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How to be Tax Efficient with Your Investments

Tax efficient investing involves strategies to help reduce the impact of taxes. Investments have three tax flavors: taxable, tax-deferred and tax-exempt. Taxable requires gains to be paid as they are earned each year. These include investments like CDs and money market funds. Tax-deferred gains remain sheltered from taxes until withdrawn for retirement at age 59 ½ like 401(k)s or IRAs. Tax-exempt interest is not taxable either by federal or state taxes.

To determine the tax effect of your investments, you must know which tax bracket you’re in and if capital gains rules apply. The highest investment income minus the lowest taxes due is your investment goal. So focus on placing fully taxable investments in tax-deferred accounts.

Don’t make the common mistake of putting investments that have tax benefits into an IRA. You will lose those tax benefits since all distributions from traditional IRAs are 100% taxable.

Let us help you make tax efficient investments in your portfolio. Give us a call today.

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Have You Protected Your Financial Accounts From Hackers?

A question we frequently ask our clients is whether they’re protecting their financial accounts from hackers.
We recommend starting with secure password practices.

Once a hacker steals just one password, they can potentially steal your entire identity, mainly because most people use the same password for multiple online accounts.

Creating different passwords for your accounts is one way to keep them out of the hands of hackers.
Strong passwords are also important; a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols makes your passwords more secure.

Make sure to review your credit card statements for unauthorized activity and take advantage of any card usage alerts offered.

And monitor your credit report for suspicious activity through the three major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

For more information on protecting your financial accounts, give us a call today.

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Why You Need a Divorce Financial Planner?

Video Transcript:

A question we’re often asked is, I know I need an attorney for my divorce, but are there other professionals I should hire?

Absolutely! Attorneys know the law, but law school does not provide the necessary training to competently offer divorce financial planning advice.

You need a divorce financial planner – someone with the experience, expertise, education and ethics to model your specific finances.

When we do math modeling with couples going through divorce, nobody ends up in a financially stressed household.

We’ll show you how you and your spouse will pay your bills after the divorce, and on what financial foundation you’ll build future wealth.

We start by creating what we call a base case – a model that shows where you are today as a couple, and then where you’re going as two separate people.

You’ll then want to share this modeling with your attorney – because armed with your divorce financial planner and our reports, you’ll have the financial confidence to enter into negotiations.

Call us today to avoid going into negotiations unprepared – your financial future depends on it.

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How Are Your Social Security Benefits Calculated?

Video Transcript:

We all think we know the basics about Social Security, but do we really know how different the benefits can be? The standard retirement age is between 65 and 67, depending on your birthday. Your monthly income, also called your PIA, is determined by your highest 35 years of indexed earnings. You can start taking benefits as early as age 62, but your monthly income will be reduced by at least 25%. Say your full retirement age is exactly 66 years old, then you can delay until age 70 and your monthly income will be 32% higher

Your strategy needs to be based upon a number of factors: how much retirement income you need, other sources of income, income taxes and your general health condition. Other factors also weigh in, like survivor needs, divorce, dependent children, and available liquid assets.

Proper planning requires attention to all these details. Give us a call today for help with planning your Social Security strategies.

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How to Allocate Assets Within Your Portfolio When You Retire

Video Transcript

If you’re nearing retirement, you may need to consider asset allocation in a different way. Be aware that asset allocation cannot eliminate the risk of fluctuating prices and uncertain returns. When you were younger, you may have invested in stocks and mutual funds for the growth and perhaps the diversification offered. You had time on your side. You invested for the long haul and could weather the ups and downs of the stock market.

But when you’re nearing or in retirement, the ground rules change. Losses are difficult to recover and your income stream could suffer just when you’re counting on it. Often, a balance between stocks and bonds is used because these investments usually move in opposite directions. This is where asset allocation comes into play. Because investments may go up and down, and your financial needs may vary, your planning must allow for contingencies. Various types of investments can help accomplish this.

By allocating investments for growth potential, guaranteed income, risk management, and taxes, we can develop a strategy to help you meet your financial goals. Please give us a call today to find out how you can allocate your assets for your retirement.

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Do You Need a Durable Power of Attorney?

Video Transcript

The durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows a trusted person to act in your place if you’re incapacitated. If you are unable to act on your own due to accident or illness, they can step in to take action for you. They can pay bills, or control investments, or even make decisions about health care issues.

Many people prefer to keep their medical and financial directives separate. The durable power of attorney is different from the power of attorney. The durable power remains in effect after you become incapacitated. The person acting for you is then called your agent.

