Mark joined WHAM in January of 1998 when his weekly call in financial show "Money and More" first aired. The show ran for eleven years and became one of the stations highest rated programs. Recently Mark has returned to provide daily commentary and analysis on the WHAM afternoon news. His segment can be heard at 4:26pm Monday through Friday, with an extended appearance with Randy Gorbman on Thursdays.
Mark started his financial services career in 1986 with IDS/American Express. He is a Certified Fund Specialist and Certified Long Term Care Specialist with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and Management from SUNY Geneseo. He has designed, authored, and presented retirement and long term care workshops for clients, corporations, and non-profit organizations such as Xerox, Kodak, Agway, and the United Way.
In 2007, Registered Rep magazine listed Mark among the Top 100 Independent Advisors in the country. He lives in Geneseo with his wife Susan and has four children. Mark is an avid fisherman and enjoys spending time at his family cottage in the Thousand Islands. Mark also collects Civil War and Underground Railroad memorabilia for a museum he keeps in the basement of the historic Henrietta office.
As professionals skilled in retirement planning, the partners of The Horizon Group have helped hundreds of people in the Rochester area since our founding in 1993. We specialize in helping clients invest and protect their retirement assets with a straightforward and down-to-earth approach through open and honest communication.
We are proud of being able to help clients make difficult decisions necessary for a successful retirement. We are dedicated to the highest level of professionalism and ethical standards in our practice, and we honor the individual circumstances facing each client.
When faced with providing income and security for a lifetime, retirees are comforted by our "Bucket Approach" and half-century of combined experience. Our formalized review process and frequent communication through newsletters, e-mail, and seminars provide our clients with peace of mind and keeps them focused on what is truly important.
Working with The Horizon Group affords our clients a level of service and unbiased advice that can be delivered only by a small independent practice. At the same time, our client accounts are offered the same FINRA and SIPC protections through our broker-dealer, Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc., as they would be at a large brokerage house.
We take the time to understand all the questions and concerns our clients have about the future. Aiding them in dealing with these concerns often means going above and beyond the duties of the average financial planner, something we are always willing to do. Helping a child, buying a second home, or dealing with long term care are all issues we assist clients with regularly. At The Horizon Group, we know it's about the quality of your life, not just your portfolio.
The views expressed in Mark's commentaries are to be considered for informational and entertainment purposes only. Before making decisions based on any content in Mark's commentaries you should always consult your financial or tax professional.
The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of this station or of Clear Channel Communications, Inc.
Mark Congdon is a registered representative of Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.
Few countries in the world put as much importance on home ownership as we do. In the U.S., we have long treasured the ideal of home ownership as part of the American Dream. For many that dream became a nightmare when the real estate bubble started to burst in 2007. Here in Rochester, we’ve been blessed to have a relatively stable market, but let me paint a different picture for you around the country.
For most of us, a home is the largest purchase we’ll ever make. Forget the people who flip houses, or the ones who are on the late night infomercials with “Other People’s Money Real Estate Strategies.” Bankers tell us it’s the right thing to do. Financial publications and commentators tell us it’s the right thing to do. And we purchase homes because our parents tell us the best investment they ever made. We put our money in, we pay our mortgage off in 30 years and then we have a major asset to fall back on if needed in our golden years. This is why most people think of it as an investment. Only, many people are starting to realize it’s not the golden goose they thought.
According to AARP Public Policy Institute, 3.5 million homeowners over the age of 50 are “underwater” on their mortgage – they owe more than their property is worth. 600,000 loans to people over age 50 were in foreclosure last year and another 625,000 loans were 90 or more days delinquent. For these people, a home is an anchor that’s forcing pulling them into deep water, not the life vest we’ve been trained to think of it as.
Now we can argue that these people made some very poor decisions. In many cases, I’m sure they were lured by the prospect of easy money and ever increasing home prices. But these people are our family, our neighbors, and they’re in trouble. When I see Robert Wagner hawking his reverse mortgages on TV, besides thinking about Natalie Wood, I can’t help but wonder how many people need this tool but can’t get access to it. And reverse mortgages are a great tool in the right situation. But you can’t get a reverse mortgage when you have negative equity in your home. You can’t take a home equity line of credit because once the bank sees the debt to value ratio, they won’t touch it. The asset that was supposed to save retirement is now ruining it for many seniors. Like so much these days, that’s just not the way it should be!
Medicare is shaping up to be one of the hottest issues in this year's campaign. Once again this weekend as I flipped through the channels of the Sunday morning talk shows, both Republicans and Democrats were beating their talking points into the ground as to how the other side was going to destroy Medicare as we know it. Met Romney and Paul Ryan were going to drive seniors over the cliff, forcing them to pay $6300 more for Medicare. The president was slashing $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. I couldn't even force myself to watch, listen, or even care.
