July 2016 Blog Posts

  • Financial Planning: Helping You See the Big Picture

    July 29, 2016

    Financial Planning

    Do you picture yourself owning a new home, starting a business, or retiring comfortably? These are a few of the financial goals that may be important to you, and each comes with a price tag attached.

    That's where financial planning comes in. Financial planning is a process that can help you target your goals by evaluating your whole financial picture, then outlining strategies that are tailored to your individual needs and available resources.

    Why is financial planning important?

    A comprehensive financial plan serves as a framework for organizing the pieces of your financial picture. With a financial plan in place, you'll be better able to focus on your goals and understand what it will take to reach them.
    *There is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results.

    Common financial goals

    • Saving and investing for retirement
    • Saving and investing for college
    • Establishing an emergency fund
    • Providing for your family in the event of your death
    • Minimizing income or estate taxes

    One of the main benefits of having a financial plan is that it can help you balance competing financial priorities. A financial plan will clearly show you how your financial goals are related--for example, how saving for your children's college education might impact your ability to save for retirement. Then you can use the information you've gleaned to decide how to prioritize your goals, implement specific strategies, and choose suitable products or services. Best of all, you'll know that your financial life is headed in the right direction.

    The financial planning process

    Creating and implementing a comprehensive financial plan generally involves working with financial professionals to:

    • Develop a clear picture of your current financial situation by reviewing your income, assets, and liabilities, and evaluating your insurance coverage, your investment portfolio, your tax exposure, and your estate plan
    • Establish and prioritize financial goals and time frames for achieving these goals
    • Implement strategies that address your current financial weaknesses and build on your financial strengths
    • Choose specific products and services that are tailored to help meet your financial objectives*
    • Monitor your plan, making adjustments as your goals, time frames, or circumstances change

    Some members of the team

    The financial planning process can involve a number of professionals.
    Financial planners typically play a central role in the process, focusing on your overall financial plan, and often coordinating the activities of other professionals who have expertise in specific areas.
    Accountants or tax attorneys provide advice on federal and state tax issues.
    Estate planning attorneys help you plan your estate and give advice on transferring and managing your assets before and after your death.
    Insurance professionals evaluate insurance needs and recommend appropriate products and strategies. Investment advisors provide advice about investment
    June 27, 2016 Page 1 of 2, see disclaimer on final page
    options and asset allocation, and can help you plan a strategy to manage your investment portfolio.
    The most important member of the team, however, is you. Your needs and objectives drive the team, and once you've carefully considered any recommendations, all decisions lie in your hands.

    Why can't I do it myself?

    You can, if you have enough time and knowledge, but developing a comprehensive financial plan may require expertise in several areas. A financial professional can give you objective information and help you weigh your alternatives, saving you time and ensuring that all angles of your financial picture are covered.

    Staying on track

    The financial planning process doesn't end once your initial plan has been created. Your plan should generally be reviewed at least once a year to make sure that it's up-to-date. It's also possible that you'll need to modify your plan due to changes in your personal circumstances or the economy. Here are some of the events that might trigger a review of your financial plan:

    • Your goals or time horizons change
    • You experience a life-changing event such as marriage, the birth of a child, health problems, or a job loss
    • You have a specific or immediate financial planning need (e.g., drafting a will, managing a distribution from a retirement account, paying long-term care expenses)
    • Your income or expenses substantially increase or decrease
    • Your portfolio hasn't performed as expected
    • You're affected by changes to the economy or tax laws

    Common questions about financial planning

    What if I'm too busy?

    Don't wait until you're in the midst of a financial crisis before beginning the planning process. The sooner you start, the more options you may have.

    Is the financial planning process complicated?

    Each financial plan is tailored to the needs of the individual, so how complicated the process will be depends on your individual circumstances. But no matter what type of help you need, a financial professional will work hard to make the process as easy as possible, and will gladly answer all of your questions.

    What if my spouse and I disagree?

    A financial professional is trained to listen to your concerns, identify any underlying issues, and help you find common ground.

    Can I still control my own finances?

    Financial planning professionals make recommendations, not decisions. You retain control over your finances. Recommendations will be based on your needs, values, goals, and time frames. You decide which recommendations to follow, then work with a financial professional to implement them.

