July 1, 2022

Building Wealth Through Home Equity

Often the first house a person buys is an affordable condominium, townhouse or older single-family dwelling, also referred to as a “starter home.” It might be small and lack features they dream about, from new appliances in the kitchen, to dual sinks in the bath, to a large yard or a garage. However, the key to a starter home is not to acquire your dream house, it is to build equity that you can eventually deploy to buy your dream home. It’s important not to wait until you have enough money for the ideal property. Start as early as you can and buy something affordable to get your foot in the door of homeownership. Interest Rates and Maintenance Expenses Buying […]
June 1, 2022

How Social Security Benefits Are Affected by Earned Income

Thanks to the Great Resignation trend over the past year, there is a high availability of jobs. Therefore, now is a good time for retirees who would like to go back to work to ease into the job market. However, if you’ve already begun drawing Social Security benefits, you should understand how earning income will affect those payouts. First of all, you have two options if you’d like to stop receiving Social Security. One option is available only if you’ve been drawing benefits for a year or less. In this case, you may cancel your application; but be aware that you must repay all the benefits that you and your family have received to date. That includes spousal benefits and […]
May 1, 2022

New Required Minimum Distribution Rules for 2022

Starting in 2020, new legislation increased the age to begin Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from 70½ to 72. More recently, the IRS updated the Uniform Life Table for alignment with longer life expectancies. Note that it takes years for actuaries to work up new data for this table, and the recent changes do not reflect the downturn in life expectancies resulting from the pandemic. These updates were established pre-pandemic and scheduled to take effect in 2022. The good news is that retirees who prefer not to withdraw from their retirement portfolios now have a couple more years of growth opportunity before they are forced to take distributions. Because retirement portfolios fluctuate based on market performance, and your life expectancy changes […]
April 1, 2022

Give a College Savings 529 Plan For Graduation

If you really want to make impact in your new grad’s life, make an investment in his or her future with a 529 College Savings account. There are two versions: an investment account and a prepaid account. Assuming you are opening an account now and don’t have time for investment growth, you may need to fund it with a significant chunk of money for it to be useful. The savings plan is good for building an investment balance over time, including while the student is in college. On the other hand, the prepaid option is a good way to reinvest a windfall – such as an inheritance or proceeds from the sale of property. A 529 College Savings Plan allows […]
March 1, 2022

How To Maximize the Potential of Your 401(k) Plan

One of the easiest ways to save for retirement is to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. You simply select a percentage of your paycheck that you would like transferred to your 401(k) (or similar) account. Not only does your employer make the transfer for you, but it comes out of your paycheck before income taxes are taken out. This way, you avoid paying taxes on that income from each paycheck, and those taxes are not due until you withdraw the money from your retirement plan. This usually happens once people retire and enter a lower tax bracket. That’s the simple beauty of investing in a 401(k) plan. However, with a little more effort, you can do a better job […]
February 1, 2022

Create a Healthcare Plan for Retirement

If you pay $250 a month for cable and premium channels, that’s $3,000 a year. Over a 30-year period, the total cost would be $90,000. We don’t tend to think about how much we pay in regular expenses over the long term. However, that’s how various industry analysts report the cost of healthcare during retirement. Recent estimates for a retiring 65-year-old couple fall between $300,000 and $400,000 to cover healthcare expenses in retirement. At first glance, that’s an intimidating number and implies that pre-retirees need to have this much saved by the time they retire. Fortunately, when you break down the numbers, that’s not the case. First of all, that estimate includes premiums for Medicare with prescription drug coverage, which […]
January 1, 2022

Long-Term Investment Opportunities Presented by the Infrastructure Bill

In November, President Biden signed legislative funding that represents the largest transportation spending package in U.S. history. The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized funding for roads, highways, bridges, public transit systems, utility systems, electrical grids, energy projects and broadband infrastructure. Because the funding extends over a five-year period, it should not have a major effect on the fiscal deficit. This is not only good news for taxpayers, but also investors. Those long-term investments offer the potential for shareholders to get in on the ground floor of reliable and well-capitalized government projects by hundreds of American companies poised to get the business. The new bill is expected to enhance productivity, innovation, improve labor force participation and have a […]
December 1, 2021

