What Fantasy Football Can Teach You About Diversification (or Your Financial Plan)

The football season is upon us again here as the fall rolls around and neighborhoods and workplaces are buzzing with Fantasy Football fever.  The Fantasy Trade Sports Association commented that the Fantasy Football market is more than a 70 billion dollar industry today and growing.   With so many people joining multiple leagues, what can this popular game teach us about how we manage our portfolios and diversify our assets. Do Your Homework? It’s shocking how many people don’t know what they own in their 401(k), IRA, or their brokerage accounts.  You may have purchased a target fund or some growth and income fund, but you don’t actually know what you own.   Moreover, you may not understand the risks on how much you could gain in one year or how much you could potentially lose in one year.  It’s important to read the prospectus before you invest, look at the track record of the investment you will be making, and learn ...

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The Rules For Retirement Are Changing And You Better Be Listening

I am sure you have heard that phrase from many financial professionals over the years.  This time I want you to really hear it THE RULES FOR RETIREMENT ARE CHANGING!!  Hopefully I have your attention now because what I am about to tell you will scare the hell out of you.  Whether you are in your 40s or 50s you have been hearing that you need to save for retirement in traditional vehicles such as 401ks, IRAs, and sometimes someone mentions Roth IRA.  The reason you are told this is because of the tax deferral and the amount of money you can grow your nest egg for retirement. If you are a business owner or an employee of a company what I am about to say is a very bold statement and I will take heat for it.  Your investment guy, your Certified Financial Planner™, your insurance representative, your CPA, your estate planning attorney and anyone in between I believe ...

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My Roth IRA turned Five

Why is age 5 so important for your Roth IRA.  Well, there is a little discussed rule around Roth IRAs.  We know that they grow tax free.  We know that we can take contributions out at any time without penalty.  We also, know that at age 59 ½ we can start taking from either our IRA or our Roth accounts. But what most people miss is the 5 year clock on Roths.  The Roth rules say that to take distributions tax-free and penalty-free, your Roth account has to have been open for at least 5 years.  That means when you turn 59 ½ your account also has to be at least 5 years old.  I’ve been asked by clients if the clock resets each time they make a contribution; or does each contribution have its own 5 year clock.  The answer is no.  The clock starts when the account is first opened. In 99% of cases, the clock is a ...

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Can You Buy A Rental Property In Your IRA?

The U.S. homeownership rate, which was over 69 percent at the height of the housing bubble, had fallen by the beginning of 2015 all the way to 63.7 percent. That means over the last 10 years that the U.S. has lost all of the homeownership gains of the previous 20 years. It means that the 2010 decade is on pace to be the strongest decade for renter growth in history (source: www.chicagotribune.com). That steep drop has put the national homeownership rate back where it last was in 1993. Effectively, 1.7 million fewer households owned their homes by 2015 than they did at the bubble’s peak.   Many people are now thinking about buying a rental property, but may be short the cash to do it.  One of the questions that we are often asked is “Can I use my IRA to buy a rental property?” The short answer is yes, but let me first give a little ‘buyer beware’ that Real ...

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Did You Just Get A Raise In November

It’s pretty amazing to me how many people truly still don’t understand our payroll tax system.  When you work as a W-2 for an employer, both you and your employer are going to pay certain payroll taxes.  The two main types of taxes are the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax and the Medicare tax.   Both you and your employer pay 6.2% into FICA up to $117,000 this year and Medicare is a perpetuity tax at 1.45%.  In 2014, when wages, compensation, etc. get above $200,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a married couple, you will incur an additional .9% Medicare tax this year.   When your w-2 gets above $200,000, your payroll provider should be deducting that amount from your paycheck now, but it is important you double check at work. Since there are many individuals who pay their full amount into social security and their income exceeds $117,000 in a particular calendar year, unfortunately your HR department won’t ...

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Don’t Forget To Protect The Golden Goose

I have delivered insurance checks in my career and nobody has ever told me they have too much life insurance after a loved one dies. It’s really ironic because there are many media pundits who beat up on having unnecessary life insurance, but those writers don’t have to pick up the pieces after a major breadwinner dies in a family. Recent studies still say that the odds of dying are 1 out of 1. LOL. Even though I think that most families are woefully underinsured when it comes to life insurance, the greatest gap I see amongst Generation X and Generation Y is an apathetic amount of disability insurance. Most people who work for companies believe that the amount of disability insurance they get through work will be adequate to cover their situation should they sustain a long term disability. The stark reality is that most Gen X’ers an Gen Y’ers don’t even read the benefits manual to understand the ...

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The Roth 401(k) Conversion: Pros and Cons

Since the Pension Protection Act, Roth 401(k)’s are becoming more popular amongst investors through their employer sponsored retirement plan.   If you have been investing in a 401(k) for some period of time, it’s likely you’ve chosen the pre-tax option and maybe it is time to consider whether or not a Roth 401(k) conversion makes sense for your individual situation. PROS: If you believe you’ll be in a higher tax bracket in the future when you distribute these funds, then converting your existing 401(k) to a Roth 401(k) could make sense. Roth 401(k)’s are subject to Required Minimum Distributions, but you can easily roll your Roth 401(k) into a Roth IRA and this can continue to allow you to defer dollars within your retirement accounts if you don’t need to distribute the money. If the market has another depressed year like it has twice in the past fifteen years, that particular year could be a really good time to convert your ...

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How Does The My RA Work?