Your agent does not have to be a financial expert. They’re just someone you trust completely. They could even take care of daily things for you, like opening mail and making bank deposits.

We believe everyone needs an estate plan and a durable power of attorney is one of the instruments you may want to consider as part of your plan. And be aware, if you do not make preparations for your future, the courts may have to make important decisions for you. Let us help you prepare for the future. Give us a call today.

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How Will Divorce Affect Your Finances?

Video Transcript

Divorce has a psychological, emotional and financial impact on an entire family. The financial impact can be considerable as income changes and costs for support rise. Be prepared. Statistics show that only 42% of custodial single parents who are awarded child support in 2011, for instance, received all of the child support money that was due.

Nine states are community property states, which means assets acquired during the marriage by either spouse will generally be divided equally. The remaining states are based on equitable distribution, which does not necessarily mean an equal distribution. The court will consider many tangible and intangibles in coming to a decision on how to divide your assets. People facing divorce sometimes don’t get all they deserve because they’re anxious to get it over with.

But don’t rush through this. Don’t willingly give up what you have a right to, especially if you have custody of children since your financial situation impacts them as well. If you and your spouse can’t come to an amicable agreement about the terms of your divorce, you will each most likely consult an attorney. Be sure to also consult a financial advisor to seek investment planning advice prior to a divorce settlement.

You’ll want to assess the real value of your assets and take tax consequences into consideration. For help with this difficult situation, give us a call today.

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What are the differences between Individual and Group disability insurance policies?

Video Transcript

A common question people ask is, “What are the differences between individual and group disability policies?”

There are 4 key differences. First, group long term disability benefits are usually taxable income to the recipient. However, individual policy benefits are not taxable income.

Second, group policies do not contain the true specialty occupation definition of disability. In other words, they penalize you if you do, or possibly even if you could, earn income from another job. An individual policy can provide the true specialty definition, meaning you could work in another job without impacting policy benefits.

Third, group policies do not provide a recovery benefit. A well designed individual policy would provide a long-term recovery benefit.

This is a vital benefit as a large percentage of claimants recover and return to work, but their income often never recovers

And fourth, group policies can be changed, reduced, or even eliminated at any time by an employer without your consent. Bottom line, you’re not in control!

An individual policy can be noncancelable and guaranteed renewable.

This means you call the shots. The insurance company cannot change or alter any aspect of the policy without your approval.

Billy Gwaltney is a disability expert. If you would like him to help you obtain the best coverage, please call or text us at (704) 707-5788.

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Is Estate Planning Only For The Rich?

Video Transcript

You’ve worked so hard to build your net worth, but it could fall into a sinkhole if you don’t do estate planning. Estate planning isn’t just for the rich, it is a necessity for everyone, and estate plan will allow you to pass along what you own to whom you want to receive it, the way want them to receive it, and when you want them to receive it. A will is a good start. Seventy percent of Americans with children under 18 in the household don’t have wills. If you don’t make a will, the courts may decide the distributions of your assets for you.

The will should take into account all you own and all the potential beneficiaries. One element of the will should be the living will, where you specify medical directions for life support by artificial means. Another element of the will should be durable power of attorney; this allows someone else to act on your behalf in case you are incapacitated. It’s important that all investment titling and beneficiary designations are working in concert with your will or other estate planning documents. Speak with your estate and tax planning professionals to evaluate any potential tax ramifications and call us today to learn more about strategies and resources that may help you preserve your nest egg.

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The 3 Stages of Your Financial Life

Video Transcript

What are the three stages in your financial life? The first stage is preparing for life’s uncertainties. The second stage is managing your net worth and the third stage is managing retirement and your estate. The base of the pyramid is preparing for life’s uncertainties. Insurance is the most cost-effective way to deal with this.

Insurance can include life and health insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, home and auto insurance and insurance against other perils. Adequate liquidity in your investments or in cash to cover emergencies along with a will is important.

The next level involves managing your money. Investment strategies should include diversification and risk management. The best option is to review you goals with a professional.

The top tier addresses retirement and estate planning. The ultimate goal is to ensure that you have income and assets for as long as you live. Your investments should be in line with your specific situation, goals and risk tolerance. An estate planning professional can provide you with documents necessary to ensure a planned distribution to beneficiaries. The three stages sound simple yet few people adequately prepare for any of them.

We can work with your tax and legal professionals to develop a plan to help you reach your financial goals. So please give us a call today.

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