Venture Capitalism and ‘Unicorns’

Venture capitalism comes from an investor who offers money to start-up companies in exchange for an equity stake – much like you see on the ABC television show, Shark Tank. As a general rule, a venture capitalist (VC) invests after the new venture is up and running and looking for additional capital to further commercialize its product. Once a privately held enterprise reaches a value of $1 billion, it is referred to as a “Unicorn.” This is because new start-ups that reach this level of success are so rare that they are considered comparable to the mythical creature. What is interesting these days is that the current labor market is so disruptive that we are seeing more start-ups, and this […]
November 1, 2021

Flood Insurance: Insuring Your Home

Did you know that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage? Because of this, homes located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are required by lenders to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. However, there are millions of homes at risk that also experience periodic flooding but are not located in the most hazardous zones. Regardless, any homeowner can purchase flood insurance and the good news is that, for some, rates will be reduced this year. Starting on Oct. 1, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) launched a new program called Risk Rating 2.0. This program is designed to encourage communities throughout the country to deploy measures that help mitigate potential damage due to flooding. The lower the risk resulting […]
October 1, 2021

Strategies for Paying Off Student Loans

Today, 70 percent of college students graduate with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. The average payment is nearly $400 a month and will take about 20 years to pay off. On an individual level, paying off high debt can delay hopes of saving to buy a house, start a family, launch a business or invest for retirement. On a broader level, the national burden of student debt could impact America’s economic future. When young adults are unable to afford home ownership, that reduces spending on all types of consumer products that accompany home buying. It also reduces property taxes used to support local resources and reduces the insurance pool of property owners used to help repair and […]
September 1, 2021

What is a Net Zero Economy?

President Biden re-entered the United States in the Paris Agreement. This is an international treaty first signed in 2015 in which countries around the globe committed to mitigating climate change. Specifically, the goal of the Paris Accord is to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This objective would generate what is called a net zero global economy, which means creating a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount of greenhouse gasses removed from the atmosphere. The main engine that places carbon back into the soil is healthy vegetation that grows all years round, these are called cover crops and reforestation. You can help by using the Ecosia search engine.  […]
August 1, 2021

HSA: Save it for Retirement

According to Fidelity Investments, the average 65-year-old couple retiring today will need about $300,000 for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses during retirement. And that doesn’t even include long-term care. One way to help pay for this enormous cost is to open a health savings account (HSA), which is a savings and investment vehicle designed to help people pay for medical-related expenses on a tax-free basis. To open one of these accounts, you must be enrolled in an HSA-eligible, high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). These are offered by many employers and also are available on the individual insurance market. One of the little-known advantages of the HSA is that if you delay withdrawing from it until retirement, you’ll have money ready to tap […]
July 1, 2021

Wishing on a Star: Investors Pour Billions in to SPACs

A SPAC is a special purpose acquisition company. It is typically sponsored by a venture capitalist or a private equity firm that has expertise in a specific sector or industry, such as green technology. A SPAC launches as an IPO, but it is nothing more than a shell company that raises money from investors. Post-IPO, it has a limited amount of time (one to two years) to merge with an existing company, where the capitol is deployed. Once that happens, the private operating company trades publicly under the SPAC name. While SPACs have been around for about 30 years, they’ve only become popular in the past year or so. In fact, this year investors have already poured more than $100 […]
June 1, 2021

