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As the famous saying goes, only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Most of us understand how our paycheck drives our taxes — we earn money, and the federal government taxes it. But how do our investments drive our taxes? What actions trigger taxes? What actions mitigate taxes? And what choices might be driving up (or driving down) our taxes?
Debt — most of us have it. While debt can be an excellent tool to achieve major milestones like a college education or a home purchase, it can also be corrosive to your financial health and stability. And very few “regular folks” have ever been educated on how to deal with debt optimally. In my ongoing quest to bring good financial advice directly to you, this month I’m taking on debt.
When I sit down with a client to review their overall financial health, I almost always ask if they have a will in place. My Type A’s typically do, but the majority of others don’t. Overwhelmingly, the reasons clients give for not having a will are: 1. It’s not that important 2. I don’t want to think about dying There’s not much I can do about the second reason, but maybe I can help with number one.
Fall means back to school and that may have set you to thinking about what happens once your little ones finish high school. In the spirit of the back to school season, I’m going to dedicate this month’s Wealth Management 101 to college savings.
When I sit down to talk with new clients and prospective clients who are considering the decision to hire me, I often ask them about their “risk tolerance” or “risk appetite.” “Have you ever completed a Risk Tolerance questionnaire?” I ask. More often than not, they shrug their shoulders and tell me they don’t even know what Risk Tolerance means.
Walking down the stairs one afternoon, I saw my little dog Foxy resting on her spot on the couch. As I got closer, I saw her tiny body stiffen, her ears turn down, and her eyes grow big. Arriving next to the couch, I asked her: “Foxy, what are you doing?” She responded with a soft growl and moved her body to cover a small lump in her blanket. She was hoarding a treat.
All too often, clients come to me with investment ideas they like. Some are good and some are not so good, but many of them are complex. As humans, we are often seduced by complexity, as though the more glamorous or intricate an investment instrument is, the better it must be. Why own a set of simple and low cost index funds when you can buy a hedge fund? Why buy and hold when you can trade actively? Is the market falling? Why not short some stocks?! Just think of the possibilities!
The U.S. tax code is a mystery to the typical individual. But federal taxes (not to mention state and local taxes) are a big expense for most of us — and most of us are interested in paying less in taxes. But you can’t mitigate what you don’t understand. In this installment of Wealth Management 101, I’m going to lay out the most common types of federal taxes we all pay, give you some insight into how each works, and outline ways to potentially lower your tax bill.
Does everyone need a Financial Advisor? No. not everyone needs a Financial Advisor. But have you ever wondered how you would know if you needed one or not?
Around this time of year, we get at least one or two incoming phone calls from people wishing to set up and fund IRA accounts right before the tax filing deadline, because their CPA told them they needed one for tax reasons. In the spirit of the season (and with the hope that you won’t wait until 24 hours before the deadline to act), I’m going to outline the whats, whys, and hows of IRAs.
Add this to the long list of things I hear that drive me crazy: “Financial Planning is just for rich people.” Let me say it louder for the people in the back: In general, you don’t become rich (or wealthy) without planning to do so. I understand that you may be skeptical, so please allow me to break down my passionate argument for the value of Financial Planning in your long march toward wealth.
The New Year often brings thoughts of getting back in shape — getting fit. Yes, I know that usually means physically…but why not financially? Thing is, few of us know what it really means to be financially fit. And even fewer of us know how to get there. This article will cover the five key elements of financial fitness and how to achieve them.
We live in an age of self-service. We ring up our own groceries, do our own taxes, shop for our own insurance, book our own vacations, and invest our own savings. The innovations that allow us to do these things have led to lower costs for providers and consumers, making these goods and services cheaper to consume and thus more widely available. I believe that this is a good thing.
Ah, autumn! The harvest season! Right now, images of pumpkins, squashes, fall fruits, and overflowing cornucopias abound. But what does this have to do with investing? I’m glad you asked. This fall, as thoughts turn to wrapping up for the year’s end, consider the idea of Tax Loss Harvesting. Put simply, if you have investments that have lost value, you might be able to use them to avoid taxes on investments that did better.
Financial experts like to use jargon — it’s a character flaw, I must admit. And one piece of jargon you hear often is “asset allocation.” While this can sound intimidating, it’s actually a very simple concept. Asset allocation is how you divide (allocate) your savings (assets) between different types of investments. Those types of investments typically include stocks, bonds, cash, and sometimes real estate or alternative investments. When we talk about asset allocation, we typically talk in percentages. As in: let’s allocate X percent in stocks, Y percent in bonds, and Z percent in cash. So, we know what asset allocation is — but why does it matter?
