What’s the No. 1 goal for investors? Retirement, according to most polls. You may want to look at IRA’s (Individual Retirement Accounts) as an alternative to spending all your money, and even if you have a retirement savings plan at work! Let me explain.

If you don’t contribute to some retirement plan whether an IRA or another plan, how do you plan on paying for your time off down the road? Social Security? Your company’s traditional pension plan? (If they even have one any more. Many companies and organizations dumped those plans. Do you still have one?) See, for nearly everyone, those retirement income sources probably won’t give you near enough retirement income. Social Security pension plans were really not intended to be your only sources of cash in retirement. Plus, as we’ve discussed before, Social Security has mind-boggling funding problems, depending on your age and whom you work for. So…if you want a realistic chance to enjoy retirement…you’ll need to add in a bunch of personal savings! But where do you put these funds?

Well, if you’re in an employer-sponsored plan (e.g., 401(k), 403(b), 457) instead of an IRA, this type of plan might be the right choice if your company or organization matches your contributions to the plan. However, if that’s not the case, you might be better off in a Roth IRA (if you’re eligible), at least for a portion of your savings. (We can help you figure this out!) Generally, a Roth IRA is more flexible and might provide more after-tax retirement income than a company sponsored plan.

See, your adjusted growth income (AGI), determines whether you’re eligible for a deductible traditional IRA (which means lower taxes now and until you retire) or a Roth IRA (which means no deduction, but you never pay taxes on the investments in the account).

Finally, IRAs can be treated differently than other accounts. For example, assets parents hold in a regular account can reduce the financial aid award their children receive for college. However, most financial aid formulas ignore retirement savings. Also, IRA assets may be shielded from creditors. And IRAs also have estate-planning benefits, especially Roth IRAs.

As usual, with any financial issue like this, we’ll be glad to work with you on determining if any of these strategies will work for you and your family! Please keep in mind that this tip is designed to be of help for you, but is not to be relied upon as advice. It is merely a reminder that there are many choices you have available to you, and that planning is the only way to find the right answers for your situation!  As with any financial issues, make sure you get the right information before making a decision!  If you have any questions, we’ll be glad to help you!

millenials

It is no secret that Millennials, men and women ages 25-34, are very different from their parents and grandparents. But many of those differences stem from the fact that Millennials are facing challenges, specifically financial challenges, that previous generations didn’t have to face, such as crushing student loan debt.

At a time when the largest generation in history is starving for financial guidance, only 29% of them have sought out professional financial advice, according to an IQuantifi survey. Help empower your child to face his or her current and future financial situations by helping them find financial guidance at a young age. It can make an impact.

A 2016 study from the Stanford Center on Longevity found that Millennials are in the “most troubling” financial situation. For those with student debt, the current average is around $47,000. For many just starting their professional careers, making these monthly payments means indefinitely putting off buying a home or saving for retirement. The Stanford study found that less than one third of Millennials live in their own homes, a 20% decline since 2000. This inability to make investments for the future can potentially wreak havoc on your child’s assets later in life, not to mention their overall happiness.

But by taking action now, your child can find the right solutions to help them reach their goals and thrive in today’s world. Please call my office at 814-536-1040 to schedule an appointment with your child. Together, we can make sure your child is on the right financial path.

Imagine working hard for over 30 years to prepare for your future, only to have it stolen away in an instant. Sadly, this is a reality for one-in-five older Americans who have experienced financial exploitation and lost an average of $120,303, according to the AARP Banksafe Initiative.

Fortunately, in most cases, financial abuse can be avoidable. By better educating yourself and your loved ones of the risks, you can help curb the tragic practice.

There are three primary types of financial abuse:

  • Exploitation: When businesses, individuals, or charities use pressure tactics or misleading language to force older adults to make financial mistakes.
  • Fraud: When criminals commit identity theft or con older adults into spending money or sharing personal information.
  • Trust abuse: When family, friends, or caregivers take advantage of a trusted relationship to get money or assets from an older adult.

Those most at risk include individuals who are dependent on others for personal needs, experience cognitive impairments, allow family or friends to handle financial needs, or live in a care-based community like a nursing home.

As a valued client, we are dedicated to helping you protect your financial achievements and those of your friends and family. Call our office at 814-536-1040 to schedule an appointment with an older loved one to discuss financial exploitation and strategize ways to keep him or her safe.

IRA and Retirement Plan Limits for 2017

             2017-sign

IRA contribution limits

The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA in 2017 is $5,500 (or 100% of your earned income, if less), unchanged from 2016. The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains at $1,000. (You can contribute to both a traditional and Roth IRA in 2017, but your total contributions can’t exceed these annual limits.)

 

Traditional IRA deduction limits for 2017

The income limits for determining the deductibility of traditional IRA contributions in 2017 have increased. If your filing status is single or head of household, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution up to $5,500 in 2017 if your MAGI is $62,000 or less (up from $61,000 in 2016). If you’re married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $5,500 in 2017 if your MAGI is $99,000 or less (up from $98,000 in 2016). And if you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, and you                file a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $5,500 in 2017 if your MAGI is $186,000 or less (up from $184,000 in 2016).

