By: Sharon Williams
Hello Arizona ALA. Welcome to 2018! I hope this finds each and every one of you well and having had a wonderful holiday season. Don’t overwhelm yourself with an unattainable list of resolutions. We can’t change everything at once, but start making small steps towards a goal or achievement. Kris Kringle put it best when he sang “You never will get where you're going if ya never get up on your feet.” This can apply to any goals you have made, or even heading to work on Monday morning.
It has been a busy and successful year for our Chapter. We have had a great education lineup with fabulous speakers. Going forward, we are combining the Specialty Education Series Luncheons and holding one per month (the third Thursday of every month). We will also be promoting the Cyber Chapter Webinars, which you can attend from the comfort of your own office. These two combined with our Chapter Luncheons should cover all of the requirements for those of you needing to meet CLM, SHRM, etc. requirements. If there is a particular area you need education, please let me know, we can add it either this year or next. Lastly, our Board meetings are now held just prior to the Chapter Luncheons in the hopes more of you will be able join us. There is a seat for you, show up and join us. By attending, you will be able to see the nuts and bolts of your Board working together to make our Chapter the best it can be.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Community Connection program was a huge success and I want to thank all of you for your contributions! We even added an additional cause, the Halo Animal Rescue to the Annual Holiday Party and gathered over $600 in cash, blankets, toys and other needed items.
The Chapter website is running smoothly, giving you access to Chapter Member information as well as Business Partner information. You can easily see what events are happening with the Chapter and International ALA and register to attend. Please take a moment and visit AZALA.org to see what it has to offer. Thanks to our Business Partner, Total Networks, our Facebook Live Site offers you the opportunity to view education opportunities live or recorded. Check it out!
I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for our great Chapter. As your Chapter Board we are striving to grow while staying current with what is happening in the legal marketplace. We are offering you tools to be more successful in your work. Please let us know how we can help. Or better yet, join us in making this an even better Chapter.
Whether it was being on the Board, attending an event, or giving me your support, you all helped make 2017 a great year for me. I want to thank each and every one of you who played a part in that. I appreciate you all and hope you know that. Let’s see what we can achieve this year!
As always, be safe, be well and be happy!
By: Jacqueline McAferty
One of the things I appreciate about the start of a new year is that gives me the opportunity to choose something I want to improve on. It is a new start time and I like to choose something new to learn or work on. A little over three years ago I started a ‘line a day’ journal as my New Year resolution. I am now into my fourth year of this ‘line a day’ journal and an unexpected benefit of it is that I can see for the day I am recording thoughts or happenings that happened on that day each of the preceding three years. The space is so small to write in, that I focus and write one thought or event.
If you had to choose one thing to work on personally or as a manager at your law firm, what would it be? Taking a line from Sharon’s article, how are you going to join in making the Chapter a benefit to you? Or, from Katie, how are you going to be a unicorn?
2018 is here with a millennial takeover (92 million strong, now a larger group than boomers), increased cybersecurity threats, new technology to manage the ever increasing volume of documents we deal with, changing tax laws that impact owners, attorneys and staff. We have as a resource our Chapter and business partners who can provide good information on human resource needs, cybersecurity, retirement planning, branding, document management and new technologies. Stay up on trends in the legal marketplace by reading articles, attending educational events (see the ALA website http://www.alanet.org/education/education-overview for additional opportunities) and by meeting with business partners to see if there is something that could add value to you and your firm.
Sometimes at the end of the day I’ll say to my husband “Guess what we were doing last year on this day (or two/three years ago)? We’ve enjoyed the ‘remembering.’ Choose the one thing that will make this year memorable for you!
2018 Resolution: Be a “Unicorn” by Katie Bryant, CLM
Some of you right now are probably thinking, Katie has finally lost it, she wants to be a unicorn. Or perhaps (and hopefully) you know exactly what I am about to write. For 2018, I am challenging all of you (and myself) to become a unicorn employee within your organization. Unicorn employees are extremely rare and valuable. They offer enormous benefits to their employer by shattering expectations, raising the bar and they literally take the business and those around them to the next level. Here are the key qualities to becoming a unicorn employee:
Do not allow yourself to be limited by your job title
Employees who truly flourish are ones that are flexible and curious which means having the ability to wear many hats and excel at various tasks. Just because your title is Office Manager or COO, doesn’t mean you should not be involved in different areas of the business outside of your usual scope of work. For example, offer your opinions on business development initiatives by helping to brainstorm content marketing ideas for social media.
