Raskin Planning Group

Articles

e-Pocket Tax Tables 2016 and 2017

A summary of U.S. personal, trust, corporate, estate and gift tax rates, exemptions, deductions and limitations. It is a handy reference for professional advisors and individuals.

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Is Your 401(k) Retirement Plan Investment Helping You Meet Your Objectives? – Part 2

In our last article, we discussed 401(k) retirement plans and risk-based (RBF) or target date asset allocation (TDF) funds. In this article, we will discuss the key differences.

Not all RBF/TDFs are the same. Here are some of the key differences:

  • Most RBF/TDFs are “funds of funds” comprised of proprietary funds from the investment company offering the RBF/TDF. The Fidelity Freedom Funds or the T.Rowe Price are made up of funds from only their respective fund complex. Not every Fidelity or T.Rowe Price fund in their respective TDF is a top performer.
  • Some investment companies will choose top performing funds from different fund companies. They will monitor these funds and make necessary changes over time.
  • Some investment firms offer RBF/TDF’s that consist of low-cost index funds. Investors get broad asset allocation exposure but these funds tend to be less expensive than actively managed funds.
  • Investment firms have different investment philosophies. How much of the portfolio is allocated to developed international or emerging markets? Is there exposure to real estate investment trusts, commodities, hedge funds, non-U.S. bonds or high-yield bonds? These asset allocation decisions will affect long term risk and returns.

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Is Your 401(k) Retirement Plan Investment Helping You Meet Your Objectives? – Part 1

Most retirement plans offer employees a large menu of investment options. With so many choices, it is not necessarily easier for employees. Today, most plans offer some sort of risk- based and/or target date asset allocation fund option. These funds are typically viewed as appropriate for most long-term investors saving for retirement.

At the Raskin Planning Group, we think this is a good development, as long as participants choose appropriate funds that will help them meet their personal financial and retirement objectives. Unfortunately, we find this isn’t always the case.

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Helping Children and Grandchildren Save for Retirement and Get Cash Back from the IRS

Recently, we were chatting with a client who is concerned that his under-employed college graduate child isn't able to contribute to a retirement plan. The client was always a great saver, understands the value of compound interest and wants the child to start saving now. Like a lot of twenty-somethings, the child is mostly self-supporting, but just doesn't have the additional funds to contribute to an IRA. Is there anything the parent can do?

Do you have children, grandchildren or other loved ones that you would like to help begin saving for retirement? Do you want to help them get into the habit of saving, help them understand the magic of compound interest and help them appreciate how tax planning can be advantageous?

If they are currently age 18 or older, not a full-time student, not claimed as a dependent and are "under-employed" (single with adjusted gross income of less than $30,500), we can help!

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Estate Planning (Part 4): Have You Chosen The Wrong Trustee?

{6:30 minutes to read}

This blog is part 4 of a series about trust planning. Part 1 described how a young family may utilize a trust. Part 2 discussed how trust planning can be vital for seniors and for children with special needs. Part 3 outlined how a wealthy family’s objectives can be secured over multiple generations with appropriate trust planning.

We were recently talking with a client about their estate-planning objectives and we described how trusts might resolve some of their concerns. Part 1 in this series about trust planning defined a trust and the parties involved. When a trust is established, choosing a trustee is an important decision. As the administrator, the trustee plays an important role for the grantor and the beneficiary and has significant responsibility.

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Estate Planning (Part 3): Securing Assets Through Multiple Generations

{6 minutes to read} This is the third in a series of articles about estate and trust planning. Article 1 defined estate planning and described the trust basics. Article 2 explored various ways a trust can protect an elderly client with dementia and a severely handicapped adult child. In this article, we will explore ways in which a trust can help several family generations achieve goals.

Trusts can play a vital role in helping a family meet personal objectives. Each family situation is different and can come with a wide variety of problems, challenges and solutions. A well-constructed estate plan that is coordinated with the family’s overall wealth planning needs may include specific trusts and provisions tailored for the family. Take the Smith Family for instance:

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Estate Planning (Part 2): Finding Solutions to Unforeseen Problems

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This is the second in a series of articles about estate and trust planning. Article one defined estate planning and described—in very general terms—how a trust works. Trusts can play a vital role in helping a family meet personal objectives. Every family situation is different and there are a wide variety of problems and solutions. A well constructed estate plan that is coordinated with a family’s overall wealth planning needs may include specific trusts and provisions tailored for the family.

