Is It Time To Make A Roth IRA Conversion?

Over this past year, more clients have asked me about whether or not it makes sense to do a conversion from their Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.   I’ve written before on the merits of a back door Roth IRA (http://bit.ly/2jNBfFA) before on Your Smart Money Moves, but the larger question about converting an existing account can be a tricky one to approach in your personal finances.   More importantly, if you are not proactive in your tax planning, you could miss a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of a bad year with your business or if you have a substantially down year of income.  Given the volume of planning cases I see every month, especially those in their late 40’s to late 50’s should be looking at this strategy very closely if you are in a transition phase. With the potential upcoming changes in the tax code suggested to move from seven tax brackets down to three, each family needs ...

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How Life Insurance Made Jim Harbaugh, Not Nick Saban, the Highest Paid Coach in the NCAA

Most that follow collegiate athletics are familiar with Nick Saban, arguably the most successful head coach in NCAA history. Heck, even if you don’t follow college sports, Saban has become a figure that is well known throughout the country for his Alabama teams and their ferocious defenses. But did you know that despite his track record on the field, he is not the highest paid coach in the NCAA? That distinction belongs to Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Despite not having reached the pinnacle of the sport yet in terms of national championships, Michigan made Harbaugh the highest paid head man in the country in August of 2016. The avenue in which Harbaugh and the University accomplished this is not commonly seen in professional or amateur sports. After his first season with the Wolverines, Harbaugh and the leaders at Michigan entered into a Split-Dollar Loan Agreement under which the University agreed to make seven loan advances, of ...

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Why Are You Such A “Poor” Millionaire

As I continue to help more and more people approach the end zone of making work optional (a.k.a. – retirement) it continues to shed light on just how little one million dollars seems these days.    It was once believed that the ultimate pinnacle for wealth building was to have one million liquid dollars, but with the uncertainty in the bond markets, stock markets, and real estate markets, it has baby boomers about to retire shaking in their boots about being sacked before they score a touchdown. Many people hear this notion being thrown about called the 4% percent rule.   This rule was initially laid out by a financial planner William Bengen.   He had back tested a variety of withdrawal rates using various historical rates of return and found that 4% withdrawal with the absolute highest rate that held up over a period of 30 years. So, if you are a “millionaire” with $1,000,000 of starting capital at ‘work optional’, you ...

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5 Key Points To Know When You Decide To Refinance

With the Fed recently raising interest rates, people have already started to write and call me about whether or not it is still a good time to refinance.  You will likely see more offers from your current mortgage company, broker, or bank looking to get you locked in before the Fed raises rates again in 2017.  Here are my smart money moves to five key points to know when you make a final decision about whether a refinance is good for your property. There Is NO Rule Of Thumb — I love these random articles out there that say your mortgage rates needs to be down by a certain percentage for a refinance to make sense. In fact, Investopedia recently wrote, “The typical rule of thumb is that if you can reduce your current interest rate by 0.75-1%” This makes very little sense to me as this is going to be a math equation because all refinancing costs money.   What you are ...

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Quit Buying Stuff You Can’t Afford

Generation X is classically defined as people born between the years 1965 and 1979.    Pretty much those of you in your late 30’s and now, *GULP* into the early 50’s.  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 47 and have had a good deal of financial success on my own, I’ve noticed some big mistakes that I see my generation making with their money and how they think about money.    One of the main problem with our generation is that it seems we can defy gravity when it comes to buying anything but savings for our own future. Where do you think we should take the kids away for spring break this year?      Should we go away for Thanksgiving or would it be better during the holiday season?    I know ...

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Five Smart Money Moves To Make When You Are Offered A Severance Package

When the consulting companies are done offering advice to your corporation on how to make it more effective, the one word you don’t want to hear from upper management is “reorg”.    Reorg, short for reorganization, if often a labor intensive process where a large organization systematically eliminates a section of the workforce to streamline their overall processes, people, and systems.   When these reductions in workforce happen, one of the possibilities that may occur is to offer you a severance package.    The problem for most families is that decisions have to be made so quickly that people often make poor choices on how to best maximize this package. Here are five smart money moves to make when you are offered a severance package. Double Dip On Pay If your company offers you six months or one year as a severance package, this is not the time to take an extended vacation.   Every month that you can work for a new employer ...

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Is It Time To Fed Proof Your Portfolio

We are all witnessing the antics of the Presidential election that we see and hear in the media every day.   The Fed recently chose not to raise rates again recently and we don’t know if they will do it in September, December, or not at all this year.   However, when rates rise you will want to be prepared on what to do with your portfolio, so here are my tips on money moves to consider. Consider Locking In Rates While They Are Low If you have benefited from having a low adjustable rate mortgage over the past five or six years, you might want to consider locking into a 15 year or 30 year fixed rate mortgage while rates are low. This would prevent you potentially getting hurt if you plan to live in your property for a long period of time and you expect the Fed to raise rates. Also, you might want to make a long term real ...

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How To Win The Gold Medal With Your Financial Plan

The 2016 Olympics have officially kicked off and it should prove to be exciting with USA Basketball, USA Swimming, and many more new events including golf this year.   It is always amazing to hear the Olympic stories of gold medal winners and their struggle to make it to the top.   Here are your smart money moves on what to do to win the Gold Medal with your financial plan. Get rid of debt as quickly as possible – Even though most people are excited about low interest rates today, just because you can borrow money doesn’t mean you should borrow money.   Consumer debts are the absolute most important to get rid of in your financial plan, and consider trying to pay extra on your long term debt.  Going into retirement with no debt will allow you be nimble and flexible with your choices down the road. Plan for the unexpected – With companies seemingly doing a reorganization or a rightsizing ...

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Pay Off The Mortgage Or Invest The Money

One of the most difficult questions that I get from both younger and older clients is whether or not it is a good idea to pay off their mortgage or invest the money?  With interest rates continuing to hover around all-time lows, many people are still in the process of refinancing their existing homes or buying a new one.   If your rate is in the 3% to 4% range, you may be wondering if you should take your excess monthly discretionary income to pay down your home note faster or would it be a better idea to take that cash and invest it for the long term.    This decision has both financial and emotional ramifications, so let’s review the pros and cons of paying off your mortgage. The first part of this analysis is the black and white calculation on whether your money can work harder for you than the interest rate you are paying on your debt.   Let’s say, ...

