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!

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!

If you care about the privacy of your financial information, your credit history, and your charge-card numbers, you can protect yourself from criminals. Identity theft is the fastest growing financial crime in the U.S.

It can be as simple as someone stealing your credit-card number and charging merchandise to your account. Or it can be much more far-reaching. A crook could use your name, birth date, and Social Security number to take over your bank accounts or set up new ones.

Financial institutions are liable for most unauthorized charges. The worst effect could be on your credit history. It could prevent you from getting a mortgage, a job, or good auto insurance rates. Ways to protect your identity include:

* Don’t put bank statements or credit-card offers into the trash where they can be picked up by someone else.

* Use a paper shredder for every piece of junk mail, usable checks from your credit-card company, and bank statements. Destroy records you no longer need: bank statements, credit-card receipts, health-insurance reimbursements. Shredders are cheap and easy to use.

* If mail theft is a problem, get a lockable mailbox. Don’t put letters or payments on your mailbox for

the postman to pick up. Anyone else can too.

* Buy a credit report at least once a year and check it carefully.

* Don’t carry rarely used credit cards, extra identification, or anything that shows your birth date. One authority recommends using your passport for ID. It doesn’t give your address.

To get a credit report, call Equifax at (800) 685-1111; Experian at (888) 397-3742; or TransUnion at (800) 916-8800. Reports cost $8.50, according to Business Week. To stop pre-approved credit card offers, call (888) 567-8688. To get off junk-mail and telemarketing lists, go to www.thedma.org/consumers/privacy.html.

 

More than 5,700 IRS scam victims have lost a reported $31 million as of March 2016. By arming yourself with knowledge about how the IRS operates, you can protect your hard-earned money and reputation. Call us today to learn the facts!

 

People in retirement often wonder what to do when you need money to live on, or to make a major purchase or go on vacation; or before retirement, for buying a house or to pay for college, or whatever.

Some people say that you should look at taking money out of a tax deferred vehicle for things like this while others say you should take tax deferred money out last. We’ve heard advisors say things like “you’ll be in a lower tax bracket in retirement, so you should keep socking away money into tax deferred accounts. Others say the exact opposite, and you shouldn’t put money into tax deferred accounts.

What’s the right answer?

 FIGURE IT OUT BY CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS!

We just had a client come in to see us who moved here from out of state, and had been told to accumulate money in certain accounts because she would be in a “lower bracket” in retirement. Well, because she hadn’t done the math, she found out that by doing what she did, she pushed herself into a HIGHER bracket in retirement, and cost herself a bundle in needless taxes!

Another client was told NOT to accumulate money in tax deferred accounts because he’d end up paying the same or more in taxes when he took the money out. When he came in to see us, we had the unpleasant task of telling him he had overpaid his taxes for years and years based on his advisor’s advice given without the benefit of CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS!

So, the tip is to never go by rules of thumb or people’s guesses when it comes to making big decisions with your money! You have to plan in a careful and thoughtful manner, and be sure to CRUNCH THE NUMBERS!

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!

Income Solver Brochurehttps://www.facebook.com/AssetPlanning/photos/pb.162916080404800.-2207520000.1472811701./1317850064911390/?type=3&theater

 

 

Homeowners should beware of home improvement scams that are out there at this time of year.  Along with the spring and summer weather comes a flood of advertisements and for coupons from home improvement companies with incredible offers.  In order to avoid being taken by any “fly by night” operations out there, use this checklist whenever you are hiring someone.

  • Check the company’s licensing and credentials
  • Be wary of offers that are available for an unrealistically short period of time.
  • Ask for and check references. Companies who rely on repeat business and referrals will welcome your request. Speak directly to the people who have hired them before. Don’t rely solely on signs in front yards. Contractors sometimes pay homeowners to place these sign in their yards.
  • Stay away from companies that demand all cash payment up front a bid cash deposit.
  • Do your homework. Get a minimum of three bids for small jobs and six for big jobs.
  • Ask to see a contractor’s license, proof that the company is bonded, verification of worker’s compensation policies and proof of liability coverage. You don’t want to be left facing huge claims if a worker is injured on your property.
  • Check out the company with the local Better Business Bureau. You want to see that if the company has had complaints that they have been settled satisfactorily.
  • If a company wants payment to buy material and supplies, it could mean that they are financially unstable.

As long as you check this list before you hire someone, you should feel comfortable that you are getting a fair deal for your money.

One of the hardest factors in planning for retirement is trying to accurately judge how much money you will need to live on in the future. Because of inflation, what you can afford today you might not be able to afford when you retire. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict what inflation rates will be in the future.

A good rule of thumb in figuring out your future purchasing power is to use the “Rule of 72”. This is a formula that will help you calculate what you can expect to spend on consumer goods in the future. Here’s how it works.