Think big and small
Exceptional employees think strategically. They see the big picture and are always looking at the overall goals of the organization and applying it to their work. But what they also pay attention to is the detail. The best employees are those that take the time to read the fine print because they know often the devil is in the details. Employees who are both strategic and detail oriented are the ones entrusted with the most serious responsibilities.
There will most likely be turbulent times or unexpected obstacles when working towards long-term goals. Likewise, there will be days when you simply just want to throw in the towel because the work and the effort just doesn’t seem worth it or appreciated. In these types of situations, unicorn employees persist and have true grit. They stay calm and focused on the task at hand especially during stormy weather.
No matter the person or the job title treat everyone with respect. Never speak down to someone or be anything less than courteous. Unicorn employees are respectful by nature and recognize that showing respect to everyone is important to the well-being of the organization.
The best employees dream big, know how to have fun, and get sh*t done. No matter how great a co-worker is to be around, if they don’t do the work and produce actual results then they will likely only damage the team. Bottom line: You can be respectful, multi-talented, tenacious, detail-oriented and a big thinker. But if you don’t produce results and help move the organization forward, all those traits are wasted. A unicorn employee must be able to execute. It’s essential.
5 Cybersecurity Tips to Protect Your Business
The majority of data breaches happen to businesses with less than 100 employees. Cybercriminals often target small and midsize businesses, because they tend to spend less on cybersecurity than larger organizations, which makes them an easier target. Your firm likely collects valuable data such as client, employee and vendor names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, driver’s licenses and insurance information. This information is everything a criminal needs to commit identity theft and other cybercrimes.
Ransomware is a real threat to all businesses
Ransomware is a method of holding data hostage until a ransom or payment has been made to release the data. Ransomware is usually associated with fake emails called phishing emails that may contain dangerous links or malicious attachments. The email is “phishing” for a click so that it can silently launch a program to lock all the data the clicker has access to by encrypting it. Once the program encrypts everything it can, it will display a message extorting money for the promise of a key.
Criminals are targeting law firms and other businesses that have valuable data they cannot afford to lose. The risk of being caught spreading ransomware is much lower than traditional hacking or cybercrime. There are firms that have been shut down for weeks as a result of successful ransomware attacks that have encrypted the entire network and made access to company data and systems impossible. Paying the ransom may not work and you don’t want to be in that position in the first place.
Employ the following are best practices to minimize the chance of data breaches.
Secure passwords. Passwords are the key to networks, client information, online banking and social media. Password best practices include:
Use strong passwords.The longer the better. Longer passwords are harder for thieves to crack. Include numbers, capital letters and symbols. Require strong passwords via system settings.
Consider using passphrases. When possible, use a phrase such as “I went to Lincoln Middle School in 2004” and use the initial of each word like this: “Iw2LMSi#2004”.
Don’t use dictionary words.If it is in the dictionary, there is a chance someone will guess it. There is even software that criminals use that can guess words used in dictionaries.
Don’t post it in plain sight.This might seem obvious, but studies have found that a lot of people post their password on their monitor with a sticky note.
Use multi-factor authentication.Set up multi-factor authentication that requires you to have your phone or another physical device (at a minimum, when logging into your account from a new device).
Don’t reuse passwords; consider using a password manager. Creating very strong random passwords that are encrypted and saved with one master password (and second factor) can significantly minimize your risk.
Encrypt data. The best way to protect sensitive information is to use encryption. Under many federal and state regulations, encryption is a “safe harbor”. This means if a mobile device is lost or stolen and the data is encrypted, then the incident would not result in a reportable breach.
Consider encrypting mobile devices, laptops, USB drives, workstations and email.Without encryption, a stolen device may result in a data breach. Emails could contain sensitive information and should be encrypted. Secure email will protect the data that is sent.
Provide Employee Security Training. Employees are your weakest security link. An IBM study found that 95% of data breaches are caused by employee mistakes. These mistakes include falling victim to a phishing or ransomware attack, losing a laptop or smartphone, or sending sensitive information to the wrong recipient.
Employees need security training to help prevent mistakes that can lead to data breaches. Employees should know how to spot phishing emails, phishing websites and the dangers of email attachments. Cybercriminals are developing new scams and attacks every day, so employees should be reminded with fresh content frequently through a security awareness program.
