC. RAA is separately owned, and other entities and/or marking names, products or services referenced here are independent of RAA.

CEO and Co-Founder, Mint Wealth Management

For more than 18 years, Adam Lampe has helped high net-worth-individuals, affluent families, foundations and institutions work toward their financial goals through holistic financial planning. As the CEO & Co-Founder of Mint Wealth Management, he leads all development efforts within the firm. Alongside his extensive work serving clients, Adam also teaches retirement planning courses through Lone Star College and Prairie View A&M University satellite campuses around Houston.

Source: kiplinger.com

ETFs vs. Mutual Funds: Why Investors Who Hate Fees Should Love ETFs

While the mutual fund universe is much larger than that for exchange-traded funds, more and more investors are discovering that they can save huge amounts in both fees and taxes and put more money in their pocket by switching to ETFs.

An ETF is a collection of usually hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of stocks or bonds held in a single fund similar to a mutual fund.  But there are also a number of significant differences between the two.

When Comparing Fees ETFs Come Out Clear Winners

Numerous studies show that over the long term, managed mutual funds cannot beat an index fund, such as an ETF.

For example, according to the SPIVA scorecard, 75% of large cap funds “underperformed” the S&P 500 over five years through Dec. 31, 2020.  Almost 70% underperformed over three years, and 60% over one year.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg, with most other managed mutual funds — both domestic and international — underperforming their applicable index.

This is partly explained by the higher fees of managed mutual funds, which cut into the investor’s return. According to Morningstar, the average expense ratio for a managed mutual fund in 2019 was 0.66%. Compare this to a well-diversified portfolio of ETFs, which can be put together with an average blended fee of 0.09%, according to ETF.com. Try getting a fee that low with mutual funds.

What makes the gap in fees even greater are the invisible transaction costs for trading securities inside a mutual fund. Due to the difficulty in calculating these invisible trading costs, the SEC gives mutual fund companies a pass in disclosing them to the consumer.

But University of California finance professor Roger Edelen and his team gave us a pretty good idea when they analyzed 1,800 mutual funds to determine the average invisible trading costs.  According to their research, these costs averaged 1.44%.  Keep in mind this is “in addition” to the average mutual fund expense ratio of 0.66% mentioned above.

An ETF, on the other hand, is cloning an unmanaged index, which generally has very little trading going on, and therefore these hidden trading costs are little to nothing.

Between the expense ratio and the invisible trading costs of a managed mutual fund, the total average expense is easily over 2% for mutual funds, which is over 20 times more than the typical expense of an ETF.

Tax Savings Are Another Win for ETFs

ETFs can also save the consumer money by avoiding taxable capital gains distributions that are declared by the mutual fund even when the investor has not sold any of their mutual fund shares. Mutual funds are required by law to make capital gains distributions to shareholders. They represent the net gains from the sale of the stock or other investments throughout the year that go on inside the fund.

Keep in mind this capital gain distribution is not a share of the fund’s profit, and you can actually have a taxable capital gains distribution in a year that the mutual fund lost money.

ETFs, on the other hand, do not typically trigger this sort of taxable capital gain distribution.  The only time you have a taxable capital gain is when the investor actually sells his or her shares of the ETF for a profit.

They’re More Nimble Then Mutual Funds, Too

An ETF trades in real time, which means you get the price at the time the trade is placed.  This can be a real advantage for an investor who wants to have better control over their price. However, with a mutual fund no matter what time of the day you place the trade you get the price when the market closes.

A Sticking Point to Consider: The Bid and Ask Elements of ETFs

While ETFs have many attractive advantages, a potential problem to look out for has to do with their bid-ask price structure. The “ask” is the price the investor pays for the ETF and the “bid,” which is normally lower than the asking price, is the price the investor can sell the ETF for. 

Highly traded ETFs have a very narrow spread between the bid and ask price, often as little as a single penny. But a thinly traded ETF can have a much larger spread, which under the wrong circumstances could cause the investor to sell the ETF for as much as 4% or 5% less than they paid for it.

Mutual funds on the other hand, set their prices at the close of the market and investors pay the same price to buy and sell, so this risk is eliminated.

Another Point to Ponder: Premium or Discount

ETFs can trade at a premium or discount to its net asset value, or NAV.  Simply stated, this occurs when it trades at what is usually a slightly higher price or a slightly lower price than the value of the ETF’s underlying holdings.

While most ETFs exhibit very small discounts and premiums, some, especially those that are more thinly traded, can stray further away from the true value of the underlying holdings.  For example, if an investor bought an ETF that was trading at a premium well above its NAV, he or she could be subject to a potential loss if the price of the ETF moved closer to its NAV price and the investor needed to sell.

You never have to deal with this issue on a mutual fund because the shares are always priced at the NAV.

The Bottom Line

In spite of these potential disadvantages, for the cost-conscious investor who plans on holding his investments for a while, ETFs may be one way to reduce their fees, allow for more nimble trading and reduce their taxes compared with their mutual fund cousins.

President, Piershale Financial Group

Mike Piershale, ChFC, is president of Piershale Financial Group in Barrington, Illinois. He works directly with clients on retirement and estate planning, portfolio management and insurance needs.

Source: kiplinger.com