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Estate Planning (Part 1): Does a Young Couple Need a Trust?

{6 minutes to read}

Estate Planning is the process that helps you determine how and when your estate is transferred during your lifetime or at your death. While your estate consists of property such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate, life insurance, businesses, etc., the goal of estate planning is to ensure the wellbeing of the people you love. This is accomplished by carefully considering your heir’s future needs and potential circumstances.

It can be a simple or complicated process depending upon your situation and objectives. However, the process can become even more complicated when local, state, and federal laws are introduced. Without a thoughtful and legally documented plan, your estate will be distributed to heirs according to the laws in the state in which you reside, which may not meet your family’s needs and your overall objectives.

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Leverage Small Business with an Effective Retirement Plan: Defer Tax & Save (Part 2)

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Our recent article shared a frequent conversation we have with our clients who own businesses.

To recap, we often find that business owners are interested in deferring taxable income (saving for retirement) and their younger employees are more concerned about current income (saving for retirement isn't important to them at this time). In this article, we evaluate the solution for this type of financial situation.

In this particular case, we established a new 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan. Employees and owners can contribute the maximum salary deferral amount each year (up to $24,000 per employee) and the business can also contribute an additional profit sharing amount at the owner's discretion. The design allowed the employer to allocate a larger profit sharing contribution as a percentage of wages to the two owners and a much smaller contribution to the two employees.

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Leverage Small Business with an Effective Retirement Plan: Defer Tax & Save (Part 1)

During a recent conversation at our office, a business-owner client expressed concern that he was paying too much personal income tax and wasn't able to save enough for retirement with his current retirement plan.

We helped him establish the existing plan about seven years ago when the small business was just a start-up. At the time, there wasn't a lot of extra cash-flow, but he wanted something simple and inexpensive.

He and his partner are now in their 50's and their two employees are early 30's and late 20's.

The partners are interested in deferring taxable income (saving for retirement) and the employees are more concerned about current income (saving for retirement isn't important to them at this time). The current plan was working OK, but the owners want to contribute more to their retirement plan than the current plan allows.

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Making Irrational Financial Decisions is Only Human (Part 4): Hindsight Bias

Parts 1-3 of this article series evaluate behavioral reasons that cause humans to make irrational financial decisions. Part 1 shows how anchoring can be detrimental to long-term objectives. Part 2 describes Loss Aversion and the concept of “pain of loss” vs “pleasure of gain." Part 3 discusses selective thinking, known as Confirmation Bias.

Have you ever heard a pundit on television mention, after the fact, a certain event was predictable and completely obvious because of reasons A, B and C? It seems like every day so called “experts” are telling us why certain events happened; they then suggest that someone should have known or predicted the result. This happens in sports, politics, natural disasters and financial markets.

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Making Irrational Financial Decisions is Only Human (Part 3): Confirmation Bias

Parts 1 and 2 of this article series evaluate a few behavioral reasons that cause humans to make irrational financial decisions. Part 1 shows how anchoring can be detrimental to long-term objectives. Part 2 describes loss aversion and the concept of “pain of loss” vs “pleasure of gain.”

Another behavioral concept describes the human tendency to adopt biases in understanding and processing certain kinds of information and events. If “seeing is believing,” then why is it possible for two people to observe the same event or read the same article and reach different conclusions?

We all have preconceived opinions or biases. It is part of being human. A bias can be difficult to avoid because we tend to selectively filter information and pay more attention to things that support our opinion. We tend to ignore or rationalize information that doesn’t support our bias. Behavioral economists call this selective thinking Confirmation Bias.

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How bonds fit into an overall investment portfolio

This is the second in a two-part series about bonds. The first article, "What You Don't Know About Bonds Can Hurt You" discussed a variety of bond fundamentals that all investors should know. This article will discuss how bonds fit into an overall investment portfolio.

Why should bonds be part of your portfolio?

If you want current income and/or if you want to reduce the risk of owning stocks, bonds are a great diversifier. Their performance characteristics are often "non-correlated" to stocks. When stocks go up in value, bonds may go down or not go up as much.