Have a professional data backup and disaster recovery system. Backing up data will protect your business from data loss due to damaged servers or malicious code from ransomware. Business-grade data backups ensure that data is recoverable. Employ automated backups that securely copy data offsite, and test your data backups periodically to ensure the data is recoverable.
Perform a security risk assessment. A security risk assessment (SRA) is a critical step to understanding the risk to your firm. An SRA will inventory client, employee, vendor and sensitive data, and help you to understand where sensitive information is stored or accessed. An SRA will identify how you are currently protecting the data and make recommendations on what additional security measures can be implemented to lower your firm’s risk. Without a thorough understanding of risk, it is difficult to implement the safeguards needed to protect your business. Consider performing an assessment annually, and continually chip away at your action plan.
By Dave Kinsey, President Total Networks
The Association of Legal Technologists, based in Phoenix, invites you to attend their legal technology education conference:
ctrl ALT del: Networking Rebooted
February 11-13, 2018
JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, Scottsdale
The conference agenda is in two tracks and is centered around Legal Design Thinking, a user-centered way to solve problems and uncover new ideas. Legal Design Thinking takes professional designers’ mindsets and methods and applies them to legal technology. To learn more about the conference, CLICK HERE.
Phoenix Overview - Looking back at 2017
Two words to describe the story of 2017 Metro Phoenix Office Market: Southeast Valley. Tempe, Scottsdale Central and Chandler submarkets outperformed the entire Valley, helping the Phoenix Office Market round out the year with the lowest vacancy rate in 10 years at 18.8%. Several notable transactions during 2017 include: Quicken Loans, Bank of the West, Wells Fargo Bank, Freedom Financial, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Walgreens, Consumer Cellular, Union Bank, Varsity Tutor, Stantec and Centene.
Net absorption for the quarter tailed a positive 479,691 square feet, bringing the year to total to just over 2.5 million square feet, on par with last year’s total of occupancy gains by the end of the year. For the year, Tempe leads all submarkets with an overwhelming 689,356 square feet in occupancy gains or 27.5% of the markets year-to-date total. The Scottsdale Central rounded out the year with 397,952 SF and Chandler Submarket with 301,668 SF respectfully.
Key Takeaways in 2017:
Overall average asking rent increased 8.3% year-over-year from $23.66/SF to $25.32/SF. Class B rents led the charge up 8.3% over the past year from $20.88/SF to $22.62/SF, as vacancy for Class A product contracts. Class A rents are up 4.5% over the same time, reaching $28.49/SF. Asking rents in Tempe, Camelback Corridor and Scottsdale submarkets reached historic high levels commanding rents above $40.00/SF mark.
The market currently has more than 1.1 million square feet currently under construction across six submarkets. Of that total, more than 432,000 square feet, or 37.1% has been preleased.
After a strong first half of the year, office investment activity for properties $5.0 million or greater, calmed in the fourth quarter with 14 transactions totaling $1.3 trillion in sales volume, up 66.9% compared with the same period a year ago, according to Real Capital Analytics. This includes the Marina Heights portfolio sale of 2 million square feet for $930 million ($459.45/SF)
Average wages grew more in Phoenix than anywhere else in the nation – a whopping 7.6 percent and the Phoenix metro unemployment rate plummeted to 3.7 percent, nearly a full point lower than the state’s rate
What to expect in 2018?
With the lowest Arizona unemployment rate since 2008, higher credit ratings and consumer confidence, and a real-estate market on the rise – we predict another strong year of steady growth in 2018. The state’s strong economic climate, affordability and strong population growth continue to make Phoenix market an attractive location for business growth and large operation facilities with many firms recently announcing further expansion and job increases. We expect the national economy to continue to perform well. It will likely be one of the best growth years of the expansion and could be the strongest year for GDP growth of the entire expansion so far.
Evolving Trends in 2018:
We predict that office trends will be relatively unchanged from last year. Millennials now represent a third of the office-using employment base, and we believe that live, work, and play mentality will be important. However, that doesn’t mean that companies conform office space to support this demographic age group. A company can transform an office space without having overhead costs going crazy. Open office spaces are the standard and common area spaces are the “norm,” but not all firms and not all functions within one firm successfully operate in an open office environment.