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Retirement Assumptions: What’s Your Legacy Goal?

When you are building out your long term retirement plan, a financial advisor will often have to make many different types of assumptions. I have authored numerous articles around this topic. You need to consider market downside risk, interest rate risk, inflation risk, liquidity risk, tax risk, sequencing risk, and several others. Often, one major mistake made around the discussion regarding building a quality retirement plan is actually having the end in mind. What do you want your legacy to be when you pass on? This is a crucial conversation to have at the onset of your overall comprehensive financial plan. Consider this for a moment. If you tell your financial advisor nothing, he or she will likely build out your retirement plan analysis by using a ‘death age’. From the conversations you have with your planner or from some default number in the financial planning software, you will arrive a set age usually in the 85 to 90 range. ...

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$5 Or Less Cheap Eats Lunches In Atlanta

If you make $100,000 or more, you might wonder why you could still be living paycheck to paycheck. The truth is that dining, entertainment, and travel expenses continue to be a huge part of creating a personal spending plan for your family.  A good CEO (that’s you) knows that listening to their Private CFO® (that’s me) can help make a major dent on the bottom line.  You probably aren’t going to stop eating out a few days a week for lunch, so one idea is to simply look for the places around where you work to find lunch for $5 or less.   Most casual fare chain restaurants are designed to get you to $10, where a local joint can still get you to $5 or less. Victory Sandwich Bar (www.vicsandwich.com) – Where can you get any sandwich for $4?   Go to the Victory Sandwich Bar.   I might recommend the Mulligan (pimento cheese and ham) or consider the Weed Eater (hummus, ...

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Should I Pay Off The Mortgage?

One of the more difficult questions that I get from both younger and older people alike is whether or not it is a good idea to pay off their mortgage. If you have locked in a low interest rate recently when they were hovering around all time lows, you are probably happy about not having to shop for a new mortgage. If your rate is in the 3% to 4% range, you may be wondering if you should take your excess monthly discretionary income to pay down your home note faster. Or, would it be a better idea to take that cash and invest it for the long term. This decision has both financial and emotional ramifications, so let’s review the pros and cons of paying off your mortgage. The first part of this analysis is the black and white calculations on whether your money can work harder for you than the interest rate you are paying on your debt. ...

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Here’s Why Your Friends Are Going Broke

Most of the time when we talk about personal finance, topics including credit card debt, savings, investments, insurance, and coupons creep into the discussion.   Since nobody wears their net worth pinned to their chest, we truly have no inkling what our neighbors real personal financial situation is at any given point and time.   What I promise you to be true is that what appears to be an ocean of success around you is merely nothing more than a mirage of many people living on an obligatory basis to pay their bills.   Your friends will never tell you they are drowning in quicksand, but people around you are going broke every day and here are the reasons why. EGO– Your ego is something that can make you stronger or become an insurmountable obstacle to achieving success.  Remember, your ego is the part of your mind that contains memory.  It is ultimately what shapes your planning and your reality.   When it comes ...

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I Need A Pension Plan

We know that for years that planning for retirement was a three legged stool.   Pension plans, social security, and then whatever personal savings and investment plans you could muster up over the course of your lifetime.   With a great deal of uncertainty looming over social security and pension plans dwindling away from large corporations, I continue to stress to people that retirement planning feels more like a pogo stick than it does a stool. Product companies understand that the greatest way to attract customer is figure out how to fill a void in the marketplace.   As investors struggle to figure out the best way to plan for retirement, a fairly new type of fixed product has been gaining traction called a Deferred Income Annuity (DIA).   A deferred income annuity is a newer type of annuity that is essentially a mixture of a single premium immediate annuity and a single premium deferred annuity. With a DIA, the idea behind the vehicle ...

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Five Celebrities That Know How To Save Money

Most of the media generated stories about celebrities consist of shock and awe showing situations resembling the Titanic sinking into the ocean.   When it comes to personal finances, we read about those who didn’t pay their income taxes, stars that spent themselves into bankruptcy, and estate plans that went decidedly south after their death.    However, there are celebrities who understand a thing or two about money and here are five famous people who know how to improve their bottom line. Teri Hatcher Understands Used Cars– Teri Hatcher became famous through the Superman shows she did with Dean Cain and then hit a home run with the Desperate Housewives television show.   She’s reported to have a net worth of over $50 million dollars.  “I don’t spend my money on sports cars or new million-dollar houses. I drive my cars for 10 years until they have 100,000 miles on them.” (source www.msn.com)    Used car buying is a smart money move that can ...

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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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How Long Can I Carry Forward My Capital Gain Losses?

We are almost two-thirds done with 2013 and some of you haven’t even completed your tax returns.  For those of you who filed and finished your tax returns in April, most of that paperwork is neatly tucked away in your home filing cabinet.   Since the stock market has run up over the past year most investors have made gains in their stock and stock mutual fund positions.   However, the majority of tax payers never look at their capital losses from prior years to do effective tax planning.  So just how long can you carry forward your capital gain losses? First, you should be aware that you can sponge up capital gains year to year against any capital losses or carry forward losses that you have on your tax return.   This means if you have a carry forward loss of $30,000 from a prior year and had $30,000 of long-term capital gains here in 2013, you would essentially have a wash.   ...

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All I Want For Back To School Is My Trapper Keeper

It’s officially back-to-school time in the state of Georgia which means polishing up the old routine of making lunches, doing homework, and the frantic mornings of getting everyone on the bus or into the carpool on time.    It is also that time of the year where you are going to begin stocking up on school supplies if you haven’t it done so already.  All I can remember from my childhood and teen years was my mom taking me to the local K-Mart to pick up a few Bic pens, some No. 2 Ticonderoga pencils, and my color coded Trapper Keeper to organize my classes.   Nowadays we’ve got an entirely different routine with school systems providing lists instructing us to practically buy an entire shopping cart of school supplies. This year, my two middle school children have lists both in excess of thirty items that were ‘necessary’ for them to get.   It seems every year the list gets larger and larger.  ...