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Making Irrational Financial Decisions is Only Human (Part 2): Loss Aversion

Part 1 of this article series takes a deeper look at irrational financial decisions and the reasons for them according to behavioral economics and financial research. Ultimately, the findings show that anchoring can be detrimental to long-term objectives.

One of the first and most interesting tenants of behavioral finance is the concept that a loss produces “pain” greater than the “pleasure” of a win. In other words, losses have more emotional impact than an equivalent amount of gains.

For example, the amount of pleasure gained from finding $50 should be the same as if you found $100 and then lost $50. The completely rational person would find both situations equally pleasurable, since both situations net $50. However, in most cases, people would prefer the first example.

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Making Irrational Financial Decisions is Only Human (Part 1): Anchoring

Classic economic and investment theory suggests that people act rationally. However, research by psychologists and social scientists in the mid-1990’s has shown that people often make irrational decisions in specific and predictable ways.

Our next few articles will discuss how behavioral economics and behavioral finance affects decision-making. Understanding behavioral science won’t turn you into a robot consistently making the most profitable, well-reasoned and rational financial decisions. Hopefully, these articles will help you understand and improve your financial decision-making.

Are all of your financial decisions based on rational and relevant facts? In many instances, the answer is probably yes. However, humans have a tendency to attach or “anchor” beliefs to a reference point, even though the reference point has very little to do with the actual decision under consideration. These anchors can lead us to make financial decisions that aren’t in our best interests and don’t help us meet our personal financial objectives.

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What You Don't Know About Bonds Can Hurt You

Recently, we completed a comprehensive financial plan for new clients in their early 60's. They are near retirement, have been great savers and have accumulated a sizeable nest- egg that should be sufficient to help them meet their retirement goals for the next 30+ years. It is probable they will leave a sizeable inheritance for their children, although that isn't their primary goal.

Since their income has been sufficient to meet their lifestyle income needs, stock market volatility hasn't been a big concern, but now that they are approaching retirement they are concerned about another downturn in the markets. In the past, their investment portfolio has been mostly invested in stocks. Recently, they have started to increase their bond allocation, but they are concerned about bonds and don't really appreciate how and why they could be used in a portfolio. Like most of our clients, they have a lot of preconceived notions about bonds and really don't understand the "basics".

This article, the first in a two-part series, will outline 5 important basic concepts that will help you understand how bonds work. The second article will discuss how bonds fit into an overall investment portfolio.

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Where’s the Risk With Risk Tolerance?

In a recent conversation with a client, the word “risk” came up numerous times. The conversation began by discussing their goals and objectives, but as we continued our discussion, there seemed to be many inconsistencies in their thinking about risk and the current structure of their investment portfolio.

The clients were mid-60's, had sold their company and were readily transitioning into retirement. They considered themselves "conservative" investors and would feel uncomfortable if their portfolio lost 10% or more, in any given period of time. Meanwhile, their portfolio was structured in a way that would have experienced a 30% loss in 2008.

Frankly, this isn't a unique situation. Most people aren't always rational or consistent. We are human beings with powerful brains and lots of emotions. Our objective is to help you understand how decisions (rational or not) will affect your future financial circumstances.

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To Mortgage or Not To Mortgage...That is the Question

Every week we receive an inquiry about one of two things: paying the existing mortgage off or purchasing a new residence -- with or without a mortgage. Many of our clients don't want debt, nor do they need to incur debt. They have plenty of assets and they would rather have a bit less money invested rather than worry about a mortgage payment each month. For these clients we strongly advise them to follow their initial instinct: no mortgage debt.

For other clients, mortgage debt is more complicated. They could pay off their mortgage if they want, but they would have less liquidity (or access to the funds) and that makes them uncomfortable. Or they would have to pay capital gains or income taxes if they were to liquidate their investments to pay off a mortgage.

Sometimes our clients have significant balances in their savings or money market funds (currently earning less than 1%) that exceeds the amount they need for liquidity. Meanwhile, they are typically paying more in interest on their mortgage than they are earning on their savings.

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Charitable Giving: 5 Reasons to Establish a Donor Advised Fund

Recently, a long-term client was updating their financial plan; they were comfortable with their lifestyle and had enough financial security to help their children and grandchildren. We reviewed their income, expenses, assets and made sure we understood their short-term and long-term goals.

