Member Blogs

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  • Selecting where to live later in retirement is a big decision that involves one new major consideration: our health care. The big question is: Will we each make the last housing decision on our own and ahead of time; or will we have a non-choice thrust upon us when a health crisis hits?
  • Next week (February 3-7, 2020)  is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week and you need to know that you can fall prey to scammers whether they contact you directly or find some behind-the-scenes way to operate. A scammer can obtain your Social Security number illegally and file a tax return without your knowledge, The thieves will make [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Arm Yourself with Information to Stop Tax Identity Theft is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • At my first opportunity, I tried to research smart home technology and its impact on personal finance. I couldn’t find a single article out there. Smart home technology has been around for a little while, but while everyone is caught up in the functionality of it, it doesn’t appear that many people have considered its effects financially. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Having prepared taxes for almost a decade, I have learned what our best clients do to get ready for tax preparation.  US Income Tax law is quite complicated and can be intimidating if not overwhelming.  Before entering the financial planning profession,  I used outside preparers for my increasingly complex personal return.  At that time, I… [Continue] (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Can You Spot The Hidden Trend? Can you spot the hidden trend? A major demographic trend that is driving the U.S. economy and financial markets is right here in front of your eyes, but it’s not so easy to see without a trained eye. If you knew what to look for, you’d see that China, Japan, Germany, and other major economies are grappling with a decline in their working-age population in the decades ahead, while the U.S. working-age population is expected to grow. Since growth in the size of the labor force is one of the two determinants in economic growth, it’s a key fundamental factor that will shape the future of financial markets. With the working age population stalling, Europe’s economic growth is sluggish. To stimulate the economy, Germany’s central bank has pushed lending rates into negative territory, which is unprecedented. Germany is the world’s second largest issuer of government-backed bonds and its action has depressed interest rates on U.S. Treasury Bonds. While the demographic trend is hidden in plain sight, it’s set to shape growth in major economies across the globe for the decades ahead, and it means low interest rate conditions could persist for years. No one can predict the next move in the stock market, but demographics are fairly stable and predictable. This is an important trend. Be sure your strategic investment plan — especially, your portfolio’s allocation to bonds — is in sync with this key fundamental. Please contact us with any questions fulbrightteam@moneyful.com or to set up a meeting, and don't hesitate to share this video with people who might benefit from our work.
  • “With backgrounds in design thinking and software engineering, the founders of Airbnb (Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk) leveraged technologyto develop a web based user interface that made finding, selecting, and booking travel easier. In the process, they also made it easy for homeowners to earn extra income, whether that be through renting a second home or simply listing a spare bedroom. In one decade, Airbnb transformed what it means to go on vacation. The homeshare juggernaut turns homeowners into hosts, guest rooms into cash cows, and overnight stays into dynamic encounters and lasting friendships. Its very name has become synonymous with finding unique short-term stays anywhere in theworld, enjoying great services and hospitality, and having amazing experiences. Airbnb is a noun, a verb, an adjective, and a movement — and the rest of the industry simply can’t keep up. But competition isn’t what defines this phenom of the sharing economy, community does. Its leaders blended innovative digital tools and a global village spirit to build unprecedented brand loyalty — at a time when most brands struggle to just stay visible.
  • After an initial sense of freedom, many retirees experience anxiety, fear and boredom. If you don’t replace your career with something meaningful you may miss the sense of accomplishment and achievement that comes from completing projects, getting raises, promotions, bonuses or landing a new account.