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Entrepreneur Series – Lesson 8 – The Marketing Plan

Marketing your products and services is the lifeblood of a new business.   While you can ultimately have all kinds of long term business strategies, without having a steady stream of new revenue your new business venture can close up in a short period of time.   In my opinion, if you look at the three big areas of business: marketing, the actual product or service you are offering, and client service, marketing is the one driver that can help sustain a business even if the other two areas are slightly subpar.    There are really two parts to the marketing plan.   One section involves dealing with implementing strategies that will specifically drive new client acquisition.   The other arena is building the brand of your new company. Many new entrepreneurs substantially underestimate the time and money it will take do marketing in the first year of their business.    From a time perspective, your networking functions, community involvement, and meeting face to face with ...

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Entrepreneur Series – Lesson 6 – Poor Staffing Decisions

One of the first things I heard when I got into management in my career is the phrase “you have to put the right talent on the bus”. While I understood its meaning, it took many years to realize how important hiring decisions are to grow an organization the right way. I also felt the pain of making poor hiring decisions, and how much time and productivity you can lose from just one bad hire. No entrepreneur lives in the panacea of having zero turnover as sometimes they might like to make it seem, but certainly making the right staffing decisions by putting people in the right roles can allow your start up venture to get off on the right foot. One of the critical questions to ask yourself early in your venture is what role do you (the CEO/owner) play in your firm. If I was to use a baseball analogy, what jobs are you going to be a ...

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Entrepreneur Series – Lesson 5 – You Must Hire Professional Consultants

Since many new entrepreneurial ventures are often started on a shoestring budget, where you spend your financial resources can be a prickly situation. Far too often, I see new business owners who in some sense are really penny wise but pound foolish as the old adage goes. When is the right time to get yourself legal help? Do you really need an outside person to do your books or can you do it yourself? Does it merit having a financial person talk to about entity planning and business structure? Can’t you just figure this stuff out yourself? Even with many years of corporate experience, I faced these same questions when I opened my business. The costs for some of these professional feels like a waste of money when you need those precious resources for things like marketing, staffing, and technology. However, I will tell you that a big mistake in any of the areas below can be a brutal blow ...

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Entrepreneur Series – Lesson 4 – Avoid Rookie Mistakes

I am not a professional athlete.  However, I would imagine that the rookie year on any of the professional sports circuits has to be daunting in nature.   Not only are you in front of some type of large crowd, it takes some time getting used  to all of the decisions you have to make to be the best of the best in what you do for a living.   Far too often, new entrepreneurs can make first year decisions which can put a major dent in the first year of your new entrepreneurial venture.  Even someone who has a lot of corporate experience cannot understand the firefight of being a business owner until you have to meet your first payroll.One great idea my business partner and I have put into place in our business is the 48 hour rule.   We’ve set criteria around what a ‘key’ decision is for our business and once we have made a decision on the direction ...

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How To Get Rich with oXYGen Financial – 07/02/13

Taped 7/02/13 Listen every Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. on ROCK 100.5 | Atlanta’s Rock Station to “Your Smart Money Moves” with The Rock 100.5 Morning Show and oXYGen Financial. Ted Jenkin, CFP® and Kile Lewis, CRPC® are the founders of oXYGen Financial, and our chief financial officers. All your money questions answered Breathe easier at http://oXYGenFinancial.net ...

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Entrepreneur Series – Lesson 3 – Know Your Role As The Owner

As an entrepreneur starting a new business, you often have to wear the hat of cook, dishwasher, accountant, and general manager.   However, one of the biggest mistakes a young owner will make is not quickly clarify their role within the organization.   Far too often, new entrepreneurs will try to control every aspect of a new business which inevitably slows the growth of the organization.  In some cases, it can make hiring and training new people so difficult it can be destructive to the success of a company. One of things I recommend to new business owners is to draw a T chart with one axis being things you like to do and one access being tasks that you are good at.    What you should quickly try to figure out in the early stage of a new company is to list all of the items that you are good at and those tasks that you like to do.    After figuring out ...

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How Much Will It Cost When Your Son Or Daughter Starts Driving?

It’s hard to imagine for most parents that their son or daughter will be ready to get their driver’s license someday.    In fact, I think this ritual is a little bit like the birthing process.   Nature in part prepares you for very little sleep when the baby is born by making it very difficult to sleep in that last trimester.    As much as your stomach will go through the spin cycle the first time your son or daughter leaves the driveway all by themselves, there is also an overwhelming sense of relief for you to remove the chauffeur cap that you have rightly earned the years preceding your son or daughter getting their driver’s license.    While most families prepare for the magical day when their children get their rite of passage to begin driving, they often don’t consider the extra costs that may hit their family budget.   How much will it cost when my child starts driving? Learners Permit- This ...

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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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National 529 Day

Today is National 529 Day.   Just another day on the calendar to get you thinking about how you will support your children’s college education.   I have noticed over the past several years that college education is one of the areas that people in their 40’s and early 50’s are WAY behind in when it comes to planned savings.   I’m also seeing much more discrepancies between spouses and partners alike about what is the best way to plan for this goal.  Should your kids go to an in-state school?  Should they go to the college of their choice?   Should you plan for an ivy league private school?   What happens if they just cross the border and go to a state school in a bordering state?   Imagine you get home from work one day and your child has the magical letter from that college or university that you both always dreamed they would attend?     Will you have a plan in place that ...

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Ziploc Bags, Walgreens, and $4.75 For A Small Drink

Our entire family went to see Iron Man 3 on Saturday night this weekend.  I didn’t realize that the real animation would be at the ticket office before even entering the theatre. With the price being $15 for an adult ticket (and those 12 and over become an adult), we were out roughly $75 before we even grabbed a set for the movie. For some of you who work hard on your family budget, that may be a week’s worth of groceries in your pantry!  I think it is fantastic that so many movie theaters have made upgrade to make the movie going experience better, and I can’t wait to see 4-D which I am sure will be coming soon. Maybe in those theaters, voices can sound off when we sit down in our chairs to laugh at us for paying $15 a head just to get into the movie. If you are bringing your family to the movies, here are ...