Innovation and technology will continue to be a significant change to office operations. It will ultimately provide more efficiencies to operating environments as well as building structures, which can include change in curtain wall technology and sound proof cubicles.
We believe 2018 will be another exciting year. Arizona has evolved to being the go-to-place for cutting-edge technology, with companies like GM, Ford, Uber, Waymo, Intel, TuSimple and Embark expanding presence into Arizona and we expect to see more companies on the way.
AOT looks forward to partnering with the ALA for the 2018 year. We would like to welcome all the new and returning members. The commitment the leadership team provides to help grow the ALA and the resources they provided to all Firm Administrator members is why AOT is proud to be a part of such a fantastic organization.
Information About Arizona Office Technologies
AOT started as a small local company and has provided proven leadership and powerful results since 1985.With the support of our customers and employees, we established a national presence when we were acquired by Global Imaging Systems, Inc in 2001. In 2007, Xerox purchased our parent company, Global Imaging as a wholly-owned subsidiary. As of today, Global Imaging Systems operates 200+ locations across the country with 4,000+ employees serving 150,000+ customers
Over the past 30 years, AOT has become the pioneer in managed print services. AOT is managing over 21 Million prints per month through the State of Arizona. At AOT, we provide 100% local parts and supply inventory. AOT has a live Customer Call Center based in Phoenix, Arizona. Our certified analysts and technology engineers, provide immediate technical support. Currently, 1 out of 3 service calls are fixed remotely and instantaneously, thus eliminating the waiting time for a technician to arrive. We use multiple automated reporting tools to ensure supply and billing accuracy. We use Link 360 to monitor the toner levels and automate supply orders so the customer no longer manages the ordering of toner. All our billing is done locally and in-house. We can set up specific AP processes to fit your law firm’s needs. Through our Assessment process, AOT will review the culture, Inventory of Technology, Usage, Captured costs and tailor a solution to achieve your Law Firms long term goals.
Give us a call today and schedule an appointment with our Team to come and review your printing and office technology needs.
How to Stay Proactive with Data Security
With more business being conducted online than ever before, companies must implement a strong foundation to prevent data breaches before they happen. Hackers are prevalent, smart and they can cost you a lot of money. A recent study on data security indicates a mobile computing “mishap” costs businesses $429,000 per incident, enough to shutter some small businesses for good. Don’t make it easy for a hacker to attack your network; take these proactive steps to protect your business:
Perform a security audit. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. A professional services firm can identify vulnerabilities in your network and help you shore them up.
Know where the important data is stored, and put tight controls on access. Password-protect company financial records, employee account information, and the like. Limit the number of devices on which your business stores sensitive data.
Set up a firewall and make sure your wireless network is password protected with a WPA2 encryption versus a WEP one. A firewall will be your first line of defense against a breach, and antivirus protection is your second line of defense. Make sure your antivirus and antispyware software are up to date.
Conduct data security training for staff. Educate employees on the dangers of downloading apps and software containing spyware, and teach them how to recognize spam and other warning signs.
Protect all mobile devices. Many employees work outside of the office and are susceptible to theft. Make sure they are password-protected, have data encryption protection and can be erased remotely. Also, you should use secure apps and virtualization technology to protect mobile devices when they are using WiFi connections in public places.
Come up with a disaster recovery plan. You need to back up your data continuously in the event of a disaster. Make sure to test the backup system to ensure it is working properly. POA provides backup and secure offsite data vaulting to store your information in the event of a disaster.
Use real-time monitoring. You need to know the minute a breach happens. That requires 24/7 monitoring of your firewall, router, and server. Companies often wisely outsource this service.
Be mindful of passwords. Change them quarterly, and immediately after employees leave the business or third-party vendors have been working on your network. Require every employee to have their own username and password to access, share, print, or save important documents to external media.
Invest in a multifunction printer to reduce points of access to documents. Even in the digital age, paper documents pose a significant security risk. Convert to an electronic records management system, and require passwords to access, edit, share, or print documents containing sensitive information.
Pacific Office Automation helps businesses of every industry and size protect their data. Our multifunction printers keep documents secure, and we offer a full suite of managed IT services like auditing, 24/7 monitoring, and backup recovery. Contact us today for a free workflow analysis and to find out how we can help with data security.
Is It Time for a Brand Audit?