  • Recent changes signed into law at the end of 2019 through the Secure Act regarding 401(k) and IRA distributions may not only affect your retirement planning, these changes may create a need to review your estate planning as well. Barron’s (New Rules for Stretch IRAs and RMDs Have Raised Many Questions. Barron’s’ Found Answers) and [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. The Secure Act May Alter Your Retirement and Estate Planning is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • Vision proves that all things are possible. Thousands of concepts that are common today were once considered utterly impossible, completely absurd, and unattainable. Imagine the laughter and mockery that you would have experienced 150 years ago if you discussed the idea of carrying multitudes of people across the globe in a metal shell with wings, traveling thousands of miles in only hours, or talking to someone from a great distance with a handheld wireless device. There are so many great discoveries and inventions that are not that impressive today, because we have learned to look beyond. Those are just glimpses of what vision is capable of achieving. Clearly the successes that are going to exist tomorrow are not seen today, but someone’s vision will bring them into play. Why not yours? Joining us for our discussion You Can Achieve Anything is Thomas W. Jones who is calling in from his Stamford, CT office. Thomas W. Jones is founder and senior partner of venture capital investment firm TWJ Capital LLC. He previously served as Chief Executive Officer of Global Investment Management at Citigroup; Vice Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer at TIAA-CREF; and Senior Vice President and Treasurer at John Hancock Insurance Company. Jones received masters degrees from Cornell University and Boston University, and holds honorary doctoral degrees from Howard University, Pepperdine University, and College of New Rochelle. His latest book is From Willard Straight to Wall Street: A Memoir Welcome to Mastering Your Money, is Thomas W. Jones
  • Essential Financial Strategies is pleased to announce a new service–The Strategic College Plan.   This service helps families figure out how to pay for college while minimizing  the future burden of college student loans.   Using a sophisticated knowledge base, Rorik Larson assists families to predict their Expected Family Contribution.  Then they can select colleges that fit… [Continue] (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Evaluate your current situation and determine how well prepared you are for retirement. Calculate the value of your retirement nest egg and develop a retirement budget.
  • There are so many things that change when someone retires and one of the factors that new retirees have a tough time managing is their changing cash flow. For so many years, they have been dedicated to putting money into their retirement accounts, but what happens when they have to take it out? Today we are going to look at required minimum distributions: what they are, how they work, and the many ways they can impact you. Let’s dive in. Understanding RMDsRequired minimum distributions are annual IRS mandated withdraws from qualifying retirement accounts. This system was created so that the IRS can collect taxes from your accounts that have previously remained tax-free. RMDs apply to accounts that have been contributed to and growing tax-free for many years and act as a way to get those taxes back. An RMD, in essence, is an amount of money you have to take out of your retirement accounts, on or before December 31, each year once you turn 72. Your first RMD is the only time when you don’t have to withdraw the funds by December 31. The first year you begin your RMDs, you can wait until April 1 of the following year to take them. Say, for example, your 72nd birthday was in March 2019, by September 2019 you will have turned 72. According to the rules, you don’t have to take your first RMD until April 1st of 2020. By waiting until April, you would then have to take a second RMD at the end of December to account for both the current and previous years. Since waiting would cause two distributions in the same year, many people choose to take their first RMD in the year that they turn 72. All distributions from your qualifying retirement accounts are taxed as ordinary income, which can play an important part in your tax planning strategy. By taking two distributions in one year, you could raise your income enough to bump you into a higher tax bracket that comes with a heftier tax bill. Be sure you work with your financial planner and tax professional to help you make smart, tax-efficient choices with your RMDs. Should you forget or not withdraw enough money from your qualified accounts, the IRS will issue a 50% penalty on the money that was supposed to have been withdrawn, making RMDs a crucial part of your financial plan in retirement. Knowing your qualified accountsEarlier we said that RMDs were tied to qualified retirement accounts so it is important to know which accounts you’ll need to be aware of. Here are the accounts that have an RMD from the IRS: 401(k) 403(b) 457(b) Traditional IRA SEP IRA SIMPLE IRA SARSAP IRA Roth 401(k) For RMDs it is important to note that each account is viewed independently. So if you have two IRAs and a 401(k), you will need to take a separate RMD for each account to avoid the penalty. The only account that does not have an RMD is a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is free from RMDs because Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars. Since you paid taxes on the money upon contribution, you don’t need to pay taxes at distribution. It is important to note that a Roth IRA remains free from RMDs as long as the account owner is alive. If the account owner passes away, the beneficiary who inherited the IRA will have to take RMDs. The IRS has a table to help you determine how to handle your inherited IRA. Calculating your RMDsYour RMD will change each year and is determined by two factors Your account balance Your age Calculating your RMD may seem daunting, but the process is really simple. First, you start with your account balance on the previous December 31. Next, you will use the IRS table detailing a life expectancy factor based on your age. You then divide those two numbers (account balance from prior Dec. 31 and life expectancy number) to get your RMD. In order to plan for your future RMDs, use an online calculator to help you estimate your RMDs from your qualified accounts. Remember, you have to take out the required amount by December 31 to avoid the penalty. It is also important to note that if you withdraw more money than you need to, that extra money isn’t credited for future RMDs. Each RMD is separate year to year and no money can be rolled over. Using your RMDsRMDs are attached to many of the saving vehicles you have used for most of your working career. Many retirees rely on those distributions to help fund their living expenses or retirement lifestyle. But there are other options such as donating some or all of your RMDs to charity though a process called qualified charitable distributions (QCDs). RMDs can be difficult to get used to, especially for new retirees. But by understanding the process and working with a detailed professional at your side, you can make the most of them and use them to enhance your life in retirement. Are you interested in exploring new options for your RMDs this year? Give us a call and we would love to help you.