Real Estate Opportunities in 2021

Even before the pandemic began, the U.S. residential real estate market was short on houses, with more people looking to buy than those who were selling. And yet, unlike the 2008 recession, any economic woes related to the pandemic did not undercut housing prices. If anything, real estate had a banner year as home prices continued to rise. In April of this year, the median sale price of existing homes rose by 19.1 percent to a record high of $341,600. There are several reasons we haven’t seen a repeat of the housing crisis that we experienced during the Great Recession. Today’s market is different from 2007, when the economic decline was launched by a housing bubble that sent many homeowner […]
May 1, 2021

New Rules and Ways to Use HSAs/FSAs

People who own a high-deductible health insurance plan may have the ability to open a health savings account (HSA). They can contribute pre-tax income to an HSA and invest the money for tax-free growth in a variety of mutual funds, stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The funds may be withdrawn tax-free when used to pay for qualified expenses, such as the plan’s high deductible, copayments and coinsurance. The funds also can be used to purchase a wide range of health-related products. However, a recent poll found that 40 percent of respondents who have access to a health savings account do not fully understand them. Perhaps that is why legislation passed last year that increased eligible uses of HSA funds largely […]
April 1, 2021

Roth Conversion in 2021?

In 2020, a year when all income brackets benefited from lower tax rates, the stock market took a nosedive at the beginning of the pandemic. For investors sharp enough to see the opportunity, this was an ideal time to convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. When you conduct a Roth conversion, the assets are taxed at ordinary income tax rates in the year of the conversion. So, the best time to do this is when your current income tax rate is low and when your IRA account balance loses money due to declining market performance. Once you convert the account to a Roth, those assets continue to grow tax free and are no longer subject to taxes when […]
March 1, 2021

The Impact of COVID on Life Insurance

If someone you know died from COVID-19 and had an existing life insurance policy, there should be no problem receiving the death benefit. The terms of a life insurance contract cannot be changed after purchase, so anyone with a policy before the pandemic will continue to be covered as long as premiums are paid. However, the life insurance industry is in a quandary right now when it comes to new applicants applying for policies. Some insurers have placed an age limit on applicants to whom they will sell policies. Travelers who have recently visited countries with a significant outbreak and people currently infected with the virus are generally asked to wait until after they have quarantined or recovered to apply […]
February 1, 2021

While Many Suffer Financially, Some Manage to Profit off Pandemic

The Federal Reserve recently reported that the 50 richest people in the United States increased their net worth by $339 billion during the first half of 2020. There are two primary contributors to this near-unprecedented level of growth. The first is that many either owned or were heavily invested in tech companies that thrived during the pandemic. Increased technology demands for remote work, online shopping, streaming entertainment, and socially-distanced socializing created a lucrative COVID-19 economy in some sectors. Another reason is that the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve proactively infused the economy with stimulus capital. That helped mitigate long-term market disruption that might have otherwise occurred. The short explanation of how to leverage assets for greater wealth during a pandemic […]
January 1, 2021

What To Know About Filing For Bankruptcy

About one million Americans file for personal bankruptcy each year, with one in 10 households having filed at some point. Given the loss of jobs, reduced income, and the coronavirus recession in 2020, those numbers could increase this year if the economic recovery is not both swift and omnipresent. There are two main types of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7, which is the more common option, will liquidate the filer’s assets in order to discharge all or a portion of the outstanding debt. People generally choose this route because they are in way over their heads and do not earn enough income to pay their debts in any type of normal time frame. Chapter 13, on […]
January 1, 2020

Economic Correlation: Cyclical and Non-Cyclical Stocks

A rising tide might lift all boats, but the same cannot be said for the economy. When the U.S. experiences robust economic growth, certain sectors of the stock market tend to rise while others hold steady or even decline by comparison. The stocks of companies that experience higher revenues are typically categorized as cyclical. In other words, their good fortune rests mainly on consumers being gainfully employed and having ample discretionary income with which to buy more goods and services. Take, for example, auto manufacturers. Sales typically increase when more people can afford to buy a new car. But that’s not all the time, because the economy is cyclical – it ebbs and flows over time. Therefore, companies that produce […]
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