5 Smart Financial Moves To Start The New Year Off With A Bang

The holiday season brought snow on Christmas Day to the state of Georgia along with some relief around tax breaks that helped both the wealthy and the unemployed. It seemed like everyone’s stocking got a gift or two, but the reality of all these tax breaks will sneak up on us a few years from now. As the New Year gets kicked off, there are some key things you want to be taking action on in respect to your overall financial plan. Rates will not stay low forever – If you have the situation where you can afford to buy a piece of real estate or potentially refinance your home, this would be the time to take advantage of doing that if you haven’t jumped on the wagon already. If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, you should consider getting that locked into some type of fixed rate program. If you cannot refinance and are stuck with a higher interest ...

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Spirit Recession Busters

For the duration of my career in the beverage alcohol industry I have been bombarded with statements about the recession proof nature of this business. Quoting friends and acquaintances,”When times are hard people are still going to drink, sometimes even more.” I must say that I have found over the years that this has proven to be true some of the time and more often than not most of the time. However, I can also say that in the last thirty plus years that I have never experienced anything quite like what we are seeing now. Now if you are addicted to the news like most concerned, well informed Georgians are then you have probably read or heard that one of the few tax bases in the state that is up is the revenue from alcohol taxes which we wholesalers are responsible for collecting. We like to affectionately refer to this as one of the sin taxes. Let me put ...

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Multiple Streams Of Income

People who own a business often understand the powerful concept of multiple streams of income. Given that any business can have economic, regulatory, or industry changes that can hurt the income stream of a business, most business owners develop multiple income sources within their business to protect the cash flows of the company. Sometimes these changes are in different lines of business, types of products, or services that complement each other. I think over the next decade, each household in America will need to consider having multiple streams of income with job and market uncertainty we will face in the years ahead of us. So, how can you create multiple streams of income? 1. Both partners in a household have a stream of income – In my opinion, letting your household rely on just one breadwinner that has a job as an employee with a company is an incredibly dangerous strategy. As large companies feel pressure to meet Wall Street ...

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Is A Roth 401(k) Right For Me?

Since 1997, Roth IRA accounts have been around as an investment vehicle. In the past several years, participants at many work places have been offered the opportunity to do a Roth 401(k). Readers have e-mailed me over the past year about whether or not the Roth 401(k) is a good idea. The Roth 401(k) follows many of the same rules as your current Traditional 401(k). There are two very large distinctions between doing a Traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k): 1) How contributions are taxed – In a traditional 401(k) plan, all of your contributions will be put in your plan on a pre-tax basis.  Thus, your reportable w-2 income at year end will be lowered by the amount of Traditional 401(k) contributions that you make over the course of the year. In a Roth 401(k), your contributions will be taxed now and put in your plan on an after tax basis.  Thus, you will have no change in your ...

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Estate Tax To Stay At 3.5 Million?

Now that the elections are done, there are some really large looming financial questions that the new mix of Republicans and Democrats need to decide before the year ends.  As the band Rush wrote in one of their songs, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”.  It would be great to see some movement made on this estate tax issue so we don’t see some faux Billy Crystal actor throw momma from the train before the end of 2010. For those that don’t remember where the estate tax was at before 2010, in 2009 the exemption was 3.5 million with a 45% tax above the 3.5 million threshold.  For a couple, this meant roughly a 7 million dollar exemption.  With only 3 out of every 1,000 estates (source: www.wsj.com) having an estate above this 7 million dollar threshold, the level set in 2009 only affected a minute number of American citizens. Basically, there are three ...

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You Can Now Tell Me What Credit Card To Use?

On Monday, the Justice Department sued Visa, MasterCard, and American Express for anticompetitive practices. At the same time, it reached a proposed settlement with Visa and MasterCard. The ruling aims to end anticompetitive practices and allow customers to save money, but it is likely to also have unintended consequences for consumers, says LowCards.com. (source: www.ctwatchdog.com) Interchange Fee is Confusing Interchange fees, or swipe fees, are difficult to understand, and credit card processors like Visa, MasterCard and American Express have provided very little information about these fees, protecting their control and this significant revenue source. (source: www.ctwatchdog.com) Interchange fees began in the 1960s to help banks to cover the cost of processing credit card transactions. The fee is divided between the merchant’s bank, the consumer’s bank and the credit card company. The fee covers processing fees, billing statements, fraud protection, innovations, and other expenses. (source: www.ctwatchdog.com) Interchange fees typically range between 1.0% and 3.5% of every purchase made with a credit ...

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What a GRAT trust to fund before 2010 ends!

Who knows where the estate tax limits will fall in 2011.  It might be 1 million or 3.5 million or higher depending on how the legislators settle on this issue. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Congress is trying to put limits on a popular trust families have used for years to avoid the estate tax. Since this type of trust works best at times when interest rates are low and asset values are depressed, we are urging high net worth clients to look at setting one of these up before Congress decides to make these trusts look like a rainy day in the tax world. This type of trust is known as a GRAT or grantor-retained annuity trust, which allows people to give a portion of an asset’s future profits to heirs tax-free. The trusts we have found can be very popular for clients who have a family business that is expected to increase in value or may have stock ...

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Do You Spend Too Much?

One of the trends I have noticed among family households is the notion of unconscious spending.  This can happen for both what we would consider fixed expenses (gas, electric, phone, cable), and also for discretionary expenses (dining out, vacation, household purchases). You are often very conscious about what you spend when you don’t have any money or at the stage when you have a low income. Your thought process often revolves around what your net pay is from your weekly or bi-weekly check, and wondering whether you are going to have enough money to cover the basics monthly bills.  You dream for the day when you make enough money so you can splurge to buy a few of the items you have always dreamed of having, or thinking about that vacation spot you have always wanted to visit. There becomes a point for many people that you begin to make enough money to cover your bills, and you have more ...

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