  • The Motley Fool tries to answer a question many people may have in “Am I Too Broke to Invest?” If you are employed and have an emergency fund, you are in a position to invest. And investing doesn’t mean throwing tons of money into the stock market. If you are not ready to get into [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. People Wonder if They Can Afford to InvestWe Say Can You Afford Not to Invest is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • This broad ranging bill was primarily designed to improve the access and ability for Americans to save money for retirement and to increase withdrawal options during their retirement years. While some provisions in the law are clearly intended to raise revenue, the vast majority are designed to help workers reach their retirement goals.
  • All reports point to a 100% mortality rate for humans. Talking about death is uncomfortable for many. It’s difficult to contemplate your own death, and difficult to think about others living on for decades without you. It is a tough topic, but here are the stats: 80% of men die married. 80% of women die []
  • Retirement is hard. It is emotionally hard even if you are fully financially prepared for retirement. It can be jarring for many new retirees to go from an environment of structure, deadlines, and meetings to...well, pretty much none of that. With days no longer occupied with these responsibilities, retirement is like a blank canvas. While this can be liberating, it can also be intimidating as you first gaze upon the pure white canvas—especially if you have no idea what you want to “paint”!
  • To successfully live below your means, identify a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Set financial goals to provide you a sense of purpose and motivation to save money. Spending less than you earn doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life and have nice things.
  • The practice of offering consumers the chance to take a vehicle they might buy on a test-drive has been in place for a long time. And a few years ago, realtors got into letting people “test-drive” homes by spending the night in them. And in “Test-Drive Your Retirement,” Kiplinger.com suggests that instead of just outlining [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Yes, You Can Practice Being Retired is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • First Time Homebuyer?

    Are you thinking of buying your first home? Before you hire a real estate agent or start house hunting, you need to take the time to prepare yourself financially.
  • The boardroom is the pinnacle of business – the highest you can rise. A seat on the board offers you the opportunity to reap the benefits of those hard-won years of experience and judgment. Host Bart Jackson’s featured guest Ms. Genevia Gee Fulbright took her first major bank board seat at the tender age of 31, and she has continued to serve on mainline boards ever since. Founding head of her own CPA firm and noted author on the subject of boards, Fulbright will reveal how to hone the required skills, establish yourself as a candidate, deal with the politics, and what to expect at the directors’ table. Discover the fast track, and learn the inside view.
  • Genevia Gee Fulbright discuss how Board Diversity can help improve better corporate vision
  • The SECURE Act has been passed by the House, Senate, and signed into law by the President last week. SECURE stands for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement. While some provisions are intended to raise revenue, most of the changes are designed to boost retirement savings. While there are many tax changes, I will briefly (i.e., not detailing all of the nuances) describe just the three biggest changes affecting clients in this blog post.