 

If your 2017 federal income tax filing status is: Your IRA deduction is limited if your MAGI is between: Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household $62,000 and $72,000 $72,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)* $99,000 and $119,000 (combined) $119,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately $0 and $10,000 $10,000 or more

*If you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your MAGI is $186,000 to $196,000, and eliminated if your MAGI exceeds $196,000.

 

Roth IRA contribution limits for 2017

The income limits for determining how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA have also increased for 2017. If your filing status is single or head of household, you can contribute the full $5,500 to a Roth IRA in 2017 if your MAGI is $118,000 or less (up from $117,000 in 2016). And if you’re married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution in 2017 if your MAGI is $186,000 or less (up from $184,000 in 2016). (Again, contributions can’t exceed 100% of your earned income.)

 

If your 2017 federal income tax filing status is: Your Roth IRA contribution is limited if your MAGI is: You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household More than $118,000 but less than $133,000 $133,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) More than $186,000 but less than $196,000 (combined) $196,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately More than $0 but less than $10,000 $10,000 or more

Employer retirement plans

              

Most of the significant employer retirement plan limits for 2017 remain unchanged from 2016. The maximum amount you can contribute (your “elective                            deferrals”) to a 401(k) plan in 2017 is $18,000. This limit also applies to 403(b), 457(b), and SAR-SEP plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Plan. If you’re age 50 or older,  you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 to these plans in 2017. [Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.]

If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can’t exceed the annual limit ($18,000 in 2017 plus any applicable catch-up contribution). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, SIMPLE plans, and SAR-SEPs are included in this aggregate limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan—a total of $36,000 in 2017 (plus any catch-up contributions).

The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) plan in 2017 is $12,500, and the catch-up limit for those age 50 or older remains at $3,000.

 

Plan type: Annual dollar limit: Catch-up limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), SAR-SEP, Federal Thrift Plan $18,000 $6,000
SIMPLE plans $12,500 $3,000

Note: Contributions can’t exceed 100% of your income.

The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan [for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan] in 2017 is $54,000, up from $53,000 in 2016, plus age 50 catch-up contributions. (This includes both your contributions and your employer’s contributions. Special rules apply if your employer ponsors more than one retirement plan.)

Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2017 is $270,000 (up from $265,000 in 2016), and the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees (when 2017 is the look-back year) is $120,000, unchanged from 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing an executor for your estate can be an emotional decision to make. Most people we see choose a family member as Executor and this is not necessarily the best decision. Just because they are family doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to handle the confusing paperwork needed to settle an estate. An Executor should have enough financial experience to be comfortable dealing with financial institutions, lawyers and realtors. Location should also be a factor in making your decision. An executor will have to be able to be available to attend meetings and to sign papers with family members and banks, brokerage firms, etc. If there is a house to be sold there will be liquidation of the deceased’s belongings as well as the sale of the house itself.

This whole process can take several months and incur considerable expenses to the Executor. Many experts recommend that the Executor be someone outside of the family. A Financial Planner, Attorney, someone who can be hired and held accountable. These professional may usually charge a fee approximately 1.5% to 3% of the value of the estate. Some states have rules for how and what an Executor is paid. All Executor fees are deducted from the taxable value of the estate.

It’s an important decision to make, but once you have all the important factors available to you your decision should be reached with confidence and ease. Please let us know how we can help you in reaching your decision.

Between the rising costs of higher education and the increasing need for a personally-funded retirement plan down the road, today’s children and teens are facing unique financial issues that you or your parents never needed to consider.

To help make sure your children or grandchildren are best prepared for success in today’s changing economy, helping them gain an early understanding of finances can be crucial. Actively getting children of all ages involved with interactive educational programs through trusted financial partners can help reinforce the importance of the information and go a long way toward helping them develop responsible habits.

Experts say children who begin learning basic finances as early as age three can:
 Gain an appreciation for the value of money.
 Create goals-based savings strategies.
 Learn the pitfalls of impulse buying.
 Understand how to create and stick to a budget.

By honing these essential skills at a young age, your loved ones can establish long-lasting and healthy attitudes toward money management that can help carry them through their futures.

If you’d like to get your child or grandchild started on the road to financial success, please call our office at 814-536-1040 to schedule an appointment. Together, we can discuss which types of educational programs and activities are best for them.

 

Most people are not fully prepared to cope with disasters that damage property, destroy records, and interrupt income. These are the first steps:

  • Check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to make sure you are adequately protected.
  • Make a household inventory so you are prepared to file a claim. Take photos or videos, and save receipts for high-priced items. Store a copy in a safe place away from your home.
  • Compile an inventory of credit cards and financial assets with company name, account or policy number, and value. Store it away from home.
  • Have cash available through an easily accessible account for expenses.
  • Always carry your health insurance and photo identification cards.
  • Buy life and disability insurance. If you don’t know if you have the right amounts of coverage, please update your plan right away!