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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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Four Rules Of Thumb That Are Thumbs Down

For many years I have seen articles galore in the major magazines giving consumers “rules of thumb” about making financial decisions.   In a society today where we want to get all of our information in sixty seconds or less, many of these magazines can talk one week about five dollar meals to make and then the next week discuss major financial decisions to make in your household.   I’ve never really been a big fan of “rules of thumb”, so here are four major financial “rules of thumb” that I am simply thumbs down on when it comes to making smart money moves.  Rule Of Thumb #1- 2% Difference In Interest Rate To Refinance –   Many popular magazine and newspaper articles will suggest that you generally shouldn’t consider refinancing unless the difference between the new interest rate and your old interest rate is 2%.    This “rule” makes very little sense to me. What you want to be considering are a handful ...

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How Much Should I Bring To Vegas?

Every single time I hear someone talk about going to Vegas, I can see their eyes light up as ‘The Hangover’ type moments flash across their minds.  Just the idea of going to Las Vegas begins to raise your energy level.  The thought of going to all the shows, the gambling, the dining, and, of course, all the late night partying gets people in the mood for a three day jaunt to the desert.   Once your trip is booked, many people often wonder, “how much cash should I really bring to Vegas?”  Here are three smart money moves on how to best plan your trip so you don’t break the bank.   Set a daily gambling limit:  Going to Vegas can be dangerous if you give yourself a never ending stream of cash from your ATM or a house credit line.    Think about what you might spend on a day of ‘real’ vacation and set aside a definite daily limit ...

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Run Your Family Finances Like A Business

When we opened oXYGen Financial back in 2008, we introduced two very important financial planning concepts.   Number one; in order to be successful with your personal wealth you need to take ownership as the CEO of your family’s finances.   Number two; all successful CEO’s surround themselves with an effective CFO to help run the company, which is why oXYGen Financial pioneered and trademarked the term Private CFO®.    Between the combination of an effective CEO and CFO, you can focus on the key performance indicators in your “business” to help you reach your goals.   I was most intrigued this week when almost five years after our founding, the Wall Street Journal finally ran an article called Family, Inc. (http://on.wsj.com/12YfX8z), which is a really interesting article and can help articulate what families will need to consider as they manage their finances in the future.  Here are my smart money move tips on how to run your family like a business: Get one ...

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Should I Rent The House Or Sell It?

One the tough questions that faces many newly married couples is what to do with the real estate properties they own when they get married.   It’s almost a certainty that if both of you own a home, you’ll end up moving into one of your properties as a couple.   This leaves the question of what will happen to the remaining piece of real estate once one of you has packed up and the house is empty.    Newly married couples often grapple with the challenge on whether to keep and rent the empty property or just sell the property to get whatever equity is available.  With a great deal of homes still underwater in value, here are some smart money moves to consider when you make this big decision. 1.) Do you want to be a landlord? –  Keeping a rental property can be advantageous to your long term investment plans if you are consistent in keeping a quality renter in ...

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Georgia Came In Second To Last In The SEC?

At the end of 2012, the average national credit score in the United States was 696, but some states scored way above that average while others fell dismally short of the average. (source: equifax.com).    While the SEC has always been strong in college football and other athletics, the South came in at the very bottom when it comes to credit scores.  States such as Vermont and North Dakota were up in the 721 range, while Louisiana (669), Georgia (667), and Mississippi (661) were the three states at the bottom of the heap.    FICO scores can range between 250 and 850, and having a credit score above 750 has always been considered excellent while falling below 650 can be considered sub-prime when it comes to lending.   So, why did Georgia rank near the bottom and what can we do to fix it? 1. Pay off past due balances — Your payment history makes up roughly 35% of your overall credit score.    ...

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Is Private School Worth The Cost?

When you move into a new city and have children, one of the biggest questions you will ask the local real estate agent is “how is the local school system?”    As you ponder the notion of living in the city or potentially moving out to the suburbs, where your kids will be educated can be the subject of heated family debate.    Even if you live within an existing area now, you may be faced with the challenge of whether to move to a suburban area with good school system to avoid the cost of private school or determine that private school is a must for your children.   With many private elementary, middle, and high schools charging rates that rival college costs it can leave you with an extremely arduous decision around when to do private or when to do public.    Is private school really worth the cost?   Here are my smart money moves to think about. COST – Let’s look ...

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Should Generation X Redefine What It Means To Be Wealthy?

Now that you have unwrapped all of those Christmas gifts under the tree, did you get everything that you really wanted this holiday season?   Was there one package you had hoped for neatly wrapped in a bow that would have really made you happy?  Of the ten to twenty overall gifts that you were given over the holidays, can you make a list and name three of them?  How about three from last year? While it appears to me that luxury has lost its shine, we’ve become a society that has defined itself by the brand names on our clothes, computers, and the cars we drive.    We are very quick to define what we think about our own wealth by the treasures we buy with our plastic and how our guests will ooh and aah when they take a tour of our homes.    I’m wondering if the pursuit of all of things we see on TV and what we see ...

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Should My Wife Quit Her Job?

I saw this question on Yahoo the other day and thought how many times clients have asked me this question over the years.   It used to be a wife question, but there are many women who are doing incredibly well in the workforce so you have stay at home dads and moms alike today.  Here’s the question. . . .  My wife and I just had our second child and I work from home. She works in an office about 30 minutes away. I make approximately 2-3 times what she makes and now she went back to work and I stay at home with the kids and work but it is a nightmare. If we put the kids in daycare, it would cost us just about everything she takes home in a month so that’s not an option. The only thing is that she has very good medical benefits that would cost us $1000 or more per month regularly. We ...

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What Does a Royal Childbirth Cost for Kate Middleton?

By now you have probably heard that the pride and joy of the UK are expecting their own first pride and joy.  The royal couple Prince William and his beautiful bride Kate Middleton announced recently they are about to experience one of life’s greatest pleasures in becoming parents.  As a fairly new parent myself, I am still recent enough to recall not only the joys of bringing a little one into the world, but also the shock of realizing the bill is a big one to boot. My son just turned a year old last month and I was looking through the folder I keep all of his special documents in.  Of course there is his birth certificate, the baby card showing his birth time/height/weight, our hospital wristbands, his footprints, and pictures from his childbirth that I will one day use as embarrassing blackmail to get him to keep his grades up.  Then as I thumbed through some hospital paperwork, ...