  • It’s hard to believe that a new year is upon us. But this January marks more than just a new year, it brings a new decade as well! The allure of a fresh start gets many people excited and ready to make healthier choices for themselves and the people around them. This often leads to creating a laundry list of resolutions—things we want to change or alter about ourselves to help us reach a certain end-goal. But as you know, either by proxy or first-hand experience, resolutions don’t always work. In fact, nearly 80% of people who make new year’s resolutions break them by mid-February. So why do we start each year with a statement, wish, or promise that will most likely not get us through winter? Resolutions come from a place of positivity and introspection. They are a catalyst for change but perhaps aren’t the most efficient vehicles to help us get there. This year, you can do something different. You can change your resolution into something that can help you make the change you wish to see: a goal. Turn a resolution into a goalA resolution is simple. It is a decision to either do or not do something. A goal, on the other hand, is more complex. A goal is the object of a person’s ambition, it is their aim or desired result. A resolution is something you do (well, for only 8% of the year at least) and a goal establishes a pattern of behavior to help you reach a result. When you start to set new goals for yourself, you are working toward a larger purpose. This ideal helps you set big-picture goals knowing that it will take time, dedication, and attention to get there. This is what sets goals apart. By nature, they are something to be worked toward. They aren’t a quick fix, rather they ask more from you. This difference can make a huge impact on the way you think about your finances. For example, some people make a resolution to spend less in a given year. This is an arbitrary statement, one that doesn’t have a purpose behind it. Instead, ask yourself some questions to help get at the root of the problematic behavior you wish to change. What areas in your life are you overspending? Do you know of any large expenses coming up? How can you plan for your spending in a more comprehensive way? Making a resolution like the one above doesn’t work because it fails to answer these and other questions about the larger implications. If you decided to create a goal, however, to revamp your budget by saving an extra $50 each month for gifts so you don’t overspend during the holidays, you are establishing a healthy pattern for you and your finances. Creating financial goals is an important part of your financial plan. As you work to create your goals for the new year, think about the things that are coming up in your life. What do you want to work toward this year? What financial resources will be needed to help you reach your goals? Are there any changes you’ll need to implement to help you get there? The most important thing is that you don’t create your goals in a vacuum. They need meaning, value, and purpose. Give your goals a purposeCreating a goal for yourself isn’t enough to help you establish healthy patterns with your finances. When you create your financial goals, it is important to give them meaning and intention . Your goals should be specific and particular to your life. As you create your goals, take some time to think through how they answer the following questions: What are your core values? How are your goals aligned with those values? What areas of your financial life could be improved by refocusing them on the people, places, and things that mean the most to you? In what ways will reaching these goals enrich your life and the lives of others? By creating goals that answer these questions, you are bringing an added level of intention into your financial life. When your financial habits are aligned with your values, you will be more likely to make smart, positive choices that help lead you to your goals. When talking about setting new goals, many people are concerned about sticking with them and one of the best ways to stick with your goals is by creating them with the intention behind them. That intention will help give you the motivation you need to make the choices that will help you reach them. Create your goals togetherRemember, your financial goals shouldn’t be created in isolation. Include your spouse or your loved ones as you set and work toward your goals. When you work together, you will each be able to help and support each other throughout the journey. Along with your spouse, you can also make your goals with your financial planner. As you think about what this new year will bring, you may realize that working with a professional is the right move to help you get your finances where you want them to be. Just like someone who wanted to get in shape but didn’t know where to start may hire a fitness coach, someone who wants to get their finances in order but doesn’t have a clear direction would really benefit from working with a planner. A planner can help give you the tools you didn’t even know were there and can provide you with the resources and support to set, reach, and stick to your financial goals. Here at Step by Step, we believe that cultivating good financial habits will help you reach your goals. We would love to work with you to help you discover your goals and carve a path to reach them. Set up a time to talk to us, we can’t wait to hear from you!
  • Are you feeling a little remorse about the money you spent over the holidays? There is an online meme where a parentjokes about taking all of the holiday presents back because the children are behaving. Isn’t that how it is with the things we buy sometimes? They don’t produce the expected result or function quite [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Dont Let Holiday Spending Guilt Trip You Up is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • I have noticed over the years that clients that have financial peace of mind also have is to sufficient liquidity or cash on hand/emergency funds.   Having these funds available helps me and others feel a greater sense of abundance.  It helps cover the financial chaos of life and the ability to pay for life… [Continue] (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • A new movie version of the classic novel Little Women will be in theaters during the holiday season. The book’s author, Louisa May Alcott, wrote a book about young women that was suitable enough to sell but also included some of her own unconventional ideas in the text however she could and offered various illustrations [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Amys Will: Estate Planning in Little Women is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • Spend time working on your finances and approach it as an opportunity. Wealthy people devote at least 2 hours a week thinking about and managing their money. If you don’t understand finances, educate yourself.
