Financial Planning

The Estate Planning Essentials

The Estate Planning Essentials

As a financial planner, I like to be as prepared as possible for the unknowns in life. This allows me to have peace-of-mind knowing that major issues have already been addressed. As life evolves, no one can be certain about the future, but one aspect you can control is your legacy through a comprehensive estate plan. A comprehensive estate plan can be comprised of a variety of documents, but the base estate plan should include a last will and testament, durable power of attorney, and medical power of attorney and directive. These documents guide your appointed agent(s) to ensure your medical and financial wishes are taken care of and your financial legacy passes in accordance with the guidelines laid out as smoothly as possible. Having an estate plan in place prior to a life changing event, cognitive issues, or death can help ensure that the decisions made by the individual are honored.

Is Inflation Good or Bad?

Is Inflation Good or Bad?

Inflation has been a popular topic of late.

In his press conference to announce the Fed’s decision to cut interest rates following its July meeting, Fed Chair Powell cited “muted inflation pressures” as justification for action.

However, retaliatory tariffs between the U.S. and China have raised concerns this could spark inflationary pressures as consumers are forced to pay higher prices.

Your Student’s Income Won’t Hurt Their Financial Aid

Your Student’s Income Won’t Hurt Their Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) collects demographic, income, and asset information from student applicants and their families. This information is used to calculate a student’s eligibility to receive any financial aid for college expenses based on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is calculated according to a formula that is established by the federal government and is a measure of a family’s financial strength. Schools consider the EFC as one of several factors to determine the amount, if any, a student may be awarded for that school year. Simply put, students are eligible to receive need-based student aid if the sum of their EFC and other estimated financial assistance is less than the total cost of attendance.

Are Your Kids Protected?

Are Your Kids Protected?

With the fall semester fast approaching, there are many last-minute decisions and preparations being made for the next wave of freshman students. However, one decision that may have fallen to the wayside is health insurance for the incoming student. An important question to ask is “will my child be covered under my medical insurance once they go off to college?”

Don’t Fall for These Common Financial Scams

Don’t Fall for These Common Financial Scams

Everyone, young and old alike, can be a target for fraud. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission collected 1.4 million fraud reports. People reported losing a whopping $1.48 billion to fraud in 2018, which is an increase of 38% from 2017.  Of people that included their age in reports, those aged 20-29 reported the loss of money in 43% of reports compared to 15% for those aged 70-79. However, the loss amount reported was nearly twice as high for ages 70-79.

Anatomy of the U.S. Economy

Anatomy of the U.S. Economy

When the calendar turned from March 31st to April 1st, the U.S. economic expansion turned 117 months old. Should the expansion continue through July, it would become the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. Given that the U.S. economic expansion is starting to show signs of its age, many have been questioning how much longer until the next recession.

Q1 2019 Market and Economic Commentary

Q1 2019 Market and Economic Commentary

It’s been an eventful few months. After posting its worst quarterly return since the fourth quarter of 2008, the S&P 500 rebounded strongly in the first quarter of 2019 to post its best quarterly return since the third quarter of 2009. The S&P 500 has now recovered much of its fourth quarter losses as oversold signals have faded and investor optimism has been buoyed by a favorable shift in monetary policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

TCJA – The AMT and Why You May Be Pleasantly Surprised this Tax Season

TCJA – The AMT and Why You May Be Pleasantly Surprised this Tax Season

The changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 are now being felt full fledge, and despite early fears, some filers have been pleasantly surprised by their tax returns for 2018. Historically, one of the more loathsome tax rules over the years was the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which disproportionately impacted earners in the Northeast and West Coast where wages and cost of living are higher.  In 2018, the rules around AMT have changed increasing the amount of income you must earn to be impacted by the tax.

Take Your Best Guess

Take Your Best Guess

The Federal Reserve held their March meeting this past week and indicated no more interest rate hikes will be coming in 2019 as a result of concerns over slower growth and the potential for a bump in the unemployment rate.  This is a significant shift from three months ago when the Federal Reserve announced two interest rate hikes would be appropriate for 2019.

Tax Planning: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

Tax Planning: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

Nobody likes paying taxes. Even though taxes are necessary to keep our schools open, communities safe, roads clean, and governments running, it’s not a fulfilling experience to see a percentage of your hard-earned income or investment gains vanish into thin air. With that being said, there’s no way of escaping taxes (without risking legal repercussions, of course), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do throughout the year to reduce the amount of taxes you ultimately end up paying.

Prepare Not Predict

Prepare Not Predict

Author Nancy Hatch Woodward once wrote, “Snow brings a special quality with it – the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks.” Anyone who lives in the Northeast knows this all too well.

On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the New Jersey/New York area was hit with one of the more notable November snowstorms in history. Parts of Northern New Jersey and New York City received upward of six inches of snow, with some areas getting hit with as much as ten inches.

Finding Middle Ground

Finding Middle Ground

The story of the millionaire next door has been told at nauseum. Since authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko first released their book “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” in 1996, the book’s themes have been used as an attempt to promote good savings habits.

Managing Sequence of Returns Risk

Managing Sequence of Returns Risk

A retirement calculator is a great tool for most investors. It lets you input a number of variables such as current age, planned retirement age, annual salary, annual savings, current retirement savings balance, and expected annual return and the calculator computes your estimated accumulated retirement account balance at retirement. Some calculators will even translate that lump-sum balance into an annual withdrawal amount. This is a straight-forward way to see if you are on track to meet your retirement goals and compare what you have with what you will need. If you don’t like your results, you can play with the inputs to determine what changes you should make.

Cost of Living Adjustments for 2019

Cost of Living Adjustments for 2019

It’s a new year and I can’t think of a better time to highlight cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for retirement-related items and social security benefits for 2019.

 The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the Federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan increased from $18,500 to $19,000. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the Federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000.

Thoughts From The 2018 SRI Conference

Thoughts From The 2018 SRI Conference

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend the 29th annual SRI Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The SRI Conference is the premier annual gathering of sustainable, responsible, and impact investment professionals working to direct the flow of investment capital toward a truly sustainable future.

Positivity in a Sea of Negativity

Positivity in a Sea of Negativity

Over the past few weeks the focus of our weekly posts has been on the volatility in the global equity market. We have sought to provide some insight into what’s driving global stocks lower and provide perspective on how frequently drawdowns like the one we are currently mired in occur. We hope these insights and perspectives have been valuable for you and helped to give you peace of mind.

What’s the Point?

What’s the Point?

Whether you are a first time home buyer or a seasoned mover, there are many intricate details involved with taking out a mortgage. If you are purchasing or refinancing a home, there may be an opportunity to lower the interest through buying mortgage points. Although a lower interest rate sounds appealing, there may be drawbacks depending on your unique situation.