Why can't we have an honest discussion about this – or for that matter – any other topic these days? But it's an important discussion. Medicare is the primary source of health insurance for people over age 65. But it's an expensive entitlement that's dragging this country deeper and deeper into debt. Last year we spent over $550 billion on all three parts of Medicare – $257 billion on part A which is hospital stays, $225 billion for part B representing doctors’ fees and medical costs, and another $53 billion for drugs. More disturbing is the rate of increase as our population ages and medicine gets more expensive. Everybody agrees that something has to be done, but saying so means political suicide.
Is it realistic for either side to try to convince seniors they will shield them from higher costs and shrinking benefits? Can anyone find the political courage to tell the truth? Of course you have to pay more, we are broke. And what about us Americans as individuals? Will seniors in important swing states vote their own monthly budget, or will they stop to consider that everyone must feel some pain if we are going to save this vital program that's been a backbone of healthcare since 1965? Everyone knows that tough medicine is needed for this very serious condition. But when push comes to shove, will people swallow hard and vote for the greater good rather than the immediate impact on their personal situation? In that regard, we are facing the same dilemma as voters in Greece, Spain, and throughout Europe. And just like in Europe, it would help if our politicians had the courage to tell the truth.
A couple of weeks from now, our Olympic national women’s soccer team will take the field at Sahlens Stadium. Fresh off their inspirational gold medal performance, this is the first stop on a celebration tour around the country. Fans will flock to the stadiums to show their appreciation for the teams sacrifice and effort.
My daughter, like countless other young girls who play soccer in our area really, wants to be at the game. I mentioned I might treat her entire team like I did for her brother at a Rhinos game several years ago. That is until I got wind of the price. The same number of seats, in the same section that cost me just over $300 to treat his team to a Rhino’s game would be over – get this - $3,000! Rhinos games can be had for $10 – $20 a ticket, with generous group discounts. US soccer is pricing this exhibition game at $32 - $199, and don’t bother asking for a discount. You’re lucky if you have a seat. I’ll choose to enjoy the game on TV instead.
The truth of the matter is that soccer is big business- from local clubs like Empire and RFC that can have budgets that approach half a million dollars and cost families thousands per year to participate – all the way to the top leagues in Europe where prospects are signed in grade school and elite players earn tens of millions per year. Of the ten highest paid athletes in the world, three are soccer players, more than in any other sport. The two most valuable sports teams in the world are Real Madrid and Manchester United, who by the way had an initial public stock offering last Friday that valued the team at over 2.3 billion dollars.
I don’t begrudge our girls a victory tour that lets them make money, or raises funds for training. It’s been reported their contract pays them only $70,000 per year, and the payment for winning the Olympics was just $25,000. And although they get paid roster bonuses for the World Cup and Olympics, as well as fees for exhibitions, it’s hardly enough for the best women players in the world. I just wish US Soccer would have chosen a bigger venue like Ralph Wilson Stadium – It seems like 5 times the tickets at ½ the price would have been an opportunity to let more kids express their love for this sport, and in particular this team. More interest means more excitement, more revenue, more sponsorships, and more endorsements. It’s not just big business, it’s good business!
According to a recent look at college affordability by the U.S. Department of Education, it was discovered that the average tuition at a public four year university climbed 15% between 2008 and 2010. Total costs for a private 4 year school can now exceed 200,000. This number just proves what most of us already know- the cost of education is becoming more and more of a burden on students and their families.
When the cost of college exceeds what a family can afford, where do they turn for help? You guessed it, college loans. Now, there are many different varieties of student loans, and not all student loan debt is unhealthy- but the numbers are simply staggering. Another report released by the Department of Education in July estimated outstanding student loan debt at more than a trillion dollars in 2011. Senator Tom Harkin recently released the results of a two-year investigation of for-profit colleges. In the report there was one statistic showing how many households now owe over $50,000 in student loans. Over three million households in the United States now owe at least $50,000 in student loans.
Now, like I said, not all student loan debt is unhealthy, but with default rates at an all-time high, this debt is becoming a real problem. Of the 3.6 million borrowers who began repaying loans in 2009, 8.8% defaulted within just two years. And because of a change in 1998 to federal law, student loans can rarely be discharged through bankruptcy.
Defaulting on a student loan can have serious and unforeseen consequences- even many years after default. Recently there was a story of a 58 year-old teacher who had defaulted on $3,100 she borrowed more than 30 years ago who was targeted by the government with steep wage garnishments to pay off the debt. A recent Wall Street Journal article outlined how more retirees are falling behind on student loans and having their Social Security checks garnished because of it. Believe it or not, the government cut the Social Security checks of roughly 115,000 retirees to recapture defaulted student loans
Student loans are often necessary and make education much more affordable for many Americans. It sounds simple, but before signing the dotted line- think it through. Put payments in perspective. Is it worth the cost? Will I be able to afford this? If the answer is no, consider other options.