Last year 10 million Americans were victims of the fastest-growing crime in the country. The number of identity thefts have been doubling every year since 2000. Sometimes people don’t know what happened until they find big charges they didn’t make on credit cards, begin getting calls from debt collectors, or get a summons to go to court for crimes they didn’t commit. To reduce your chances of being victimized: * Never give your Social Security number or personal information over the telephone unless you initiate the call yourself! * Shred or burn bank and credit card statements, cancelled checks, pre-approved credit card offers, and bills with account information! * Don’t put checks and bills into the mailbox and put the flag up. It’s easy to steal from a mailbox! * Check your credit reports. Look for a change of address or a new account you didn’t open. Cancel accounts you don’t use or rarely use. Thieves love open credit! * Check your bank accounts frequently for suspicious activity! * Be careful at ATMs. Someone could be looking over your shoulder to get your account and PIN numbers! * If you use a computer at home, install firewall software! * Memorize your PIN numbers and passwords. Never write them down! Thieves can get information in many places. Information is stored in computer databases that are a gold mine for thieves. Criminals can use the Internet to make purchases, robbing the victim without face-to-face contact.

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.

 

Like other major life events, pre-funding your funeral will give you peace of mind, comfort and assurance knowing that money will be there to pay your final expenses. Now, wouldn’t it be nice to have an insurance policy that is designed to do exactly that? Pay for your funeral costs, while also helping you possibly qualify for Medicaid?

How will my SURVIVORS pay for my funeral?

Few people have the resources to pay for a funeral outright. Without advance planning and funding, your survivors may need to reach into savings, use credit cards, take out a loan, or even sell personal assets. Money set aside in your savings accounts may be tied up with probate delays.

WHERE do I get the money for a Trust?

You probably already have it! Sometimes all it takes is a little rearranging to create your complete financial picture in a way that works best for you. Consider your rainy day fund, a certificate of deposit, money market account or an annuity. By using money from these sources to fund an insurance policy, you’re simply using existing assets to ensure your final expenses are taken care of to make life easier for those you leave behind.

Do I have to plan my funeral NOW?

It’s simple. A life insurance policy is purchased to cover the anticipated costs of your funeral. The policy is then assigned to an irrevocable funeral trust. This assignment offers two advantages: 1. At the time of death, policy proceeds do not have to go through probate and are available immediately to pay your final expenses. 2. The policy may not be considered an asset if you are determining Medicaid eligibility. This combination of life insurance and a funeral trust creates a solid, safe, and secure plan to cover your final expenses.

Why use a TRUST?

The NGL Funeral Expense Trust is designed exclusively to help you take care of your funeral costs and possibly help you qualify for Medicaid at the same time! Few people have the resources to pay for a funeral outright and many funeral homes require payment in advance of services. This means that without advance planning and funding, your survivors may need to use their personal savings or credit cards, possibly take out a loan or sell personal assets. Money set aside in your personal savings accounts may be tied up with probate delays.

 

If you believe what you see on television, wall safes are for big stacks of cash from shady deals. In real life, that’s not the case. Almost everyone has important papers, jewelry, and other valuables that should be protected against theft, fire, or natural disaster. And a reasonable amount of cash gives people a secure feeling as well.

A safe that can be carried off isn’t a lot of help, and keeping your cash under the mattress is not a good idea. But some people don’t like to put their valuables in a bank safety deposit box, though that’s probably the best idea.

If you’re a person who feels better having all your valuables within reach, a wall safe designed for the home is a good choice for you. Compared with the cost of a safety deposit box, the price of a wall safe can be recouped in months or years, depending on what the bank charges.

Now comes Brinks, pioneer of commercial safes, with safes designed especially for the home. Made of heavy-gauge steel, it’s the next best thing to having your own little Fort Knox.

Home safes come with digital electronic locking systems with a key override. The locking system is reprogrammable so you can change it you need to. They are ideal for jewelry, documents and laptops.

The wall safes are built to fit inconspicuously behind a picture or in a closet wall. Dimensions of one model are 15 1/8 inches wide by 4 1/2 inches deep, and 21 1/2 inches tall. That is about six times the storage capacity of a standard safety deposit box.

Though they are very tough, they weigh only 40 pounds, are easy to install, and they sell for under $200.

It’s never been more important to save for retirement. Baby boomers are set to strain the Social Security system in the years ahead. Studies repeatedly show that we fail to save enough on our own for retirement. The earlier you start and the more you save, the more comfortable your later years can be.  Fortunately, it’s never been easier to save in tax-advantaged accounts such as 401(k) and similar plans.