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How To Pick A Credit Card

We often pull out our credit cards during this holiday season much like a Ninja warrior would unleash their Samurai sword from its sheath.   Credits cards can be our friend or our foe depending on how we choose to use this weapon.  During this peak month of shopping, every store you purchase merchandise from will tempt you with a big discount at the cash register to get a store card Johnny on the spot.  I’m not a big personal fan of carrying revolving credit card debt, and I don’t recommend it is a habit you get into within your financial life.  Going to work every day to pay obligations can lead to a high amount of stress.  Credit cards, when used appropriately, can actually help you in the positive column by potentially rewarding you with extra cash back, frequent flier miles, or some type of point structure to redeem prizes behind door number three.   So, how do you actually pick ...

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Why Should You Go Grocery Shopping With Peter Lynch?

No modern-day investment “sage” is better known than Peter Lynch. Not only has his investment approach successfully passed the real-world performance test, but he strongly believes that individual investors have a distinct advantage over Wall Street and large money managers when using his approach. Individual investors, he feels, have more flexibility in following this basic approach because they are unencumbered by bureaucratic rules and short-term performance concerns. (Source: AAII Journal) Mr. Lynch developed his investment philosophy at Fidelity Management and Research, and gained his considerable fame managing Fidelity’s Magellan Fund. The fund was among the highest-ranking stock funds throughout Mr. Lynch’s tenure, which began in 1977 at the fund’s launching, and ended in 1990, when Mr. Lynch retired. (Source: AAII Journal).  Peter Lynch is known to most as a ‘story seller’ type investor.   Although he used a bottom up fundamental analysis to pick companies, most can remember a famous quote he once said, “I’d rather invest in pantyhose rather than ...

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How much should I keep in a cash reserve?

Building a solid financial plan is relatable to building a strong house.    If you create a secure foundation and structure for the house, it is likely to stand up against all of the elements over the course of the years to come.   Many financial plans fail because the two key areas of the foundation which include having an appropriate cash reserve and having adequate risk management protection are not put into place before people begin investing.   There are often various numbers thrown around in the media about what is an adequate cash reserve to have in your financial plan, but here are some thoughts for consideration on how much money to have in checking, savings, and other short-term investment instruments. The first question you should be asking is whether you are employed (and where your job stability is at work) or whether you are self-employed.    My opinion is that people who own a business should have about double the normal ...

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Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage?

One of the more difficult questions that I get from both younger and older people alike is whether or not it is a good idea to pay off their mortgage.  With interest rates continuing to hover around all time lows, many people are still in the process of refinancing their existing homes or buying a new one.   If your rate is in the 3% to 4% range, you may be wondering if you should take your excess monthly discretionary income to pay down your home note faster.    Or would it be a better idea to take that cash and invest it for the long term.    This decision has both financial and emotional ramifications, so let’s review the pros and cons of paying off your mortgage. The first part of this analysis is the black and white calculations on whether your money can work harder for you than the interest rate you are paying on your debt.   Let’s say, for example, ...

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What Halloween Taught My Kids About Romney, Obama, and How The Economy Works

I suppose every parent hopes to teach their kids important lessons about life.  The lessons that you teach them about decision making, money, friendship, family, and much more will in part determine how they do as adults when they are primarily making their own decisions.    As my kids grow older every year, slowly but surely the tremendous fun I have had over the year trick or treating with them on October 31st is fading away.   This was the first year where my oldest daughter didn’t go out trick or treating with a costume and the two younger ones aren’t far behind.   So how did Halloween teach my kids something about how our economy works? We’ve been having some discussions at home about the difference on how the candidates think about business and how money should be distributed (or redistributed).      When the two kids finished their massive candy assault on the neighborhood, they both wound up with huge bags of candy.  ...

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Does C.D. Now Stand For Crummy Deal?

One of the biggest frustrations I have heard over the past couple of years is what do to with your cash.  Most checking accounts that people have to day do not bear any interest at all.    In addition, the majority of savings and money market accounts will pay somewhere between .25% and .75% unless you have landed a teaser rate at the bank.    If you don’t pay attention closely to it, your cash at the brokerage house (Schwab, Fidelity) may actually be earning .01% on a yearly basis.   Even with the teaser rates from small and big banks alike, certificate of deposits which were one of the cash go to instruments for many families have now withered away to all time lows as well.    Even if you park the money away for 3 to 5 years, you are still well behind inflation after the interest you earn.   This means it is more important than ever that you figure out how ...

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Do You Want A Pay Raise?

When we perform well at work, most of us expect that our bosses will reward us with a bonus or a pay raise.   Sometimes it can be very elusive on how to actually get an increase in your paycheck, but wouldn’t it be great to know how you could control your destiny.   This doesn’t mean having to suck up for your mid-year review or make a mad dash to sell in the 4th quarter.   For certain, we don’t want to end up like Clark Griswold and open our bonus paychecks only to find out we were enrolled in the Jelly of the Month Club.    Actually, recent studies have shown that exercise can have a dramatic impact on whether you get a pay raise at work even though it’s never written in any manual or book at work. Vasilios Kosteas, economics professor at Cleveland State University and the study’s author, told SmartMoney that his study shows that exercise leads to higher ...

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How Much Should I Set Aside For Estimated Taxes?

This is your first year in business and it has just dawned on you that there is nothing coming out of your paycheck.     You know that you have got to pay taxes somewhere along the way, but you have been spending the paychecks like 100% of it is net income to you.    This frequently happens to people the first year that they get in business as it can be very confusing on how to estimate your income taxes so you don’t run into hot water come tax time.  I’m often asked by small business owners and individual 1099 earners about the best way to plan for estimated taxes, so here are some tips that should help you manage this in the best way possible. As a business owner, you have a litany of options on how to set up your business.   You can choose to stay as a sole proprietor, set up an LLC, set up an S-Corporation, or choose ...