  • The Motley Fool asked readers “How Much Time Does the Average American Spend on Personal Finance?”  Rather than look at the actual time in minutes or hours, we can say that the answer for many people is: not enough. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and from Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Planning Progress Study, [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Investing Time in Financial Planning Pays Off is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • IRMAA stands for Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount, and it applies to Medicare Part B and Part D premiums. In layman’s terms, if your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain level, there is an additional surcharge to your Medicare Part B and Part D premiums. Unless you like paying more for Medicare, IRMAA is something you would want to avoid, if possible. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • What is your favorite combination? There are so many incredible pairs out there: chocolate and peanut butter, salt and pepper, pen and paper, the list goes on and on. But one dynamic duo that you may have left off the list and go just as well (if not better) together is tax preparation and financial planning. Now, you may be thinking that this combination isn’t nearly as enticing as the Reeses cup brownie you’ve been trying not to snack on, but tax preparation and financial planning complement each other in many vital ways. Today, I am excited to dive into the relationship between these two tools and how they truly are better together. What is tax preparation?Tax preparation is an annual process where you prepare your financial documents (and checkbooks) to send to the IRS. Many people are intimidated by tax preparation because of the nuances and intricacies of the process including deductions and ever-changing tax law. The IRS has various rules and regulations and if not filed correctly can lead to bigger headaches and costly penalties which leads people to seek help when filing season comes around. Traditionally, you would need to seek out this service separate from your traditional financial planner. Why is that? Well, tax preparation and financial planning require two different types of work. Financial planning looks at your comprehensive financial strategy and helps you make smart choices to build your wealth and live the life you want. Tax preparation, on the other hand, is a process that happens once per year. Often people assume that their financial planner will also help them prepare and file their yearly taxes, but that often is not the case. The two are quite different in terms of process and function which leads them looking for a different tax professional. But we believe that the two should go hand-in-hand, and we build in tax preparation services into each offering for our clients. Tax prep requires strong knowledge in tax law, IRS rules and regulations, and fluency in the proper paperwork, timing, and other procedures. We find that tax preparation is a pain point for our clients and have decided to do things differently: combine planning and tax preparation together. How they work togetherIn financial planning, we talk about taxes all the time. Tax planning is another facet of our business and something that we believe is integral to helping clients reach their goals. Tax planning is different from tax preparation because tax planning is a comprehensive strategy that promotes healthy, tax-efficient fiscal habits that will help you build wealth over time. Tax planning is woven into so many aspects of your financial plan that you may not even realize such as: Contributing to retirement accounts Charitable giving strategies Tax bracket considerations Diversification in asset management Using various savings channels We focused on so many tax-efficient strategies for giving to charities over the past couple of months from donor-advised funds to qualified charitable distributions , to legacy planning all of which are done in a way to be as tax-efficient as possible. Once we have implemented these tax-friendly strategies into your financial plan, it doesn’t stop there. We help you actually navigate the results of those moves and ensure they are accurately reflected on your tax return. By combining financial planning, tax planning, and tax preparation, you are able to feel confident knowing that you have a comprehensive strategy in place and that each piece of this puzzle is taken care of. The Step by Step wayHere at Step by Step, we believe that strong financial planning and precise tax preparation go hand in hand. Each has its own place in your overall financial strategy and with us, you know that both of them are getting done right. We know our clients: their goals, values, and priorities which gives us the wonderful opportunity of being able to assist them in a personal way. We incorporate tax preparation into each service that we offer so that you don’t have to stress when tax time comes. Tax preparation is never an added cost, it is simply just part of who we are and how we believe in serving our clients. Your financial readiness and confidence are so important and by offering both services, we set you up for greater financial success. Taxes can be confusing and stressful for many people, and we want to do what we can to alleviate that stress. We are passionate about the role that strong financial planning and accurate tax preparation play in your financial landscape and would love to see what these services can do for your finances. If you would like to learn more or figure out how this process could work for you, give us a call . We can’t wait to hear from you.
  • 2019 Year in Review

    The kids are growing fast and exploring new activities. Carsyn “retired” from both karate & gymnastics and is now heavily involved in a dance program that includes ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop. Meanwhile Brody continues to enjoy gymnastics and is excited to start ski lessons in January.