Auditing your brand can help you maximize your brand's value, streamline procedures, increase efficiency and reduce costs. Working with existing or potential suppliers will allow you to come up with new and different ways to maximize your efficiency and your budget. Before you can assess if a brand audit is right for your firm, you must first have an understanding of what the term "brand audit" really means.
What Is a Brand Audit?
Brands tend to become less consistent over time. This can be due to the introduction of innovative technologies as wells as new communication channels. Changes in personnel and priorities can also be a factor. Because of this, it's often hard to pinpoint when a brand needs to be updated. A brand audit will help you determine the current state of your brand as well as inconsistencies and opportunities for improvement.
A brand audit should include a thorough examination of your brand in three distinct ways:
- Its current position in the market compared to your competitors.
- Its consistency in printed and electronic form.
- The ease in ordering both repeat and new materials
The process takes you through a deep, raw look at your branded materials to determine what is consistent and effective in order to create a plan to improve any abnormalities. At its most basic level, it's a brand makeover. However, a brand audit can also lead to improvements in process, efficiency and costs.
Can I Perform a Brand Audit Internally?
It is important to be as objective as possible during a brand audit. Preforming a brand audit with internal resources only can often skew the data based on biased opinions.
It is also important to have the resources internally to dedicate to the process. Many firms, even those with large marketing departments, can find it difficult to fully execute a brand audit without help from an impartial resource.
Why do a Brand Audit?
Strong brands attract better candidates, appeal to more clients, instill loyalty and make more money. Even strong brands need a health check to keep them on track.
One of the ways to stay on track is to convey your commitment to your clients through smart, consistent deployment of your firm's brand. This is where your printer can become a true partner and an extension of your team. While you focus on creating and executing a communication plan, your printer should continually assess your firm's printed materials and make recommendations for ways to strengthen your brand, streamline ordering procedures and reduce costs.
This assessment should cover all aspects of your firm's printed materials, including:
How your firm's brand and printed materials stack up against those of other firms in your geography
Brand consistency and market exposure
Color consistency across all of your firm's materials, across all mediums
Ordering efficiency, effective inventory management and reporting
Whether your materials are compliant with your firm's sustainability initiatives - you can go green and save green!
Recommendations for alternative products and ordering options that can potentially save you in both product cost and time
The audit should provide you recommendations for new and different ways to maximize your efficiency and lower your expenses. You, your designer and your printer should meet to review your firm's printed materials and to discuss your firm's objectives. Doing this will ensure that you remain satisfied with the performance of your printer, and, most importantly, with the quality and effectiveness of your firm's printed materials.
Audits Lead to Action Plans
Deciding how to proceed with the results of the audit is the hardest part of the process.
Typically, you have three main options specific to your brand:
If you choose to refresh your brand, you can make improvements to both your logo and your branded materials along the way without much up-front cost investment. This is a nice compromise for firms who find that their brand is still effective, but they need cost savings, more consistency or just a more modern feel without a full rebrand effort.
If you choose to rebrand, you will need a plan to get full firm buy-in, create a timeline of events including a clear delegation of responsibilities both within and outside the firm and get approval for a budget. Including your designer and printer in as many steps of this process will help you set a schedule that is realistic and achievable.
Once you have made a decision regarding your brand, you can review the list of recommendations that are aimed at increasing efficiency and reducing costs. You'll need to create a plan to implement and reap the benefits of each recommendation.
The Time is Now
While a brand audit will be effective any time of year, now is the perfect time to get started. The beginning of the year always starts with such promise for the next twelve months. The best ways to start off the new year right is to avoid making resolutions and to make real actionable plans instead.
Interested? Reach out to your Sales Associate today or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
_____________________________________________________________________________________Founded in 1946 and headquartered in Cranford, New Jersey, ALL-STATE LEGAL is the legal industry’s most trusted rebranding specialty printer. The company has been involved in over 20 major rebrands over the past year, has a national footprint (with manufacturing and distribution centers located in and around all the major U.S. legal markets), a best-in-class online ordering platform, and an experienced and knowledgeable client service team – all focused on providing the highest quality products and services to law firms of all sizes, from solo practitioners to the largest global firms. Over 94% of clients surveyed say they would recommend us to a colleague or friend.
