In this section you'll find a broad range of subjects related to financial planning.

DIVERSIFICATION
STRETCH IRA
LOOKING FOR UPSIDE POTENTIAL WITH GUARANTEES?
WHEN SHOULD I START TAKING SOCIAL SECURITY?
UPDATING YOUR ESTATE PLAN

DIVERSIFICATION
We caution clients to remain diversified and to review their holdings in the context of individual objectives and personal risk/tolerance measures. It's a good idea to review your "risk profile" if you haven't done so recently. Many investors have changed their minds about how much volatility they are comfortable experiencing.

Please call or email us for a short investor risk questionnaire. We'll be happy to mail, fax, or email you a copy and review your answers with you once it is completed.

MANAGED ACCOUNTS

Many of our clients seeking to limit volatility have chosen to move their mutual funds and stock portfolios into our fee-based advisory program, which provides among other things daily monitoring of accounts by institutional money managers you've heard us reference in meetings & on conference calls – managers including Goldman Sachs, Littman Gregory Asset Management, UBS Global Asset Management, Standard & Poor's & others.

There are several advantages to these accounts:

• They invest in no-load mutual funds, stocks and ETF (Exchange Traded Funds), so they remain 100% liquid and can be adjusted at any time as economic conditions change.
• They are designed to minimize fees and internal expenses.
• Individual holdings and a portfolios asset class allocation are monitored daily by institutional money managers.

Our job is to identify which management firm is best suited to each client's objectives, and then to monitor their performance results on a quarterly basis.

STRETCH IRA
New tax regulations from the Internal Revenue Service make it smarter and easier than ever to leave your individual retirement account (IRA) to your children or grandchildren. If your spouse is well provided for, this might be a valuable option for you to consider.

Individual retirement accounts are a popular method to accumulate tax-deferred money for retirement. However, many people do not realize that IRAs are not governed by state inheritance laws. When IRA assets are liquidated at the owners death, substantial lump-sum income taxes are due. If your beneficiaries have to use your IRA assets to pay estate taxes, they could lose up to 78% of the account to estate and income taxes. (Journal of Financial Planning, April 2001)

Under the new regulations, an individual retirement account can be structured to allow beneficiaries to continue the tax-deferred compounding and take income over their remaining life expectancies, turning an IRA into a "stretch", "legacy", or "multigenerational" IRA.

To reduce the risk of tax liability, an IRA owner must ensure that his or her named beneficiaries are individuals, as opposed to a corporation, charity, or estate, and that clear guidance is given to the beneficiaries so they can take the necessary actions in the specified time frame to avoid tax consequences.

There's a lot of mileage left in an individual retirement account to benefit young beneficiaries. The investment continues to appreciate for as long as 60 years, depending on the beneficiaries age and the payout method you choose. (Journal of Financial Planning, April 2001)

IRA assets and growth will not be included in a spouse’s estate, so gifting the IRA to a younger beneficiary will save estate tax. In addition, individual retirement account assets are not subject to probate, saving your beneficiaries time and trouble.

There are limits on the amount you can gift to your children or grandchildren. Call us today to discuss these limits and how you can leave a lasting legacy for your loved ones by putting your IRA to work.

WHEN SHOULD I START TAKING SOCIAL SECURITY?
Many financial advisers will tell people that when they reach age 62 and become eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits, they should “take the money.” But you have other options. They'll require some decisions, especially if you continue to work and earn income. It wasn't always so difficult. Until 2000, if you took your benefit at full retirement age and continued to work, you had to return to the Social Security Administration $1 for every $3 you earned over the annual limit allowed by the government. That disincentive caused many working seniors to delay receiving the retirement benefit until they quit their jobs for good.

However, a new law that went into effect January 2000 eliminated the earnings limit on workers 65 and older. Now, earn as much as you can and still receive full Social Security retirement benefits for the rest of your life.

So why not take the money when you reach full retirement age? The government does provide some positive incentives for waiting. It is called a "delayed retirement credit" and it will increase your benefit — currently by a rate of about 8 percent a year — for each year you delay retirement, or until you turn 70.

Take the money now? Or later? Give us a call and let us help you weigh all the options, then select the very best Social Security retirement plan for you.

Click Here for the most recent social security update.

UPDATING YOUR ESTATE PLAN
Can you be certain that your estate plan provides for your heirs the way you intended? If you haven't had your will and estate plan reviewed by an estate planning professional recently, it's possible that your intentions won't be carried out as you hope. We see many instances where ignorance or misguided assumptions ruin a parents' plans to leave a generous bequest to heirs. This can happen for a number of unintended reasons.

In addition to changing estate laws, contradictions and planning mistakes can alter the best intentions. Ambiguous language, changes in assets between the time documents were drawn up and the estates distribution, and other unintentional errors can drain a fortune and create ferocious family feuds. It's a legacy no one plans to leave, but one that occurs nonetheless. Fortunately, it’s a legacy that can be avoided.

The federal estate tax is the most burdensome tax ever for many families. The larger the estate, the more taxes your heirs will owe. Starting at 45%, this progressive tax can reach 55%. (Tools & Techniques of Financial Planning, 11th Edition) Crafting a valid estate plan is the first step in preserving your estate. The second step is assessing your tax liability. Careful planning can greatly reduce estate taxes. Wealth transfer instruments such as living trusts, insurance trusts, and charitable remainder trusts can be explored to provide your heirs a larger tax-free inheritance while avoiding the expense and hassle of probate.

In addition, a carefully planned annual gifting program can be funded with appreciated securities and partial interests in increasingly valuable real estate holdings. This technique can be effective to transfer assets during your lifetime and to escape eventual estate taxes.

The same tax code that claims your assets can also offer ways to significantly reduce those taxes with savvy estate planning. If you haven’t reviewed and updated your complete estate plan recently, we invite you to call and explore the possibilities with us.




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