  • The words Millennial and Baby Boomers are seldom used in the same sentence. Even more rare, as a way to connect the two generations in a show of solidarity. Today we will discuss these two distinct generations to illustrate how they can learn valuable lessons from each other simply by listening more closely and sharing more freely. Baby Boomers are people born between 1946 to 1964 and Millennials between 1981 to 1996. No artificial barriers should divide the two generations. If we are to understand each other more fully, we should try to embody mutual values and best practices in how to create an ideal quality of life, how to face the future for mutual enrichment, and how to give back to each other and to society at large. Joining us for our discussion Being Entrepreneur is John Jantsch who is calling in from his Hartford, CT office. John Jantsch has owned a business for almost three decades, observing and documenting the entrepreneurial experience through his own unique story. He is the bestselling author of Duct Tape Marketing, The Referral Engine, and more. His books have been translated into ten languages, and his writing has appeared in Inc., Entrepreneur, and Southwest: The Magazine His latest book is The Self-Reliant Emtrepreneur Welcome to Mastering Your Money, is John Jantsch .
  • 2020 is nearly upon us and with it comes higher employee contribution limits for 401k plans. Of course, not everybody is in a position to contribute the max. But no matter how much you are contributing now, I encourage you to increase it for 2020. If you are contributing nothing right now – start with []
  • While we want to encourage people to have wills drawn up and do not want to overwhelm anyone with all that estate planning entails, we have to agree with the writer of “Where There’s a Will, There’s Not Always an Estate Plan who discusses how a will is just the first step. Some people think their [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Estate Planning: A Will is Just the First Step is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • Longest U.S. Expansion Keeps Rolling Third quarter economic growth was just revised upward, and the new monthly personal income figure over the last 12 months, after adjusting for inflation, accelerated sharply. This newly released data confirms that the 10-year-old expansion — already the longest in post-War history — is likely to continue at a modest sustainable pace in the months ahead. First, let’s look at the upward revision to gross domestic product. These are the four components of economic growth — consumers, business investment, exports net of imports, and state and local government spending. Every quarter, the government issues three estimates of the growth rate. The first estimate, released three weeks ago, was for a third-quarter growth rate of 1.93%. The new figure, 2.13%, is the first in a series of three revised estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis before the final third GDP figure for the quarter ended September 30th, will be released on January 10th. An upward revision of 10% is sizable, and most of it came from growth in the rate of business investment, hinting at a bottom in this key factor in the wealth of the nation. This new data confirmed that U.S. growth is being driven by consumer strength and low inflation.
  • Many people are drowning in debt. They must deal with this debt issue in order to move forward in quest to find financial freedom or to be able to have the choice of working or not. Consumer debt including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards & student loans has increased to over $13.51 trillion dollars in the US. You have to make tough decisions about your spending and possibly your income. The most important step is to take action vs hoping your debt will go away. Taking action will forward to financial freedom and avoid you having to experience the pain of hitting rock bottom. You may have to file bankruptcy in order to have the chance at financial freedom. In order to avoid bankruptcy, you must control your spending.
  • As we come to the end of the calendar year, people love to put together an end-of-year checklist for things that normally get overlooked throughout the rest of the year. Just as importantly, there are some opportunities that simply go away (at least for that calendar year) come December 31. If you’re looking to tidy up your finances going into the new year, here are ten places to start. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • The end of a marriage does not have to mean the end of financial stability: in fact, for some women it is just the opposite. Some women find that having no choice but to take control of their own financial planning gives them a confidence they may have not had before. Kiplinger.com published “Financial Confidence [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Study Finds Divorced Women Gain Financial Confidence with Time is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • With stocks hovering around an all-time record high, a growing likelihood of a Federal income tax rate hike by 2021, and the deadline for end-of-year tax tactics closing in fast, this is a timely reminder to run a reality check on your retirement income plan. An unusual confluence of tax, financial-market and political factors make this a particularly good time for high-income and high net worth individuals to check their retirement income plan. Let’s get specific about current conditions: In 2019, the federal government is spending a trillion dollars more than it collected in revenue, and at the end of 2018, the national debt totaled $22 trillion Meanwhile, changing political winds could sweep in higher federal tax rates. Managing your tax bracket now — in case of a hike in federal income tax brackets — could lower your tax bill, not just for 2019 but in the year or two ahead, as well. Proactive tax planning before the end of 2019 may be especially timely for business owners with an interest in a pass-through entity, like an LLC, S corp, or sole proprietorship.