What's next for this family? They have satisfied their personal and family needs. Do they want to make a difference in their community? Is there a charitable organization or issue that is important to them? They have always made annual contributions to charities, but they haven't considered how they could make a larger impact.

Charitable Planning affects tax, investment, estate and income planning and should be integrated as part of a comprehensive financial plan. There are a variety of sophisticated strategies that can help families meet their financial and charitable objectives. Charitable trusts, private foundations and donor-advised funds are some of the available strategies that might be appropriate.

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Develop a Culture of Charitable Giving in Your Family

Planned philanthropy can be an honorable and selfless family tradition.

We were recently talking to a client about their charitable intentions. They informed us that charity has always been an important part of their financial planning, but they have always done it quietly. They made it clear to us that they don't talk about their charitable contributions to their children or friends.

We also learned that they don't make large single gifts, but their annual giving is significant, as far as they are concerned. They certainly take advantage of the charitable tax-deduction, but their giving isn't tax-motivated. They feel it is important to give back to those less fortunate. They are also very supportive of their religious congregation. Not only have they financially supported organizations that are important to them, they also volunteer their time throughout the year.

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5 Big Planning Mistakes to Avoid in 2015

As we start the 2015 calendar year, consider this list of behavioral mistakes to avoid. By avoiding these mistakes, you will have a much better chance of meeting your long-term financial objectives.

Expect the unexpected, but don't be fearful of the unknown and paralyzed into inaction. Take appropriate risks.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty? Neither approach is always appropriate. Excessive optimism is a problem if you don't consider the consequences of losing a job or having a significant loss of income. Excessive pessimism is a problem if you are convinced that terrible things will happen and you keep your investments in no-risk or low-risk investments that barely keep up with inflation.

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Yikes! My Long Term Care Insurance Premium Increased Ninety Percent! What do I do now?

A colleague of mine recently asked me to help him with a unique client situation. Here is some background:

Raskin Planning Group was asked to review a long term care insurance policy (LTCi) of the client. The insured, a Texas resident, was recently notified of a 90% rate increase. The client called his agent who sold him the LTCi policy and expressed his dissatisfaction. The agent heard the client's concerns and came up with a solution: replace the existing insurance with a new LTCi policy. My colleague suggested the agent prepare an analysis, comparing the existing policy to the new policy. Instead, the agent prepared a variety of replacement proposals with no analysis.

It was at this point in time, we were asked to help out.

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6 Retirement Pitfalls to Avoid

Many of our clients have successfully accumulated large retirement account balances throughout their lifetimes. This was excellent planning on their part, as they deferred paying considerable income tax while they still had high taxable earned income.

But the IRS doesn't want you to defer paying income taxes forever. They force you to start taking "Required Minimum Distributions" (RMDs) starting at the age of 70 1/2. These distributions are taxed as regular income. The RMD at age 70 is about 4% of the IRA account balance and this percentage increases each year based upon an IRS life expectancy table.

After age 70, the larger the account balance, the larger the taxable distribution from your retirement accounts - possibly driving up your marginal tax bracket. That may mean a hefty amount of income taxes will be due.

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It’s Flu Season: Does your financial plan need a shot in the arm?

Updating your financial plan is like an annual check-up with your doctor. You may feel good, but you just want to make sure the doctor agrees. The doctor asks you questions, performs some tests, gives you a flu shot, encourages you to eat healthy, exercise and, hopefully, sends you off until next year.

While the medical check-up is mostly a passive event (at least for the patient), a Financial Planning Check-up is much more active and requires more from the client. Here is the information we recommend that you gather for your Financial Planning Check-up:

Asset Values: What are the current values of your investments, retirement accounts, stock option plans, real estate, business assets and personal property? Many clients take advantage of our Wealth Management website.

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Too Many Eggs in One Basket: 6 Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Excessive Exposure to a Single Stock

Some of our clients own, or have exposure to, very large single stock positions. For these clients, we ask the following questions:

  1. If this single stock falls dramatically in value, how will the loss affect your financial condition?
  2. How will you feel if this happens?