Retirement Planning for Lawyers
By the ABA Retirement Funds
Here’s a big word for you from the world of behavioral finance – hyperbolic discounting. Hyperbolic discounting is a time-inconsistent model of discounting. Ok, that didn’t help much. Think of it this way – humans have a tendency to value short-term rewards over longer-term rewards, even when mathematically the rewards are worth the same. The farther away the reward, the more we tend to discount it.
How does it work? Assume someone has the choice between $20 now or $100 tomorrow. Most will wait a day and collect the $100 reward. But what if I were to offer you $20 now, or $100 a year from now? Turns out many people will opt for the $20 now, discounting the value of a larger reward because it is so far into the future. So expressed another way, hyperbolic discounting is a person’s desire for an immediate reward rather than a higher-value reward, at some point later.
Ok, let’s test your newly acquired knowledge. You have $650 left in your pockets and the new iPhone just came out. What do you value more, the new phone now, or the thousands of dollars your pocket money might grow to become by the time you retire 30 years from now?
Turns out you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand this concept, because it affects everyone the same. And that’s why law professionals, just like the rest of us living in today’s society, struggle to plan ahead and save adequately for retirement. So what can you do today to help ensure you’ll have what you need tomorrow?
So, first things first, if you are a firm owner, sole proprietor, or administrator in your practice, let’s talk about establishing a plan for your firm. Statistics have shown that people are much more likely to save for retirement if a 401(k) plan is available to them through the workplace. However, access to such plans has been a challenge when it comes to smaller employers, who typically choose not to sponsor a plan. Of all small employers – those with 10 or fewer workers – only 16.5% sponsor a retirement plan, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute estimate. This is especially noteworthy in light of the fact that, according to the latest Statistical Report by the American Bar Foundation, 9 in 10 lawyers work for firms that have fewer than 10 attorneys. The propensity for law firms to be small means that having access to a workplace retirement plan is still a challenge today.
If you’re not already sponsoring a 401(k) plan and don’t know what to do, think about your key objectives. Do you want to minimize cost to your firm? Are you looking to attract and retain valuable employees? Or do you simply want to maximize tax advantaged benefits? Based on your key objectives, there may be several different retirement plan options that fit your needs. For example, if you are looking to minimize cost, a 401(k) or profit sharing plan might be the right fit. A safe harbor 401(k) or a cash balance plan can help to attract and retain employees. And if you are looking to maximize your tax benefits, you may want to look into a cross-tested plan or personal pension plan where the opportunity to save on a tax-deferred basis is much greater.
These are not necessarily easy questions to answer. If you find yourself struggling through the process, don’t worry. While there may not be an app for that, there are knowledgeable financial professionals who specialize in retirement plans. A qualified advisor or consultant can help you determine what’s best for you and your firm, explain how various retirement plans can deliver on those objectives you’re looking for, and even assist you in finding and evaluating suitable providers. You can even find online tools that can help orient your decision making when it comes to selecting the right retirement plan that fits your needs and the needs of your firm. Now that we’ve established a plan, let’s get back to the behavioral side of this equation. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably like most working Americans, and see your 401(k) plan as the cornerstone to your retirement savings. But if you’re not, and you believe you’ll never retire from practicing law, consider this: One in five retirees do not retire on the planned-for date due to illness or health issues. One of life’s realities is that with old age comes a variety of health concerns that may impact your ability and willingness to practice law. Law professionals are often forced into retirement due to ailments or health conditions.
The uncertainty about what your health has in store for you down the road is cause for planning. So whether you plan to retire or not, consider just a few simple tips that can help you be ready to retire with the dignity and financial security you expect and deserve.
Tip #1: Participate in your Plan
If you haven’t yet enrolled in your 401(k) plan, make it a point to do so now. People are living longer now than ever before. According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. is projected to have 9 million people above the age of 90 by 2050 – this is up from 1.9 million in 2010 … and 720,000 in 1980. This means our nation’s 90-and-older population has nearly tripled over the past three decades … and is projected to quadruple over the next four decades. These longer life spans, coupled with spiraling healthcare costs, the uncertain future of Social Security, and the decline of public pensions, mean individuals are increasingly responsible for funding their own retirement.
Contributing to a 401(k) plan can put you on the right track to be able to fund your retirement years. The money you contribute is tax-deferred from both federal and state income taxes, which means you don’t pay taxes on the contributions until you withdraw the funds, typically at retirement age. Furthermore, contributions to the plan are deducted automatically from your paycheck, making the process seamless for you.