After a disaster:

  • Contact relief organizations for immediate necessities.
  • Contact your insurance agents to file necessary claims.
  • Contact credit card companies to see if balances will be paid off.
  • After receiving a settlement, put the money into a savings or money market account and immediately consult with us to review your new financial situation. That way you can restore your normal lifestyle first, and won’t make big financial mistakes!

So, if you have any questions about how this, or any other financial issue affects you…please call us right away!

Watch the video…

We have been getting great reviews on this new interactive retirement planning tool. We can instantly review various “what if” scenarios to help you determine if you’re on track or not.

 

According to Social Security, women live longer than men, often earn less, and rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income. Approximately 700,00 people apply for spouse’s benefits annually, and over 90 percent of them are women.

Social Security has established a Web site solely to assist women with Social Security Administration benefits. The Web site (www.ssa.gov/women/) gives information to women at all different stages of their lives.

The groups of women that they have information for are:

 

Working Women                                                              Beneficiaries

Brides                                                                                   New Mothers

Divorced Spouses                                                            Caregivers

Widows

 

They also offer links to other Web sites that might be of interest to women as well. It’s a good idea to have a pad of paper and a pen handy when you sit down to page through these sites and put together a list of questions to ask us next time you come in.

This site is just one of many on the web that can help you find the direction you need to go in to achieve the goals you have set for yourself or to help you out of jam when life hands you one of its curveballs.

As always these tips are general in nature, and are intended to give you some ideas and guidelines as to things you should be aware of.

Please don’t take any actions without consulting us, or other appropriate professionals!

Most people don’t think of themselves as having an “estate”. Most people think of an “estate” as mansion on a hill, with the multi-millionaire living inside. This is inaccurate thinking. If you own anything, you have an estate. And if you don’t set things up right while you’re still with us, your family could get hurt. Beware of these most common and expensive estate planning mistakes.

Not having wills, living wills, powers-of-attorney, living trusts, etc. I would be safe in saying the vast majority of people coming in here do not have anything close to a proper set of estate planning documents. Many don’t have simple wills, which is the first document you need. Then, we see people who don’t have documents like living wills that spell out how you want your health care administered should you become terminally ill, for example. Or who would handle your legal and financial affairs if you became mentally incapacitated? Or who you want in charge of your money if you don’t want your spouse or kids to handle it themselves if you’re very ill or dead? These issues are very serious, and not having these documents in place can be a disaster. I’ve seen these nightmares happen so many times, I know what I’m talking about.

Updating your wills to make sure they reflect your present life situation. We see so many people who haven’t had their wills reviewed in years…which, if somebody died, would cause huge problems. For example, we see people who’ve still named spouses in their will they are no longer married to. Or guardians for their kids who they haven’t spoken to in years. Or omitting kids who weren’t born when the wills were drawn up. Or having provisions that don’t apply in our state because the will were drawn in another state before they moved here. And so on.

Forgetting that a guardian for your kids is a major consideration. If you and/or your spouse were to pass away…who’d get your kids, and how would they have money to take care of them? Most people don’t pay much attention to this, but if you don’t set this up NOW, a judge, or worse, some family member you don’t like can make the decision for you!

Underestimating the size of your estate.  Many people who don’t feel rich, have assets that will put them well over the amount that can be subject to estate or gift tax. People forget the value of their homes, or retirement plans, or collections, and so on. Be sure to take a realistic count of ALL your assets when drawing up an estate plan, so you don’t end up getting screwed by needless estate taxes.

Thinking a revocable living trust will save income and/or estate taxes.  These trusts can perform a valuable function by assuring professional management of your assets if you become disabled, and by letting your assets avoid probate when you die. But in and of themselves, they do not reduce income and/or estate taxes.

Leaving everything to a spouse.  You and your spouse each have a personal estate tax credit that can prevent estate taxes from ever being paid. If you leave everything to your spouse, you’ll lose the benefit of your credit and the assets will be taxed when your spouse dies. If assets exceed certain amounts (which change each year, and are likely to change as Congress keeps back-peddling on estate tax law) you may be better off setting up separate bequests through trusts to use your maximum credit.

Bottom line. Please get your estate planning in order NOW! Take a look at what you have in place, if anything, and then we can help you work with an attorney to get yourself up-to-date on your estate planning issues!

*** WARNING! DO NOT DO ESTATE PLANNING ON YOUR OWN OR FROM READING SOMETHING! YOU MUST HAVE AN EXPERIENCED ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY EXPLAIN YOUR OPTIONS AND HELP YOU DECIDE WHAT TO DO!

As usual, with any financial issue like this, we’ll be glad to work with you on determining if any of these strategies will work for you and your family! Please keep in mind that this tip is designed to be of help for you, but is not to be relied upon as advice. It is merely a reminder that there are many choices you have available to you, and that planning is the only way to find the right answers for your situation!

As with any financial issues, make sure you get the right information before making a decision!  If you have any questions, we’ll be glad to help you!