Most of the time, the financial loss would make a significant difference to our client's financial plans. We then ask why the stock hasn't been sold and their answers often reveal an emotional attachment to the stock. Maybe it was inherited or the client was an executive at the company; perhaps the client is hesitant to sell the stock because the stock has very low basis and the capital gains are significant—incurring a large capital gains tax.

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What is the Value of Advice?

The financial services industry is fragmented and many clients don't really understand how companies and financial service providers work. In general, there are two players in the industry:

  • Service Providers
  • Manufacturers and Distributors (of financial products)

Do you know the difference?

A service provider provides a specific advisory service. It could be financial planning, investment management or insurance. The large financial service firms can provide advisory services (like Fidelity or Vanguard) and independent financial advisors will also provide these services.

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Is the Roth IRA the Holy Grail of Retirement Planning?

A client with substantial IRA and 401(k) account balances recently asked if there was any way they could contribute to a Roth IRA. They had heard that Roth IRA's are great because earnings grow tax-free and there aren't any required minimum distributions starting at age 70 1/2. We agreed that they are great. But, maybe not for this client.

The Roth IRA/401(k) Basics:

  • Contributions to a Roth IRA or 401(k) plan are not tax-deductible.
  • Roth IRA contributions are limited to $5,500 per year if you are younger than age 50 and $6,500 per year if you are 50 or older.
  • Roth 401(k) contribution limits are the same as Traditional 401(k) plans (younger than age 50 - $17,500. Age 50 or older - $23,000)

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Annuities: The Good, the Bad and (maybe) the Ugly

We recently met with existing clients for a portfolio “checkup.” The couple, in their mid-60’s, is considering retirement in the next few years and has sufficient investments and retirement assets to meet their financial and family objectives. It is likely the clients will continue to be in the 28% or 33% federal marginal tax bracket during retirement because their taxable income is projected to be between $150,000 and $300,000.

  • They are interested in structuring their portfolio to emphasis current income, but they are becoming more concerned about the volatility and risk of the stock market.
  • They are active and in good health and expect to live a long time. They feel comfortable planning that at least one of them will be alive into their mid-90’s.
  • They have an existing non-retirement annuity that was purchased 15 years ago and want it reviewed. What should he do with this asset that represents less than 5% of their net worth? It has doubled in value since it was purchased.

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Helping Children and Grandchildren Save for Retirement and Get Cash Back from the IRS

Recently, we were chatting with a client who is concerned that his under-employed college graduate child isn't able to contribute to a retirement plan. The client was always a great saver, understands the value of compound interest and wants the child to start saving now. Like a lot of twenty-somethings, the child is mostly self-supporting, but just doesn't have the additional funds to contribute to an IRA. Is there anything the parent can do?

Do you have children, grandchildren or other loved ones that you would like to help begin saving for retirement? Do you want to help them get into the habit of saving, help them understand the magic of compound interest and help them appreciate how tax planning can be advantageous?

If they are currently age 18 or older, not a full-time student, not claimed as a dependent and are "under-employed" (single with adjusted gross income of less than $29,500), we can help!

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The Raskin Planning Group Philosophy

Financial planning means something different to every advisor and to every client.

While some advisors focus on asset management, others focus on annuities and insurance products. Everyone is talking about something different. This creates confusion for the client, and a lack of confidence in the result.

At Raskin Planning Group, financial planning starts with the client’s objectives. We start with a plan - your plan. You need to know where you want to go before you can start the journey. While it is not essential to know every detail along the way, you should have a general idea about which direction you would like to take.

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Are You Happy With Your Investment Portfolio Returns?

People often feel they need to review their portfolios at the beginning of a new year. When doing this review, they sometimes wonder why their return isn’t showing the same gains as the “market.” Many investors want to take on more risk when markets are going up (hoping for greater returns) and then want less risk when markets go down (hoping they won’t lose as much). We like to remind our clients that the stock “market” can be violent in its reactions and experiences and therefore we recommend portfolios that include other types of investments that are less volatile. Clients that want to participate in market-like gains must expect market-like risk.

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Do Changes to the IRS One-Rollover-per-year Rule Impact IRA Transfers in Divorce?