  • Navigating the transition into retirement can be difficult because so many things change! From where you live to how you spend your time to planning for your future, your life is seen from a new vantage point. A topic I see many retirees struggle with is incorporating their charitable efforts into their estate plans. Your charitable ambitions have helped guide your life from the organizations you support to all of the wonderful relationships you have sustained along the way and your passion for giving can also shine through as you plan for your legacy. Let’s explore a few simple action items that you can do to help make your legacy a charitable-focused one. 1. Understand your charitable goalsYour goals are the bedrock for your financial strategy—they inspire your decisions and motivate you to give your life a purpose. So many people find fulfillment and greater meaning in life through the charitable efforts they support through both using their time and financial resources. For you, this effort could be focused on your church community, one where you nurture the financial as well as relational components, a place where you develop a community. Since your community has been so instrumental throughout your life, it only makes sense that you wish to build-in that continued support into your legacy. The first step is understanding what your charitable goals are. Let’s start with a simple question: What does a charitable legacy look like to you? This is a question that only you can answer and it will look different for everyone. For you, it may be that you want to donate a percentage of your estate to your church or charity or perhaps you want to set up a scholarship fund for kids in your community with similar charitable drives as you, or you might even want to set up your own charity or foundation. No matter your goal, start by defining it and working through what your ideal situation would be. With prudent planning and adequate savings, you will be able to incorporate the things that matter most to you in your legacy. Because, after all, your legacy is yours. It should be specific to you and your goals and dreams for the future. If you are struggling to think through how this could take shape, take a step back and evaluate your current charitable efforts. What are you doing now? Is there a way that you can use your current work and build it into part of your legacy? Who can help you attain that? It will be more helpful for you to create a plan when you have a clear understanding of your goals. 2. Amend your estate planYour estate plan comprises of so many documents that outline the plan for your assets. When you are looking to include charitable efforts into your legacy, it is important to focus on the documents that can help you achieve that goal. Once you understand your goals, you will be able to work through the best strategy to implement those goals. That will also help determine the type of assets that will best serve your goals whether that be cash, assets, real estate, or other possessions such as fine art or antiques. You can make this happen by stipulating these wishes in your will. Keep in mind though that your will most likely will need to go through probate, a legal process of authenticating a will and ensuring all assets are distributed properly, which can trigger additional taxes and expenses. There are other vehicles for supporting charitable efforts in your estate plan including a charitable gift annuity, donor-advised fund , family foundation, and appreciated assets. Not every option will be the right fit for you, but with the help of your financial and legal team, you will be able to create an estate plan that is as generous as you. Estate plans aren’t set in stone. You can alter them as you go along and make edits if a significant change occurs in your life. Estate planning is a process and one that is custom to your goals, values, and priorities . 3. Include your loved onesYour loved ones are an important piece of your legacy. How will they impact your legacy? Will you also be leaving assets for your loved ones? Figuring out how you want to include your loved ones in your estate plan can be tricky but be sure you are encouraging an honest dialogue with them. When you are mapping out your plan for your charitable efforts, invite them to join you in these conversations. Spending this time together will allow you to openly express your wishes and get their input on the plan. Open, honest communication is especially important with tough subjects such as these. Legacy planning is a complex process. Take some time to evaluate your value set and uncover how your charitable efforts fit into that. You can incorporate charitable efforts into your legacy in many ways, it is just about finding the way that stays true to you and the people you love most. We are so passionate about extending our hands to help people hone in their charitable efforts. If you would like to discuss your ideas for including charitable giving into your legacy, give us a call . We can’t wait to hear from you!
  • Enough is Enough

    Financial planning for clients during the income stage of life has generally involved strategies for accumulating and growing wealth. While growing wealth is absolutely essential for our retirement security, it is hard for people to know when enough is enough.
  • As people prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, some are looking forward to it and waxing poetic about family togetherness while others are just going to try to grin and bear it. Here is another approach: think about the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to help younger relatives prepare for a better financial future. It can be [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Teachable Moments at Thanksgiving is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • “They are so lucky!”  How often have I heard this exclaimed?  If you are like me, you’ve probably heard something like this a whole bunch of times.   In varying ways I say it to myself as well while not considering in the moment how they created the luck. Sometimes I will say to myself,… [Continue] (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Generally, side hustles are freelance or piecework in nature. Depending on how much time and energy you put into a side hustle, you could earn a significant supplemental income.