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Why Mark Cuban Will Beat You In Arm Wrestling

I have to admit it.   I am a Mark Cuban fan.   Whatever you may think about him personally he has successfully demonstrated over the years that he can make just about any new business venture successful.  From the billion dollar sale many years ago of his company broadcast.com to taking the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA title.    In addition, he gets a piece of the action for every single new entrepreneur that presents (that’s right not even ones that he buys a piece of for himself) on the popular television show Shark Tank.    He has an abrasive personality and makes no apologies for getting the very best out of himself and those that are part of his successful organizations.    Generally, I see three big mistakes new entrepreneurs make when they begin a new business venture.    Mark Cuban will beat you in an arm wrestling match because he knows how to avoid these mistakes and make just about anything he does ...

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Why The 401(k) Needs To Be Replaced

You would think because I’ve been doing financial planning for 21 years that I would be a flat out 100% advocate for 401(k) plans.    With the ability today to put away money on a pre-tax basis in your 401(k) or now the use of a Roth 401(k) there are many different ways to save for your future.    Many employers even offer a ‘match’ of some of the funds that you put away into your plan as an incentive and some companies even give a year end profit sharing contribution if the company has done well.    The 401(k) has now become the Gibraltar Rock for most people in the 30’s and 40’s as the main driving force for their future retirement.    In most 401(k) plans there are even more options including a multitude of mutual funds and in some cases a self directed brokerage account if you are savvy enough to manage the 401(k) on your own.     With all of this ...

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Is Georgia One Of The Best Tax States To Retire In Today?

Inevitably all of us have the dream of being able to make work optional. I’ve written lots of articles regarding the subject of retirement, but as we approach another Presidential election you may need to consider which state to live in when it comes to saving money in taxes. Outside of how you like the overall lifestyle of the state in which you live, where your family resides, and other factors, taxation certainly should be in the top five list on where you choose to make your final place of residence. Since states are changing their laws all the time, I wanted to share that I think Georgia will continue to be a top ten player for retirees over the next twenty years. I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with Susan Garland who is the editor for the retirees section of Kiplinger and we had a candid conversation around their article of the 10 most friendly tax ...

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How A Threesome Can Improve Your Retirement

I’m officially thinking that any man (or maybe women too) who read this headline was thinking this, “Ted, have you officially lost your mind trying to connect the words threesome and retirement in the same headline?”   The answer is no, I haven’t officially lost my mind although a few people who know me well have always considered me to be an out-of-the box thinker.    And for the record, I’m not going to suggest any of you run out and have a threesome although you’ve probably fantasized about it once in your lifetime.   So how can a threesome actually help improve your retirement? The menage-a-trios that I am talking about here are the three players you need to fall in love with to be able to retire successfully.    Within the X and Y Generation, the philosophies that have been in many of the major publications will likely fail because they simply talk about statistics and numbers.  What most common retirement strategies ...

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Be On The Lookout For These Four Financial Scams

How many of you have received this type of e-mail at one point in your life . . . MY AIM OF CONTACTING YOU IS TO SEEK YOUR ASSISTANCE IN TRANSFERRING THE SUM OF THIRTY FIVE MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ONLY (US$35,000,000) OUT OF NIGERIA AND INTO YOUR TRUSTED BANK ACCOUNT ABROAD. THESE FUNDS WERE PART OF THE FUNDS, WHICH WAS FOUND IN HER LATE HUSBAND’S PRIVATE ROOM. IMMEDIATELY AFTER HIS SUDDEN DEATH LAST YEAR AND SHE QUICKLY INFORMED ME, SINCE I VIRTUALLY RUN MOST OF HER SECRET BUSINESS BOTH HERE IN NIGERIA AND OVERSEAS, AS SHE HAS A LOT OF CONFIDENCE IN ME AND FORTUNATELY WITH MY IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE, AND CONTACT WE WERE ABLE TO DEPOSIT THE MONEY IN A SECURITY VAULT PENDING WHEN THE WHOLE SITUATION WILL BE CALM. These scams were known as the Nigeria Scam letters, and most consumers know that if they receive these they should immediately delete them and not respond.   However, today there ...

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How Much Does Your Community Benefit From You Spending $100

I recently came across a staggering article around what is deemed today as Marketplace Fairness.    The 2012 International Council Of Shopping Centers had a promotional infographic regarding the following question . . . How Much Does Your Community Benefit From You Spending $100?    What they found is that a local retailer was able to retain about $68 within your community.    If A National Retailer moved in they were able to retain $43 within your community.   However, the most silent killer of all was the online retailer who retained $0 within your community.    In fact, the article went on to demonstrate that for every $1 million dollars of sales, a local retailer was able to create 4 jobs whereas an online retailer was only able to create 1 additional job.  It’s likely that one job isn’t in your community. Sometimes a bargain isn’t always what it seems.    Since online merchants aren’t currently required to charge sales tax, local retailers can be ...

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Life Insurance: Why Do You Think 1 Million Dollars Is A Lot Of Money?

I’m excited to take part in the life insurance movement with Good Financial Cents.  Having been a practitioner involved with life insurance over the past 21 years, I have unfortunately had to deliver my fair share of insurance checks.   When I met people who have lost a loved one and now have to build them a financial plan, never once did I hear them say, “Boy, I’m so angry my life insurance agent sold me too much insurance!”    Rather, I hear horror stories from widows who cannot understand why their husband didn’t take out more life insurance.   Or, they assured their spouse that they would be ‘well taken care of’ if anything happened to them.   This is the story for many families across America. In the last six months, I’ve seen both friends and family who are in the 40 to 45 year old range dealing with major medical issues.   I’m 42 and when people told me about 10 years ...

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4 Tax Law Changes We Need To Make Permanent

With the presidential election beginning to heat up in America over the next several months, we are all going to hear a lot about income taxes.  We all know that with thousands of pages of tax code, it is impossible for the average citizen to really understand all of the different ways they can save money in taxes.  There are many tax law changes set to take effect in 2013.   If I had the opportunity to set the wheels in motion to make some tax law changes that would be permanent and easy to understand, here are four of them that I would recommend we change to become permanent. 1. Social Security Taxation –   From the day you begin working and earning waged income, 6.2% of your paycheck (the last couple of years 4.2%) goes toward your future social security benefits.    This is also known as your Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax.     You only see the 6.2% that comes ...

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College Education Or Entrepreneurship?