The IRS has indicated that it will follow the recent Tax Court decision in Bobrow v. Commissioner, which held that a taxpayer may make only one tax-free, 60 day rollover between IRAs within each 12-month period, regardless of how many IRAs he or she maintains. However, the IRS will not apply this new interpretation to any rollover that involves an IRA distribution occurring before January 2015.

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The Raskin Planning Group Philosophy: Helping Clients Reach Their Goals

Financial planning means something different to every advisor and to every client.

While some advisors focus on asset management, others focus on annuities and insurance products. Everyone is talking about something different. This creates confusion for the client, and a lack of confidence in the result.

At Raskin Planning Group, financial planning starts with the client’s objectives. We start with a plan - your plan. You need to know where you want to go before you can start the journey. While it is not essential to know every detail along the way, you should have a general idea about which direction you would like to take.

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Have you had The Conversation with your Family?

It is a basic human desire to be in "control" of our lives and most of us have a strong need and desire to feel independent. Nevertheless, your independence may be threatened as you go through the natural process of aging, face a progressive illness or deal with a medical emergency. At some point, you may become totally or partially dependent on others and as a result, your loved ones may be confronted with needing to make some very important and difficult decisions.

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Cost of Getting Divorced

Couples getting divorced generally focus their attention on splitting assets, alimony, child support, custody issues and getting through the process as quickly as possible. However, many fail to consider the actual cost of getting divorced.

Understanding the many factors that can cause the cost of your divorce to skyrocket is an important financial consideration.

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Are You Happy With Your Investment Portfolio Returns?

People often feel they need to review their portfolios at the beginning of a new year. When doing this review, they sometimes wonder why their return isn’t showing the same gains as the "market." Many investors want to take on more risk when markets are going up (hoping for greater returns) and then want less risk when markets go down (hoping they won’t lose as much). We like to remind our clients that the stock "market" can be violent in its reactions and experiences and therefore we recommend portfolios that include other types of investments that are less volatile. Clients that want to participate in market-like gains must expect market-like risk.

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Will Obamacare Affect Your Financial Planning?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a contentious point of discussion for many Americans, especially amongst politicians and pundits. It is a huge, complicated and confusing piece of legislation that was signed into law in March 2010 and will be implemented over a number of years. Many of our clients are concerned how the law might affect their health and their wealth.

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Transferring Wealth the Right Way

One of the most rewarding benefits of wealth is the ability to make a lasting impact long after you're gone. To this end, you could set up trusts that provide a financial cushion, pay educational costs or provide business seed capital for multiple generations of family members. Maybe you want to have your name on a library or to fund scholarships at your alma mater. Perhaps there is medical research or another cause that you strongly support.

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Top College Funding Mistakes Parents Make

Paying for your children's college educations should actually be placed quite low on the totem pole of financial priorities. Why? There are several reasons for this, such as the availability of tools to pay for college, such as financial aid in the forms of student loans, grants and other programs where loans are forgiven in exchange for public service in low-income communities. But ultimately, it's also because focusing too much on college savings can jeopardize a family's overall financial planning strategy.

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Think Twice About Your 401(k)

Does your 401(k) account include shares of your employer's stock that have grown a lot since you acquired them? If so, you may be able to make use of a "net unrealized appreciation" (NUA) strategy when you retire or otherwise leave your employer.

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The End of DOMA – Planning opportunities for same-sex couples

The Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional paves the way for married same-sex couples to receive more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections their straight counterparts already have access to. The ruling applies to all married couples in Massachusetts, as well as the 11 other states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal.

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Business Owners Want to Keep More of What They Make: Tax Reduction Strategies for the Small Business Owner

The Problem

2013 Federal Tax Rates have increased significantly for high income earners:

  • The highest marginal income tax rate has increased to 39.6%
  • Personal exemptions may be reduced or not available
  • Capital gains and dividend tax rates are increasing to 20% for those in the 39.6% income tax bracket
  • Net investment income may be taxed an additional 3.8%
  • Medicare taxes are increasing for higher income taxpayers
  • As of April 2013, Congress and the President are debating additional tax increases.

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Where does the Money Go?

I have met very few clients who do not cringe when we talk about the dreaded “B” word, budgeting. For many, they would rather do anything else than attempt to understand or set a budget for themselves and their families. The standard advice from most financial planners when it comes to budgeting is to “spend less and save more”. But for most families this is easier said than done, no matter what their income level. And exactly what do we mean by “spend less”, less on what? Most people do not even know where their money goes never mind where to cut back.

