The Estate Planning Essentials

The Estate Planning Essentials

As a financial planner, I like to be as prepared as possible for the unknowns in life. This allows me to have peace-of-mind knowing that major issues have already been addressed. As life evolves, no one can be certain about the future, but one aspect you can control is your legacy through a comprehensive estate plan. A comprehensive estate plan can be comprised of a variety of documents, but the base estate plan should include a last will and testament, durable power of attorney, and medical power of attorney and directive. These documents guide your appointed agent(s) to ensure your medical and financial wishes are taken care of and your financial legacy passes in accordance with the guidelines laid out as smoothly as possible. Having an estate plan in place prior to a life changing event, cognitive issues, or death can help ensure that the decisions made by the individual are honored.

Your Student’s Income Won’t Hurt Their Financial Aid

Your Student’s Income Won’t Hurt Their Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) collects demographic, income, and asset information from student applicants and their families. This information is used to calculate a student’s eligibility to receive any financial aid for college expenses based on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is calculated according to a formula that is established by the federal government and is a measure of a family’s financial strength. Schools consider the EFC as one of several factors to determine the amount, if any, a student may be awarded for that school year. Simply put, students are eligible to receive need-based student aid if the sum of their EFC and other estimated financial assistance is less than the total cost of attendance.

Don’t Fret the Fed

Don’t Fret the Fed

In a widely anticipated, yet highly debated, move, the Federal Reserve (Fed) announced this past Wednesday it is cutting interest rates. The Fed lowered the federal funds target rate range by 0.25%, from 2.25%-2.50% to 2.25%-2.00%. This marks the first time the Fed has cut interest rates since 2008. So, why was the Fed’s decision so controversial?

Don’t Fall for These Common Financial Scams

Don’t Fall for These Common Financial Scams

Everyone, young and old alike, can be a target for fraud. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission collected 1.4 million fraud reports. People reported losing a whopping $1.48 billion to fraud in 2018, which is an increase of 38% from 2017.  Of people that included their age in reports, those aged 20-29 reported the loss of money in 43% of reports compared to 15% for those aged 70-79. However, the loss amount reported was nearly twice as high for ages 70-79.

Is The American Dream Dead?

Is The American Dream Dead?

The American Dream consists of baseball, warm apple pies, and homeownership. As I near the end of my mid-twenties, many of my peers are trying to realize the American Dream of purchasing their perfect starter home. Over the years, my cohorts have casually been looking to find the deal of the century in a move-in-ready starter home at a low price. But even the starter homes that require major renovations and improvements have come with lofty price tags.

Understanding Your Federal Student Loans: Part 3

Understanding Your Federal Student Loans: Part 3

The first two articles in the series, “Understanding Your Federal Student Loans”, provided an introduction to student loans, how to evaluate your loan options, and incentives associated with Federal loans.  The final article, Part 3, in this series will explore the alternatives to traditional, federal student loans.

TCJA – The AMT and Why You May Be Pleasantly Surprised this Tax Season

TCJA – The AMT and Why You May Be Pleasantly Surprised this Tax Season

The changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 are now being felt full fledge, and despite early fears, some filers have been pleasantly surprised by their tax returns for 2018. Historically, one of the more loathsome tax rules over the years was the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which disproportionately impacted earners in the Northeast and West Coast where wages and cost of living are higher.  In 2018, the rules around AMT have changed increasing the amount of income you must earn to be impacted by the tax.

Tips For Tax Refund

Tips For Tax Refund

Before treating yourself on a new flat screen tv, consider your long-term finances and how one smart decision today can have a positive impact going forward. Although saving and investing are always a key to long term financial freedom, it may not be the best use of a tax refund windfall based on your current situation. There are a few things to consider before deciding on how a tax refund should be used:

Super Bowl Winners and Stock Returns

Super Bowl Winners and Stock Returns

The National Football League (NFL) season reached its conclusion yesterday when the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia to win the Super Bowl. While New England Patriots fans are busy celebrating their sixth Super Bowl win in the past eighteen years and Los Angeles Rams fans are licking their wounds, some investors are looking to the final score to get a sense of how the stock market is likely to perform for the rest of the year.

An Umbrella What?

An Umbrella What?

Protecting yourself and your family is top priority for most, and households purchase different types of insurance to ensure that they are properly covered from unforeseen events.

A very important form of insurance that people frequently overlook is Excess Personal Liability, which is commonly referred to as Umbrella insurance. Umbrella insurance provides additional liability coverage above the limits established through other basic liability policies like auto and homeowner’s/renter’s. Umbrella insurance is designed to help guard against large and potentially devastating liability claims or judgments caused from bodily injury, property damage, lawsuits, libel, and slander.

Credit Card Conundrum

Credit Card Conundrum

Although credit cards have a negative connotation, they can be a useful tool to have in your wallet. There is a wide array of benefits associated with different types of cards, i.e. cash back, reward points, etc. The card you choose can have a significant impact on your financial wellbeing, so here are some steps to help select the credit card to best fit your needs.

Equifax Breach and Freezing My Credit

The Equifax hack has raised a number of questions about what you can do to protect yourself. Reed Fraasa, President of HIGHLAND, shares his experience with freezing his credit along with providing some helpful resources.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have been 7,900 data breaches involving over 1 billion records of personal information from January 2005 to September 2017.   The recent Equifax breach is one of fifteen mega breaches over the last ten years involving major corporations’ consumer data.  I finally decided to freeze both my wife’s and my data last week.  Here is what I learned from the process:

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Have you ever made yourself sit through a horrible movie because, having paid for the ticket, you felt you had to get your money's worth? Some people treat their investments in a similar manner. 

Behavioral economists refer to this propensity of people and organizations to stick with a losing strategy purely on the basis that they have already sunk so much time and money into it already as the "sunk cost fallacy."  

The Next Generation of Banking

Technology has advanced in ways many thought wouldn't be possible and has solved problems we didn't even know existed. At the forefront of this movement has been the financial services industry, which has developed technology that has completely changed the banking experience over the past decade. Gone are the days of going to a bank branch and waiting in line to make a deposit or withdrawal; the digital age has made transacting quicker and easier than before. Below I have highlighted two recent technology advancements in the banking industry that could further revolutionize the customer experience.