These plans offer a flexible way to cut your current taxes while you accumulate savings. Recently Congress made changes to encourage participation and to make these plans more attractive.  One change is that you could find yourself automatically enrolled in your company’s 401(k) plan as soon as you become eligible. You’ll have the chance to opt out, of course, but you should think twice before you do. Here are some reasons why.

  • Automatic savings can become painless. It’s much easier to save if part of your paycheck goes into the plan before it goes into your pocket.
  • If your employer matches your plan contributions, it’s like receiving “free” money. A 50% match means you receive a 50% first-year return on your contribution – and that’s before any investment earnings.
  • Features such as today’s higher contribution limits and catch-up contributions for older workers were due to expire at the end of 2010. Now they’ve been made permanent, and they’ll generally be indexed for inflation in future years.
  • If you name a non-spouse as beneficiary, that individual can make hardship withdrawals from the plan or preserve the tax benefits if they inherit the plan proceeds.

You’ll also see more employers offering a Roth 401(k) option. This option trades off the upfront tax benefit in return for tax-free distributions when you retire.

So if you find yourself automatically enrolled, don’t rush to opt out. At least try it for a few months before deciding not to save.

In fact, you should consider increasing your contributions if you can afford it.

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!

Between unexpected expenses like home repairs or car trouble and milestone expenses like college tuition or retirement, it can be difficult to know if you are using the best savings strategies. When it comes to saving wisely, a lot can be said for employing methods that help you retain more of your money and allocate it in tax-smart ways.

To help you save more wisely this year, consider trying one of the following strategies:

  • Contribute the maximum to your workplace savings plan.

Consider gradually increasing your annual contributions, and therefore those of your employer, to your 401(k), 403(b), or governmental 457(b) plan until you reach the maximum annual amount.

  • Open a health savings account.

A health savings account (HSA) can be a tax-efficient way to pay for medical expenses now and when you retire. Your elected contributions are made pre-tax, and many employers will offer a regular contribution to allow you to build your savings year after year.

  • Pay down high-interest debt.

When managing multiple debts, try using extra savings to first pay down the one with the highest interest rate while continuing to make the minimum payments on your other debts. Once the debt is paid, focus on the one with the second-highest interest rate, and so on.

  • Contribute to an IRA.

Whether a traditional IRA (earnings grow tax-deferred, but income taxes are charged on withdrawals) or a Roth IRA (earnings grow tax-free and qualified withdrawals can be taken tax free), opening one of these accounts can be a tax-smart way to save for retirement.

  • Open a 529 college savings account for a loved one.

If helping a child, grandchild, or other loved one pay for college, a tax-advantaged 529 savings account may be the best option.

 

Call our office at 814-536-1040 to schedule an appointment to discuss these and other saving strategies to ensure you’re on the best path for you and your family!

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in six Americans will move to a new home this year.

About one-third of those who move will do it when school is out for the summer. If you will be among them, plan to protect your goods and your pocketbook.

Complaints against the moving industry logged by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) more than doubled since 2000. Claims include loss and damage, overcharging, late pickup or delivery, and worst of all, loads taken hostage until excessive bills are paid. The safety group suggests that you:

* Get good estimates. Ask people to recommend a good mover and check the company’s references.

* Have at least three firms estimate. If the three are similar, go with the low bidder after checking out the company. If one is far lower than the others, it’s probably wrong.

* Call FMCSA at (888) 368-7238 to see whether there are complaints against a company and what types of complaints they are. If the complaints involved overcharge or hostage claims, don’t use the company.

* Check the mover’s safety record at safersys.org. If it has more than the average number of times its vehicles have been put “out of service” for failing weigh station inspections, look elsewhere.

* Know your rights. For a state-to-state move, U.S. law does not allow a mover to hold your goods and demand payment of more than 110 percent of their written estimate. They can bill for more later if the load was heavier than anticipated.

* For an in-state move, insist that your bill of lading gives you the same protection as the federal law.

* Get insurance. Movers pay about 60 cents per pound, which may not cover the cost of damaged goods.

Check with your home insurer for better coverage.

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!

I want you to take a minute to consider whether you have enough liability insurance coverage. Did you know there are 90 million lawsuits outstanding in the US right now? That’s almost one for every three people! It’s incredible! Plus, judgments are normally in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not in the millions!

Mostly everyone has anywhere from $100,000 – $300,000 of liability insurance on their auto and homeowner’s policies. You should normally have a minimum of $250,000 – $500,000 of underlying coverage in our opinion.

