Archives for December 2013

Think Before You Take That First Step!

I recently received the following question from an attorney and wanted to share it with you because it could help you as you work with and support your clients and friends who have the same situation. “‘My father asked me, ‘Now that I have turned 65, I plan to draw on your mother’s Social Security benefit and continue working. How do I go about doing this?’ My parents are both 65, are highly compensated ($300,000 plus), and plan to continue working into the foreseeable future. Is this a good idea?”

After I fell out of my chair, I asked the attorney where his father got this idea. He said an insurance agent trying to sell him Medicare Advantage suggested this as being a good strategy. Good is a very subjective word. Also, not knowing all of the facts and circumstances is problematic. However, more likely than not, this is not a good idea. Claiming a Social Security retirement benefit sooner than it is needed can be a costly mistake. The mistakes in this scenario are found by looking at the Social Security rules, the income tax rules; as well as, general principles for retirement planning. [Read more…]

Home for the Holidays

The holidays provide a time to reconnect with family members. So this is an appropriate time to discuss the family of financial planners. For decades, this financial planning family, as covered by the financial press, has included Chartered Financial Consultants® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERSTM. One family member absent from the published festivities has returned—the CPA Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS).

In this season I am reminded of the critical role of CPAs in the financial planning process because of another cyclical event: the recruiting of CPAs by financial services firms. About every ten years financial services firms go on a binge to recruit CPAs to both refer business (and share in compensation) or to recruit the CPA into Financial Planning, asset management and product sales. The economy has recovered and the season as begun anew. Some recent headlines that have come across my desk are: “10-Step Plan to Meet More CPAs” and “What CPAs Want.” The articles opine that financial services firms through “strategic arrangements” with CPAs hope to provide financial services and products to the CPA’s clients. [Read more…]

A Gift You Do Not Want to Unwrap

I recently received the following question from a Certified Public Accountant. It was a question posed to him by a client in their year-end planning meeting.

“We were reviewing our life insurance needs, and the insurance agent suggested that we consider investing more of our reserves into a life insurance contract. Presently, we have $100,000 invested with Fidelity. The insurance agent’s argument was: one, investing in a life insurance contract would guarantee at least a 1% return even during bad market years (maximum earnings capped at 13.5%); and two, you do not have to pay taxes when money is withdrawn from a life insurance contract. [Read more…]

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Without fail, every December for the past 27 years, I have received requests at the last minute for a tax deduction to help offset income for the current year.  I follow up the request with two questions: how much would you like to contribute and to what would you like to make the contribution?  My questions are usually followed by a deafening silence and a true deer in the headlight look.

Charitable gifts are best not rushed, and I encourage clients to direct their charitable giving to causes in which they understand and have an interest.  Last minute charitable gifts and tax deductions often conflict with deliberate and purposeful giving.  Is there a solution?  Indeed there is a solution; the answer is a Donor-Advised Fund. [Read more…]

Tis the Season . . .

December 31, 2013 is fast approaching and the deadline for making charitable gifts and receiving an income tax deduction is fast upon us. I often wonder who is giving and how much is being given. One source for such statistics is the National Philanthropic Trust.

Some of the numbers are encouraging, especially in light of the Recession of 2007 – 2009. The percentage of U.S. households which give to charity is 88%.  Charitable giving is up 3.9% which exceeds the consumer price index. Of total giving, the largest source is from individuals (73%), followed by foundations (14%), bequests (8%), and corporations (5%) [Yes, there are rounding errors—not my issue]. [Read more…]

Avoiding Coal in Your Stocking!

Home prices are up. In some locations there is a shortage of inventory. According to the National Association of Realtors the number of homes available for sale has reached a low not seen since 2003. Well, it looks as if the world did not come to an end in 2009, the housing/mortgage crisis was not prolonged, and things are looking very good for 2014.

With all of the good news consumers are feeling more confident about their employment and work security. As a result, some individuals may be tempted to tap into their new found home equity for purchases; perhaps a new automobile, a long delayed vacation, or debt consolidation. [Read more…]