Trapped in my office by the Snowpocalypse that hit Atlanta on last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to watch the State of the Union (#sotu) Address delivered by President Obama.   There is a whole lot of financial topics we could talk about on Your Smart Money Moves, but I’d like to review the topic around the new proposed investment vehicle called the MyRA.  Since we already have the SEP-IRA, SIMPLE-IRA, Rollover IRA, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, Beneficial IRA, etc., wouldn’t it have just been easier to call it the My IRA instead of the new urban dictionary word called MyRA? The concept behind the MyRA account would be a new type of bond within a Roth IRA-type umbrella.  Contributions would not be tax-deductible, but earnings would be tax-free when you withdraw it in the future.  It’s unclear about how closely the rules on this account shadow the rules of the current Roth IRA. The investment vehicle would be a new ...

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You Are A Sole Proprietor: How About A Solo 401(k)

I am seeing more and more people quit the corporate America lifestyle and venture into becoming their own business owner.  This shape of a business owner can be a freelancer, consultant, or someone who actually starts up a ‘brick and mortar’ operation.    Many of these folks will ask questions about whether they should incorporate their business, which I have discussed in other articles.    Once they become profitable, they often ask which kind of retirement plan would suit them the best.   For someone who is a sole business owner, the Solo 401(k) has been around for about a decade and provides a great alternative to helping maximize your retirement contributions.   Here’s a little history on the Solo 401(k) and how it can be a smart money move for your business. The Solo 401k came about in 2002 after Congress passed Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA). EGTRRA added some small paragraphs to the tax code that put ...

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Are You Worried About A Stock Market Crash Again?

“Our imagination is the most important faculty we possess. It can be our greatest resource or our most formidable adversary. It is through our imagination that we discern possibilities and options. Yet imagination is no mere blank slate on which we simply inscribe our will. Rather, imagination is the deepest voice of the soul and can be heard clearly only through cultivation and careful attention”- Pat Allen (source: notable-quotes.com). Our brains are constantly being fed information about the stock market every day. The end is coming. The run will continue. Get in. Get out. For most of us, this noise can be information overload and send our brains into a virtual state of shock. With markets hitting all-time highs this year, many people have become concerned that we will see a repeat of dot-com bubble crash in 2000 and the recent 2008 market crash. So if you are worried about a 3rd Armageddon in the past 15 years, what smart ...

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Is Your Retirement Plan Full Of Swiss Cheese

Last year, I did a piece on retirement planning assumptions.    As I continue to see more and more plans done by other financial advisory firms, I become more concerned about consumers.    Most projections that are done in business or in your personal household need to carry assumptions.   These are the variables in the equation that allow to make a reasonable assessment about what needs to be done when you are trying to achieve your goals.  When you last did your projections for retirement through the tools offered from your 401(k) plan or the nifty 35 page book your financial advisor put together, are you sure the assumptions that were made were explained to you clearly?  You may have left feeling great about yourself only to realize now that your plan is full of gigantic Swiss cheese like holes.   Here are ten assumptions you need to consider within your plan.  I highly recommend as a smart money move you use conservative ...

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Financial Literacy Takes More Than A Month

I’ll bet that most of you don’t know that April is officially National Financial Literacy Month #finlitmonth.  In fact, almost a decade ago in 2003, the U.S. Senate designated April Financial Literacy for youth Month.   In March of 2004, the Senate passed Resolution 316 that officially recognized April as National Financial Literacy Month.    I almost thought for a minute that we had run out of months since every month seems to have designated some cause for us to heighten our sense to for the next 30 days. It’s ironic because I’ve been doing this for almost 22 years and I can tell you that I’m still constantly learning new strategies and techniques around planning for money.   Many Americans are highly educated but still not well informed when it comes to their money. Here are five smart money moves to focus on if you want to become more financially literate. Mutual Funds or Index Funds–  Many of the large mutual funds companies ...

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VIDEO | How To Rollover Your 401k

Published on Nov 19, 2012 Why do you need to know the details on how to rollover an old 401(k) plan? FULL ARTICLE HERE – http://bit.ly/UP7gZK – The average person holds 11 jobs from the age of 18 to 44, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and for many of us that means 11 or more workplace retirement accounts. Because not all employer plans require you to leave the plan when you leave the company, you could end up with several, disparate retirement accounts. I like to use the analogy of being a babysitter when it comes to orphan 401(k) plans. Every time you leave an old an employer and start with a new, essentially you leave a child in a backyard. If you move between three or four different jobs over five to ten years, that means you’ll have several kids in several different backyards. The real question is how will you be able to babysit all of those kids and ...

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Personal Finance 101: Generation X Series – Three Simple Steps To Managing Your 401K

Generation X is classically defined at people born between the years 1965 and 1979. Pretty much those of you in your early 30’s to the mid 40’s. However, having given personal financial advice to thousands of people, I can tell you that many of you who were born 1960 to 1964 fit within the Generation X type of financial and personal attitude. Since I am 42 and have had a good deal of financial success, I’ve noticed some big mistakes that I see my generation making with their money and how they think about money. This week I wanted to discuss three simple steps to help you better manage your 401k plan at work. For most Gen X’ers who are not business owners, the 401k plan offered through your workplace will be one of the mainstays for you to build up enough money to make work optional. Next year in April, you will begin to be able to transparently see ...

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How To Lower Your 2011 Income Taxes

The color of the trees  are changing during the beautiful fall season, and that also means it’s time to begin thinking about strategies for minimizing your 2011 income taxes before the year has come to a completion.    Remember, that when it comes to lowering income taxes, you generally have to large rock strategies.   Above the line deductions are tax deductions that reduce the amount that will end up on the taxable income line to determine how much tax you should have paid for 2011.   Below the line deductions, which mainly have to deal with tax credits that will offset the tax you owe dollar for dollar in most cases.     It is important to note that there are many strategies to keep your income taxes down, but here are four you should consider before the clock strikes midnight in 2011.  Max out your contributions to your employer sponsored retirement plan –   For most of you this will be your 401(k), 403(b), ...

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