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Do Young Adult Children Need Estate Planning Documents?

Recently my son, a 21 year old senior in college, required some minor surgery. I felt pretty comfortable with the privacy rules pertaining to young adults and the need for my son to give his doctor permission to talk with me about my son's condition. We discussed this and he decided to sign a Health Care Proxy and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Release form so the doctor could talk with me about his specific care. We thought we were good to go.

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Stormy Seas (Again!)

Being on a boat on the ocean during a storm doesn't feel very good. You can be jolted around, sometimes violently, the wind blows and you are likely cold and wet. Fear, regret (for stepping on the boat) and discomfort are natural emotions during these times.

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Sailing and Rowing Strategies to Reach Your Financial Goals

Living in New England near the mountains and the ocean helps us understand the beauty and the power of mother nature. New Englanders have always been sustained by our oceans, lakes and rivers and have learned to navigate these waterways in all sorts of weather and conditions. One important lesson we need to constantly relearn is that we can't control or predict how weather will affect our experience on the water and we need to be prepared for anything.

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Financial Lessons We Learned This Summer

It's hard to believe September has arrived. Summer in New England is just too short. This summer was particularly busy for our team at the Raskin Planning Group as we vacationed, sold and bought homes, moved and learned to sail. We thought you might enjoy hearing about some of the lessons we learned this summer. It's not all financial, humorous or life-changing, but the list below gives you a window into the summer experiences of our financial planning team.

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Lessons Learned or Relearned

Reflecting back over the last twenty-four months, it's been quite a roller-coaster ride. It turns out the global economic system was in a severe crisis, possibly the worst since the Great Depression. Family, friends and neighbors have lost jobs and many of those still working are anxious about future employment and expect pay cuts.

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To ROTH or not to ROTH….That is the question

You may have already heard or read something about the Roth IRA Conversion. In 2010, the income limits on Roth IRA conversions disappear and now anyone can convert their Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

So, should you convert your Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA?

The answer is...it depends.

It depends on your individual circumstance. It is a fairly complex decision and below are just a few of the factors you should consider:

But first, a warning:

Regardless of your personal situation, financial institutions - banks, brokerage firms, fund companies, insurance companies - and their financial sales people - see the IRA conversion as an opportunity for a transaction which may mean additional revenue. Since the IRA conversion is a taxable event, the Internal Revenue Service may also profit from this transaction.

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Lincoln Financial White Paper - What I Would Do If I Were Retired

American retirees are reeling from the financial crisis. With stocks down 50% from their peak, many retirees have seen their retirement portfolios drop 20% or more. Their homes have also fallen sharply in value. The average home value in the United States is down about 30% off its peak, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. Now more than ever, retirees are looking for advice on how to live comfortably without running out of money. I’d like to discuss those challenges and propose some solutions.

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Timing is Everything By Peter A. Raskin

You've probably heard the phrase "timing is everything". There is a great deal of truth in that statement. Timing is important in sports, cooking, relationships, catching trains and planes and even financial planning.

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How Do You Make Financial Decisions by Peter A. Raskin

Why do investors sometimes succumb to fraudulent schemes that promise great returns but in hindsight are just too good to be true? Why did so many savvy, sophisticated and well-educated bankers ignore the risks inherent in the mortgage and credit markets? Why were our elected politicians unwilling to appropriately regulate the mortgage and banking industry that appears to have been so greedy? Why did so many individuals accept mortgage terms they could not afford to repay?

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Protecting your Financial Wellbeing After Divorce

What To Ask Before Your Divorce is Final

By Jessie Foster and Cindy Kuppens, members of the Boston Women's Life Planning Network

For many women, facing an impending divorce is one of the most stressful, terrifying situations they may ever experience. Divorce can trigger an emotional rollercoaster similar to the grieving process - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. If you find yourself in this situation a logical first step is to hire an attorney. Be sure to look for a qualified family law and divorce attorney who specializes in this field. He or she should represent your interests and advocate for you, even if your divorce is "amicable." If you are in a same sex marriage you need to look for a divorce attorney experienced in working with the particular legal issues you will face.

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