Open enrollment season for employer benefits is upon us, and once again we are all being asked to make a big batch of decisions that will impact our welfare in the coming year (and our long-term prospects as well). As you gaze into your crystal ball and try to predict your needs over the next 12 months, allow me to put a bug in your ear about a little-known but highly valuable wealth-building tool that you may want to include in your upcoming benefit elections.
Credit: Most of us will need it at some point, but few of us really understand how it works. In fact, we may get our initial rude awaking when trying to make our first-ever big, meaningful purchase. If you have large financial goals like buying a home, buying a car, or financing a business startup, credit may play a key role in realizing those goals. Now is the time to educate yourself so you can be ready when the time comes.
First marriages are happening later and later in life and second marriages are common as well. This means that more and more people are marrying at a time in their lives when they have meaningful assets like homes, retirement accounts, or businesses that they built up before the date of marriage. And while most enter marriage believing that it will last forever, we know that won’t be the reality for nearly half of all couples. If you failed to plan, you may find yourself waving goodbye to half of the assets that you worked so hard to build during your single days. So, how do you protect yourself and make any future divorce proceedings as painless as possible? A set of Nuptial Agreements is a good place to start.
If you’ve read almost any book, article, or blog on investing, you’ve seen the word “diversification.” But experience has taught me that most investors — even educated ones — still don’t understand what diversification is, how it works, or why it’s important. In my continuing crusade to offer plain English explanations of sometimes complex topics, I’m taking on this vital and often misunderstood concept. Strap in. This is going to be fun! (I promise.)
It’s February again, and lovebirds all over the United States are preparing to celebrate with flowers, candy, and maybe even a beautiful engagement ring. It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of getting married, and planning a wedding can be one of the most fun and joyful times in a person’s life. But before you light the unity candle, say “I do,” jump the broom, or break the glass — make sure you’ve done your financial homework together.
Part III in a my three part series on Behavioral Finance. By simply being aware of our own potentially flawed thinking and vulnerability to emotional biases, we can check ourselves in real time to see if we might be on the verge of a poor decision. However, I suggest you do some legwork to set yourself up for success.
Part II in a my three part series on Behavioral Finance. Let’s agree that humans are flawed and our thinking is flawed. Let’s further agree that we are rarely completely rational. Now that we’ve accepted our own human frailty, let’s discuss the nature of these frailties and how they can cause us to make poor decisions.
We’ve all done it — made a poor decision about money. Maybe it was because we didn’t know any better. Maybe it was because we got some bad advice. Or maybe it was because we fell prey to a cognitive error or emotional bias. The software that operates our brains is rather outdated, written thousands of years ago to help us survive in a very different type of world. Our brains have yet to catch up to the realities of our modern world. That prehistoric lizard brain we all have deep inside us can really muck up our thinking. Nearly every investor will have to face down their own lizard brain at some point during their financial lives.
This year, more than most, many of us are looking to the New Year for a fresh start. If New Years Resolutions are on your mind, one of them might be to finally get your financial house in order. If so, good for you! But I have bad news: “Getting your financial house in order” is a poorly set goal that you have almost no chance of achieving. Now that I’ve burst your bubble, please allow me to show you the way forward to setting and achieving your financial goals in 2021.
The first time I heard the term “HENRYs,” I cocked my head to the side and gave my colleague Steve a look of utter confusion. What is a HENRY? He kindly explained to me that HENRY stands for High Earner, Not Rich Yet. As soon as he explained, I knew that I finally had a word to describe my favorite clients. This is my love letter to all the HENRYs of the world.
Back in August, I wrote all about saving and where to put those savings. One of the first places I advised you to save was in your employer-sponsored retirement plan. For most people, that plan is a 401(k). This month I’ll be laying out principals and rules of thumb you can use in making choices that fit your specific situation.
In the context of a financial plan, this question is the one I hear most often. And I get it: money is finite. You have goals for today, goals for five years from now, and goals for 30 years from now that must all be balanced. So how do you get the most bang for your buck? If you follow me on social media you’ll know I detest one-size-fits-all personal finance advice. What I’m going to outline here are principals you can use to get pointed in the right direction.