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  • What You Should Do About Student Loan Debt

    July 14, 2016

     Student Loan Debt: We Can Provide the Decision-Making Details You Need

    Did you know that the average student loan balance is $24,803? Student debt is taking a heavy toll on borrowers, according to an American Institute of CPAs survey, which found that 75% of respondents or their children had made personal or financial sacrifices because of monthly student loan payments. Sacrifices included putting off saving for retirement (41%); delaying car purchases (40%); postponing a home purchase (29%); and even waiting on marriage (15%).

    Among the most troubling findings were that only 39% fully understood the burden that student loan debt would place on their future and 60% had at least some regrets about their decisions on financing their education. That’s why it’s always critical to understand the full potential impact of all your financial choices. The good news is that your CPA can help. Contact us with all your financial questions and we’ll provide the knowledge and insights you need to make the best decisions for you.

    Learn more about Student Loan Debt Here.

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  • How To Build a Financial Safety Net

    July 12, 2016

    Financial Safety Net - Financial Planning

    When an emergency happens, you don't want to scrape money from your piggy bank. If you already have a financial safety plan in place, then your protected from your next financial emergency. Setting up a cash reserve of readily available money will help you get through the toughest emergency.

    How Much Money Should I Save For Emergencies?

    Most financial planners recommend saving three to six months of living expenses set aside for an emergency cash reserve. The amount of money you save is different for every household and it should be based on your living circumstances. A few questions you should ask yourself are: Do you have a mortgage on your home or do you owe money on other loans? Do you have any long-term or short-term disability insurance? Are you making any payments to your child's orthodontics? Are you making monthly car payments? Some other factors you should consider include your job security, health issues, and your current income. If you don’t have an emergency fund for disasters, then it will be financially devastating.

    How To Start A Cash Reserve For Emergencies?

    If you don't have a cash reserve or if your cash reserve is insufficient, then you should follow these simple steps to get started:

    • Aggressively save your money, by using payroll deductions at work or add a savings plan to your household budget.
    • Cut back on eating out, going to the movies, buying lottery tickets and other splurges that you don’t really need.
    • Use existing assets or liquid assets (e.g., cash on hand or assets that convert to cash within a year, such as a short-term bank certificate)
    • Utilize earnings from other investments (e.g., mutual funds, stocks or bonds)
    • Check into other resources you might already have. (e.g., Do you have an insurance policy with a cash value that you can borrow money from?)

    A reminder: You could use your credit line as another source of funds for an emergency. However, when you borrow money it must be paid back. Usually, high interest rates are added to the borrowed money. Financial planners do not recommend using lenders as your primary resource for cash reserve.

    Where Do I Keep My Cash Reserve?

    Make sure your cash reserve is readily obtainable for emergencies or disasters. Most people think an FDIC-insured savings account that doesn’t accumulate much interest is their only option. However, there are several outstanding options and they all have different advantages. If you look into money markets and short-term bank CD’s it typically offers higher interest rates with little risk compared to low interest savings accounts.

    A word of caution: Do not get money market mutual funds confused with money market deposit accounts. Money market mutual funds are not insured by the FDIC. Although the mutual fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment you could still lose the money, when you invest in a mutual fund.

    If you’re considering a money market mutual fund, then don’t forget to read the small print from the fund’s pamphlet or brochure. Ask your financial advisor for the brochure that outlines the fund’s investment objectives such as the risks, fees and expenses. Read all the objectives, before you invest you money into these funds.

    CD’s will return your principal plus interest by a certain date, but they will also impose a large penalty if you withdraw it before maturity. If you plan on using a fixed-term investment for a cash reserve, then it is wise to stagger the maturity dates in a short period of time. The recommend time period to stagger maturity dates is between two to five months. Staggering maturity dates will ensure the availability of funds so you won’t receive a penalty for early withdrawal.

    Evaluate Your Cash Reserve Often

    We all know that our personal and financial situations change year to year. A new baby or a new home will increase your expenses. Most financial consultants advise their clients to review their finances annually. Your cash reserve should be your protection against financial devastation.

    Financial Planning Services are best done by someone who knows what they are doing and has done it for years!

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