Divide 72 by the inflation rate to see how many years it will take for the cost of something to double. So, 72 divided by 4 (we’ll use 4% for the inflation rate, even though it’s averaged about 3.5% over the last several decades) equals 18. So, in 18 years the price of goods would be expected to double. For example, say you are buying a pair of shoes today for $50, according to the “Rule of 72” the same pair of shoes will cost you $100 in 18 years.

Take a few moments and calculate what some of your expenses would be sown the road. It can be a real eye-opener as to what your retirement picture will look like.

More and more people are working at least part time out of a home office and claiming it as a deduction.

Before claiming home office deductions, homeowners should take into consideration the impact the deductions will have on the sale of their home, when the time comes.

Anybody who claims deductions for a home office may end up paying tax on part of their profits on the sale. This is true even if the profits are less than the current home sale exemption of up to $500,000.

There’re a couple of reasons for this. One is that the home-sale exemption can’t be used to protect that part of your gain that is equal to any depreciation deductions allowed for business or rental use of the property for periods after May 6, 1997. Two, is that unless 100% of your home qualifies as a principal residence for at least two of the five years preceding the sale, you’ll be forced to pay capital gains tax on the business portion of your home.

Anyone taking a home office deduction should get the advice of a tax professional to make sure that you are taking full advantage of the laws that benefit you, while at the same time not setting any tax traps for the future.

Your credit report is an accumulation of information about your bills and loans, your repayment history, your available credit, and your outstanding debts. These reports are typically used by lenders when deciding whether or not to accept a loan or credit application. A healthy credit report can help you secure the funding you need to purchase a new home or car, fund a child’s education, or start your own business. The following actions can help you maintain a healthy credit report.

Establish and Maintain History: A rich history about your ability to pay off debt over time will paint a more complete picture for a lender inquiring about your financial habits. Therefore, consider maintaining your oldest credit card. Credit companies often suggest that you also maintain four to six accounts to showcase your commitment to managing multiple debt sources.

Close Extra Accounts: We’ve all be tempted by the free t-shirts, duffle bags, and contest giveaways offered by credit card companies in order to attract new customers. However, after we’ve received the gifts, we often forget about the accounts we’ve just opened. Many open accounts on a credit report may be a red flag to a lender, indicating that you could easily get into financial danger with the large amount of readily available credit. Consider closing any accounts that you do not use. This strategy may also minimize your exposure to identity theft.

Note: Cutting up the card itself or just not using it does not mean the account is closed. To properly close an account, you must call or write to the company with your request.

Make the Minimum Payments: Delinquencies on payments remain on your credit report for seven years, even if you’ve since settled the account balance and paid the debt. Therefore, you should always try to make at least the minimum payments by the due date requested by the creditor or lender.

If you are in a financial bind and decide to ignore an account for a period of time, be aware that accounts sent to collection agencies or charged off by creditors, meaning they have written the debt off as a loss, will also remain on your credit report for seven years. Consider contacting your creditor if you find yourself in this situation, rather than just ignoring this serious problem.

Pay Down Your Debt and Keep Debt in Line with Income: Determine your debt-to-income ratio by adding the balances of all your loans and credit cards, and comparing that with the amount of income you receive annually. If your total debt exceeds more than 20% of your annual income, lenders may be hesitant to consider allowing you more credit. If you have a large amount of debt, develop a strategy to pay it off gradually and within your budget considering your other expenses. One strategy may be to consolidate your payments under a home equity loan, which offers tax-deductible interest payments. In the meantime, consider curbing excess spending and avoid further debt.

Control the Number of Inquiries about Your Credit: A large number of inquiries on your report may signal to a lender that you are in need of a lot of credit or preparing to take on a large debt. Neither situation bodes well for your ability to take on additional debt. Be aware that each time you apply for a new credit card, even if it is only to receive a free gift, an inquiry will appear on your report. Also, avoid multiple inquiries by car dealers and mortgage lenders by not authorizing a credit check until you have made the decision to purchase from that particular lender. Inquiries remain on your report for two years.

OPT-OUT of Inclusion on Marketing Lists: While soft inquiries, those made by marketers and others wishing to sell you something, do not usually appear on the version of your credit report shown to lenders, these inquiries indicate that your personal information may be available and used by the companies listed, increasing your exposure to identity theft. Many marketers receive lists of potential customers directly from credit bureaus. You can “opt out” of being included on lists sold to these companies by either writing to each of the three credit bureaus or calling (888) 5OPTOUT. This action will remove your name from marketing lists for two years.

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once a year. For your convenience, you can access all three agencies through a single website, www.annualcreditreport.com. Monitor your credit report frequently and take actions that build and maintain good credit.

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