For law professionals this tip is especially important. The law profession is characterized by busy, time- consuming schedules with little time for planning outside of work. As a result, law professionals compulsively push off the decision to start saving. As inertia sets in, many people are left feeling as if their bank account was a ticking clock and too few years remain until retirement.
If you’re unsure about how to get started, take advantage of the many helpful online tools and resources available to you, such as Voya’s MyOrangeMoney (voya.com). These tools offer an easy way for you to determine how much you need to save to reach your retirement goals, and how different contribution rates will impact your retirement savings.
Tip #2: Take advantage of matching contributions
If your plan offers a company match, take advantage of it! This is a valuable benefit where your employer will match your contributions – typically capped at a percentage of your pay. For example, a company may offer a dollar-for-dollar match up to 3% of pay, or a 50% match up to 6% of pay. Find out what your employer will match and, at the very least, contribute enough to take advantage of the match.
Many law firms will offer generous matches and sometimes profit sharing plans where the employer has discretion to determine when and how much the company pays into the plan. The amount allocated to each individual account is usually based on the salary level of the employee.
Tip #3: Make catch-up contributions
If you are age 50 or older (or will be by the end of the calendar year) and your plan allows, take advantage of the “catch-up” provision. Legislation has made it easier for you to save more for your retirement with the permanence of the “catch-up” provision outlined in the Pension Protection Act of 2006. In addition to the general deferral limit of $18,000 for 2017, you can contribute an additional $6,000 for a total of $24,000. This means if you are 50 years old this year and haven’t started saving for retirement, you can contribute nearly as much as $250,000 over the next 10 years – tax-deferred – to your 401(k) plan. When you consider the potential of compound earnings, this can add up to significant savings.
Tip #4: Keep your savings working for you
Even if the plan allows you to borrow from your plan, think twice before doing so. While it may sound appealing, borrowing from your 401(k) reduces the benefit of tax-free compounding that is the key to building up savings. Although sometimes unavoidable, before you make the decision to take a loan, there a few considerations to take into account:
You will pay interest on the loan with after-tax dollars, thereby losing the tax advantage.
You will pay taxes a second time when you eventually withdraw the money in retirement.
Interest on the loan is not tax-deductible, even if funds are used for a home purchase.
Most loans must be paid back within five years, but if you leave your job, the loan must be paid back in full immediately or the amount becomes a taxable withdrawal.
Tip #5: Invest for the long term
Once you set your investment allocations, be patient. Predicting the market is not like predicting the weather. There are no high-tech gadgets or radar systems to predict the highs and lows that may lie ahead. It’s critical to remember that what is important is time in the market, not timing the market. Discipline yourself to maintain your allocation through down markets as well as up markets. Having a properly diversified portfolio will help make any market swing easier to digest. Conduct an annual review of your plan to confirm your allocations still align with your life stage and economic circumstances.
Tip #6: Consider spending time with a financial professional
According to Voya research,1 those who spend time with a financial professional are saving more than their peers who do not, with greater investment knowledge and confidence in their ability to enjoy retirement. If you have never received help from a financial professional before, this is something to consider pursuing.
Many things require planning – purchasing a new car, choosing a vacation destination, studying for the bar exam. So should retirement. As a law professional, time can be of the essence. And while the short-term benefit of working on billable hours now may seem greater than the longer-term benefits of saving for retirement, remember what you learned. The effort you put into planning your retirement today can positively impact your ability to live comfortably in retirement … even though your hyperbolic-discounting-mind is telling you otherwise.
1 Advisor Value, A Voya Retirement Research Institute® Study, 2015, www.VoyaRetirementResearchInstitute.com
Seth Cohen, Regional Vice President, ABA Retirement Funds Program, 7034 N. Barbados Place, Phoenix, AZ 85021, Tel: 860-918-1055, email@example.com
About the ABA Retirement Funds
The ABA Retirement Funds, an affiliate of the ABA, is dedicated to helping lawyers with their retirement by providing fully bundled retirement solutions for law firms of all sizes. Established in 1963, the ABA Retirement Funds Program has nearly 3,900 plans, more than 36,000 participants, and over $5.5 billion in assets (www.abaretirement.com).
The information in this article is believed to be reliable. However, it is distributed with the understanding that the ABA Retirement Funds Program is not engaged herein in rendering legal, tax, accounting, investment management or other professional advice.