Generation X parents continue to face the challenging uphill climb of saving for their children’s college education.   For a Generation X couple that has their first child here in 2012, the cost for a private college at $50,000 a year will cost over $518,000 of total dollars at a 5% inflation rate.   As crazy as that sounds, a parent would have to save $1,085 per month in today’s dollars to be able to reach that goal.    For most parent’s the thought of saving this much money to pay for the cost of education for just ONE child can be downright daunting.  Many of us believe that the cost of college education cannot defy gravity forever, but to this point there has been no stopping the rising costs for a four year degree. During the formidable teenage years, many parents help guide their children toward getting excellent grades in school, playing some sort of athletic sports, and filling their resume with ...

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Can you name the 18 small business tax cuts?

It’s hard for all us not to get political during an election year.    In the next several months you’ll see more negative mudslinging between the Presidential candidates in a war of negativity and word twisting that I don’t believe we have ever experienced before.    Since I am a small business owner, one of my points of view during this election is to look out for and inform other small business owners.    Since I think small business owners will be the real engine of job growth over the next four years, owners need to really look closely at what the candidates are proposing to do to support the growth of small business. It’s funny to me that all we hear about is that over the past four years there have been 18 small business tax cuts by the current administration to drive small business growth.  If you try to Google the 18 small business tax cuts, you’ll find out quickly that ...

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I Make $100,000 And Live Paycheck To Paycheck

I’ve been practicing financial planning for over 21 years, and there is a new financial phenomenon spreading like cancer.    I haven’t come up with a name for this group yet, but there is a growing population of people between the ages of 30 to 50 who make more than $100,000 per year and are literally living paycheck to paycheck.   Are these people lacking a college education? No!    Are these people lacking a comprehensive set of benefits from their employer? No!   Are these people who are having lots of money garnished from their paychecks every two weeks? No!   So how is this group getting so far behind financially while making so much money? According to a report from the Consumer Federation of America and the Consumer Planner Board of Standards, Inc., 38 percent of household live paycheck to paycheck.   In 1997, this figure was 31 percent.  (source: huffingtonpost.com)  A report from earlier this year found that 43 percent of Americans don’t ...

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Can Tom Cruise Teach Us About Divorce?

We all know divorce can be a costly process no matter where you are financially in your life.   With the recent break up of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, there is another Paparazzi story brewing on how much it will cost Mr. Mission Impossible to make this divorce possible.   Famous comedian and movie star Robin Williams once said, “I believe the word divorce comes from the Latin for a man having his genitals ripped out from his wallet.” (source: telegraph.co.uk)    So what smart money moves can we learn from the third divorce Tom Cruise is going through with Katie Holmes?  Well, here are four financial ideas to potentially help you if you have to go through separating your assets in a divorce? Try To Minimize Legal Fees – Going through a divorce will be hard enough on you emotionally.   If you and your ex can maintain a reasonably amicable relationship, you could save more than 50% of your legal costs ...

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When Smaller Saved Us Money

I live in Atlanta, so I do my very best to try to see all of the tourist attractions within my hometown city. Some people call them staycations, but there are really many day trips you can take to enjoy local attractions — especially if you live in a major metropolitan area. My wife and I happened to go to the High Museum to check out one of the special venues in the city of Atlanta. The pieces within the museum are a wonderful juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary art. We went specifically because there was an exhibition contrasting photographs of New York City and different parts of the South, including New Orleans. When we were browsing through the different photographs of people and places, there was one photo of an entire block of stores in New York City in the 1960s. What was so amazing is that amongst the dozen or so stores in the photograph, not one of ...

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The Best Time To Buy A Home Might Be Now

(orginal article in the AJC.com) From a financial perspective, the window for pouncing on a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a home might be narrowing. The state’s median selling price is down from $175,000 at the market’s 2007 peak to $109,900 in May, says the Georgia Association of Realtors. But recent prices are trending up. The average sales price increased each of the first five months this year, from $126,381 to $152,740. Similarly, January-May median prices were up, from $87,000 to $109,900, every month but one — when prices were flat. Good financial planning takes a long-term view. That’s why Ted Jenkin, co-CEO of Oxygen Financial in Alpharetta, and Wes Moss, chief investment strategist at Capital Investment Advisors in Sandy Springs, say today’s housing market very well could be the financial spark you’re seeking. Some factors to consider: 1. Interest rates: “With 30-year interest rates hovering under 4 percent and 15-year rates under 3 percent, these are tremendous times to be able ...

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Three Ways Credit Card Companies Can Trick You

When the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was put into place, credit card holders were supposed to benefit from the new regulation.    Consumers would receive new notifications for rate fee increases, statements would inform consumers on how long it would take to pay off balances, and credit issuers were required to mail bills at least 21 days before the due date.     Now that some time has passed since the Dodd-Frank Act, consumers are still struggling with all time high levels of credit card debt and the fine print coming from credit card companies are smaller than ever.   Here are three things you should keep an eye on so you don’t get stung by the credit card companies. Late Fees– Late fees are a big source of ways that credit card companies earn money.  Since many of us pay our bills through automatic payment, you should make sure you pay your credit card bill a few days before ...

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Tip For Takeout Food?

Here you are stuck with yet another money dilemma.   It’s Sunday night and you’ve decided as a family to do the takeout food from a local restaurant.   Everyone has a smile on their face and now it’s just a ride to the Chinese food joint, pick up your delicious dishes, and catch your favorite TV show. You arrive at the restaurant and give them your phone number so they can call up your order.   The hostess rings up your check, takes your credit/debit card, and then slides across the receipt for you to sign with the gnarled up Bic pen that has been sitting in a container of rice.    The hostess glances down as you fill out your signature and you are hit with that line which reads TIP (or ADDITIONAL TIP).    You don’t want to feel like you’ve done something improper, so what is the right thing to do when you are faced with the decision to leave a ...

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Who Will Take Care Of Mom and Dad?