  • This quarter is dedicated to exploring the topic of charity and the many ways we express it in our lives. But charitable actions are not something reserved for a certain time of year, rather the spirit of giving needs to transcend this quarter into finding a place in our hearts and minds each day. I’ve been thinking a lot about what charity means in my own life which lead me to explore the origins of the word “charity” and discover how it had been interpreted in the past. The Latin translation struck a particular chord with me. Caritatum is the Latin word for charity and in the Vulgate (the Latin Bible) it is used as a translation of the most powerful type of love in Ancient Greece, agape. Agape is love in its highest manifestation because it centers on respect and care for others, seeking the best for them unconditionally. This is a powerful view of charity because it stretches beyond our typical worldview of charitable efforts. While monetary support is an excellent and important component of charitable giving, it is not the only one. The giving of ourselves for the greater good, that is what charity is all about. Today, I’d like to explore a few ways that you can adopt a new dimension into your charitable efforts: your time. Beyond the financesGiving money in support of your church or local charity is an important part of your financial life. It helps the organization run and strengthens its own outreach efforts, allowing them to continue the good work they do. But there is more to giving than finances, the non-tangible side. As we learned from above, giving isn’t about money it is about people. We give in order to offer support to the people around us and that can be done in so many ways that aren’t financial. You can give your time, talents, and attention to a cause that is most important to you. Now, many people think of donating their time and energy during the holidays, whether it be serving food on Thanksgiving or spending part of Christmas day at the soup kitchen. And while these efforts are incredible, it is important to find ways to extend your giving beyond the holidays and one way to do that is using your gifts and talents to help others. You have a unique set of skills that can be beneficial to the community at large. Perhaps you have a strong financial background, you might consider joining the financial board of your church. Or maybe you are a gifted musician. You can use this gift in weekly services or in volunteer programs that bring music to nursing homes or other care facilities. Be proactive in finding where the need is and then use your skills to help fill that need. You can also be vigilant about saying yes to upcoming opportunities. You might find out that your church or community are all volunteering for a building project. Take the opportunity to help others through volunteer work and fellowship with your community at large. Charitable giving is about making connections with the people in your life. Drawing closer to your community is a wonderful way to collectively be apart of something bigger than yourselves. Impact-focused lifeWhat is the driving force of your life? Woah, you probably weren’t expecting such a deep question reading this financial blog, but the answers that come from exploring this question set the tone for the way you want to live your life and how your finances can support that vision. Increasing your charitable efforts is a great way to live a more impact-focused life. You may not always be in a position to offer financial support the way you want to, but that doesn’t mean your efforts need to stop. Use your passions to help those around you and that dedication will make a positive impact on your life and the community at large. Being charitable really means giving of our time and talents freely, without reservation, expectation, or desire for reciprocation. That is what it really means to honor and love ourselves and the community. Here at Step by Step, we are dedicated to working with people who want to make a positive impact in their home and their community. We would love to talk with you about incorporating charitable giving into your financial plan.
  • As your income increases your tax rate increases. In addition to increases in your tax rate, retirees incur three additional taxes/expenses when they reach certain income thresholds. These include taxation on a larger portion of your Social Security benefit, the 3.8 percent Medicare surtax on net investment income and an increase in Medicare premiums.
  • Credit cards can be a very handy tool to have in your toolbox, but when misused, can inflict significant damage. Depending on your spending habits and intended use for the card, one card may be more beneficial to own than another.
  • When I tell people I am a financial advisor, they sometimes ask the inevitable question: “Do you have any hot stock tips?” The GI doctor about to do my screening colonoscopy asked me this while I was lying in the fetal position. Awkward! No, I do not have any stock tips – hot or cold. []
  • The market once again has hit an all time high. That’s good, right? But, oddly enough, I sense some skepticism in the air. Can the market sustain these values? Will the impeachment proceedings harm our economy? From other angles I hear the economy is strong and has room to move ahead. It just depends who you listen to. The political landscape is Continue reading