Changing Mindsets

Considering all the talk and warnings by professionals in the financial services industry that Social Security isn’t enough to fund a comfortable retirement, Americans remain intrinsically dependent on the government-based system.

According to the Social Security Administration, 53 percent of married couples and 74 percent of individuals currently receiving benefits report that monthly check as representing half or more of their income. For 23 percent of married couples and 46 percent of singles, that number jumps to 90 percent of their income derived via Social Security benefits.

Such staggering numbers have prompted Peter Murphy, owner of American Prosperity Group based in Sante Fe, NM, to take his financial planning firm outside of its brick and mortar walls and into the communities of Santa Fe and Los Alamos where he teaches classes on Social Security and Medicare.

“When you look at how many Americans have Social Security and Medicare as their main source of retirement income, you simply cannot ignore ways to maximize those benefits,” Murphy said. Yet, he finds that his students – the bulk of whom are either close to retirement or already in retirement – are relatively financially illiterate regarding these two government programs. “It amazes me how people can work and contribute to that retirement program for 40 plus years and not spend just a few hours to learn how to maximize the Social Security benefits to realize their financial retirement goals.”

Some, but not all, of his students become clients.

Murphy does have a $250,000 engagement minimum that he tries – more diligently this year – to enforce for clients in his practice.

He seeks clients who are willing to look for and take advice. Those are the people who are willing to follow through taking action on the plans agreed to in planning meetings.
For Murphy’s clients, those plans he assembles involve conservative, passive investing.

He believes too many people are over invested in the stock market – although including bonds and equities as part of a diversified portfolio is included in his strategy. If a client is in the financial position to do so, Murphy generally considers alternative recommendations such as annuities, real estate holdings, and over-funded life insurance policies that allow the insured to borrow against it on a tax-free basis.

The concept of living within one’s financial means also headlines the education Murphy provides, both for his students and for the clients served by his practice.

“I am adamant about helping people live within their means and people eliminating debt. I work as hard as possible with clients to make sure they are debt free prior to retirement so that fixed need is either eliminated or at least lowered,” Murphy said. “Most people live above their means. They spend everything they make and put everything else on plastic. We have to change that mindset.”

Learn more about Peter Murphy and American Prosperity Group online at

Securities and advisory services offered through United Planners Financial Services, a limited partnership. Member: FINRA & SIPC. OSJ Office: 901 Route 23 South, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444. Phone: (973) 831-4424. APG and United Planners are not affiliated.

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