Haven’t you been sitting around with your brother(s) and sister(s) and had the infamous discussion on who ranks where on Mom and Dad’s favorite list.   While siblings usually joke around who is at the top of the ladder, usually someone cracks the comment, “I’m sure they cut me out of the will years ago.”   For Generation X’ers, you are probably beginning to see the early stages of your parents slowing down or perhaps one of them had a mild health scare over the last five years that got you thinking who is going to take of Mom and Dad?    Before each one of your brothers and sisters rush to put their finger on their nose and scream “NOT IT!”, it may be time to have a serious discussion about who will bear the responsibility should your Mom and Dad need someone by their side for financial or medical decisions. I believe that over the next 5 to 10 years, the ...

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How Can My Portfolio Completely Avoid Risk?

With Moody’s Investment Service downgrading more than a dozen global banks to reflect declining profitability, the Euro Zone looking to be in grave financial crisis, and the U.S. Economy having a gloomy shadow in the distance, many investors are asking how to find investments that carry no risk.    Some of these investors are folks that are retired and looking for current income while others are at the 20 yard line approaching the end zone of their retirement day.    So where do you find an investment that carries no risk? Unfortunately, every single type of investment carries some inherent risk.    Learning how to balance out that risk or being timely with your investments on knowing what risks to take at what time can ultimately determine success or failure in your overall investment plan.   When it comes to today’s main risks facing investors, here are the three big I’s with respect to investing and risk. Inflation Risk– Inflation risk, sometimes known as ...

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Take The Lump Sum Or The Pension?

You have spent 20 or 30 years working for the same company and now it is time to retire.    You have put money away in your 401(k) and some other savings, but your really large asset is the pension plan where money has been put away for you all of these years.     Your human resources or benefits department sends you this large packet of information telling you what options you have with your pension.   Unbeknownst to you, they tell you that you can either get one check in a lump sum or they offer you various options if you choose a lifetime pension.  So, what is the best direction to take with your pension plan? Part I- Taking The Pension The first option you have is to take the pension.   One of the things to consider up front is that taking the pension allows you to remove the stress of ever having to manage the money.  Essentially, you are turning ...

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Will Generation Y Live The American Dream Of Buying A New Home?

Since the real estate meltdown happened in the 2007/2008 time frame, many families across America have seen their home prices plummet far from the original purchase price they paid, even with home improvements.  Others that bought properties in the mid to late 90’s saw a spectacular run of home price growth only to see many of those gains wiped away over the past four years.   With much of the home ownership across America dispersed between the baby boomers and generation X, there is a looming question around whether Generation Y will even want to own a home in the future.    Is this actually still an American Dream or merely something that has turned into a Nightmare On Elm Street?   Here are three reasons why Generation Y may not be a major purchaser of new homes over the next decade despite the incredibly low mortgage interest rates we are seeing today.  Heavy Student Debt – Many people in the 20’s are ...

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How Does Boredom Equal Making Money?

Have you ever heard that phrase, “you should try to be brilliant at being boring?”   With all of the technological advances in computers, hundreds of channels on the cable TV, and music any way that you want it, don’t you find more people quickly getting bored at what they do?    People surf the internet looking for that funny new You Tube video, only to be quickly bored and searching for their next two minutes of laughter.    Every night, loyal Facebook members log in to check out the days events looking for a quick picture of their friends, and then shut themselves down after reading 10 or 20 posts unless something really catches their attention.    With nothing to do, Twitter in its own right is simply a way for many to just idly throw their thoughts our there if they’ve got nothing better to do.     Does all of this instant excitement make it harder for people to go to work without ...

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Did You Learn Anything From DotCom 1.0?

There is an old saying that history has a way of repeating itself.   For those of you who can remember the glorious run of the stock market in the late 1990’s filled with internet companies who went public faster than you can say ding ding of the opening bell on Wall Street, are we now watching the launch of DotCom 2.0 in the stock market.    With Facebook going public last week with over a 100 billion dollar valuation, have we as investors and consumers learned anything about risk and investing our money?    Here are three things to be thinking about when it comes to managing your money and trying to make sensible decisions for your overall portfolio. Understand Appropriate Risk Relative To The Time Frame You Need The Money– Even with information available to us with a click of button on the internet, I still believe investors truly don’t understand risk.    One of the simple ways I’ve described this to ...

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Are My Withholdings For Taxes Correct?

Since tax season has just passed, you are probably in one of two states of minds.   Either a) you love your CPA because you got a big refund, or b) you hate your CPA because you owed money.   It generally falls into one of those two camps when returns are filed.   Remember, if you get a tax refund that means you essentially gave an interest free loan to the Government.    Some people see this as an effective way to force savings during the year, but you really lose out on the opportunity cost of having these resources in your hands during the course of the year. As of April 27, the Internal Revenue Service had authorized more than 99.1 million refunds for the 2011 tax year—up about 1% a year earlier. It also represents more than three-fourths of all the individual income-tax returns processed by the IRS by that date. The total dollar amount of refunds this year was about ...

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Does Your 401(k) Offer An “In Service” Distribution?

For Generation X clients, the majority of their retirement savings are in the company 401(k).   While you do have a multitude of options of what you can do with your 401(k) if you leave your employer, often people feel like they are stuck if they stay with the same employer for a long period of time.  This is especially true with larger companies as most of those plans offer a limited number of investment choices and several target retirement funds.     I’m amazed that many people I sit down have never heard of whether their company offers an in service withdrawal or an in service distribution which can give them greater investment control of their 401(k) assets.    Since we have had two major market meltdowns over the past 12 years, 401(k)’s offer limited power to help you risk mitigate against a market crash.   This is why you need ask your employer today, do we offer an in service distribution? So, just ...

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Beneficiary Designations for your IRA

What Beneficiary Designations mean and why they matter… For most people, “estate planning” means drafting documents (such as a Last Will and Testament) that makes sure that your property is managed and distributed according to your wishes.  Drafting documents is the foundation of estate planning, but people who own retirement accounts, life insurance or other assets with beneficiary designations must go one step further.  When you die, the assets in your estate generally fall into one of two categories: probate property or non-probate property.  Probate property is governed by your Last Will and Testament.  Non-probate property, however, passes outside of your Will, and generally passes to a beneficiary named by you when the account or contract was opened. The most common examples of non-probate property are your IRA, 401(k) or life insurance.  These types of assets are non-probate property because they are paid to beneficiaries pursuant to a contract that you create when you open the account or purchase the ...

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