And, you should consider buying an “umbrella” policy, which is triggered when your other liability insurance isn’t enough to cover you. (Which is usually a minimum of $1,000,000, and if possible, you should get a $2,000,000!) Let’s say you were in a car accident and owed $500,000 in a liability claim. If you had $100,000 of liability coverage on your auto policy, it would pay the first $100,000…then your umbrella policy would kick in and cover the rest. Without the umbrella policy, you’d have to come up with the other $400,000 on your own.

An umbrella policy is a relatively cheap (you should be able to buy a $1 million policy for around $100-$300) and simple way to make sure you and your family are protected. You should call your agent and ask how much an umbrella policy would cost. If you have your auto and homeowner’s policy with two different companies, call them both and ask what your rates would be if you had all three policies with them. Chances are, you’ll get a package deal if you put all the business with one company.

The best way to afford to pay for the umbrella raise the deductible on your auto and homeowners policies. The money you’ll save by raising your auto deductible to $500 or $1,000 and your homeowners deductible to $1,000 should more than pay for your new umbrella policy. Plus, if you get an umbrella policy for $2,000,000, and it only requires a $300,000 underlying coverage, and you currently have $500,000…you could drop the underlying coverage to $300,000 and save money there as well.

The point of auto and homeowner’s insurance is not to cover a $100 broken window, or a $200 dent…but rather, to pay for BIG DISASTERS! Anyone can afford $200 to fix a windshield…but how many of you could come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay a judgment from a lawsuit?

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!

 

 

 

With the new economy, and the fact that many children are never going to reach the same kind of financial success their parents have, one way to help families work together to on buying a home is to have a thing called “shared equity”.

A shared equity arrangement means that you actually own part of the equity in your home with another person. That could be with another partner, your child or grandchild, or nice, or cousin, or whomever.

You help them with their down payment, and their monthly mortgage payment and other expenses.

Basically, the arrangement can be structured many different ways. One way is when you put up the down payment, and then you own half the home. Your child is responsible for paying the monthly mortgage, taxes, insurance etc. And. At some point down the road, they will buy you out when the property has appreciated, or they’ve saved up more money so they can pay you back.

We won’t go into all the tax aspects of this right now, but it can be a very beneficial situation for you and your family members.

Your children can get home ownership tax benefits, help with a loan approval because of you being involved in the home, and they can get in with a low down payment or no down payment and also share in the appreciation.

You can get a real estate investment with no vacancies, possible lower down payment that you’d have on an investment property, a good tenant, and all the tax savings benefits that are available to you with any investment property.

If you’d like more information about shared equity, we’d be glad to discuss it with you, because there are many different ways that a situation like that can be arranged.

If you had changed your withholdings last year to increase your take home pay, because of tax savings, you may need to change them again for the new tax year! We will be glad to review this with you at your annual review. Remember, that the goal of proper tax planning is to set your withholdings so you owe nothing, and get back nothing, when you file your return!

Why? Because in general, you must have 90% of your current taxes paid in when you file, or have 100-110% of the past year’s taxes paid in to avoid being penalized.

And, you never want to get back a refund, because that will mean you did something, well, something horrible:

Loaning money interest free to the IRS. Ouch!

It hurts my word processor to get those nasty words on paper. I don’t mind if you loan money to your “brother-in-law”, or to a friend, interest free, because some good may come from it.

But the IRS? Loaning them money without getting interest is ghastly. You deserve all your hard earned money to earn interest, or something. You work too hard to give them anything they aren’t entitled to by law. Since they aren’t entitled to over withholding, don’t give it to them!

The key is to prepare a tax plan for the current year, see how much you’re likely to owe for the year…and adjust your withholdings so you pay in between 90-100% of the total taxes by the end of the year!

If you’re not sure what to do, we’ll help you figure out what your withholdings should be set at so you pay in no more than you owe…and don’t make the awful mistake of loaning money to the IRS interest free!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that some company payroll offices think you are committing an act of treason if you change your withholdings to anything above “Married – 1”. They get all nervous, and tell you all sorts of incorrect information about how the IRS will confiscate your home if you don’t over pay.

Don’t listen to them. You are required to do some filings of an additional form if you claim over 10 exemptions, but that’s it. As long as you’re justified, your human resources office can’t say squat (anything). So, if you run into an evil payroll situation, let us know, and we’ll help you get it straightened out. (As well as help you with the forms, if necessary.)

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!