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Articles

ANNUITIES



Annuities: A Retirement Planning Tool To Consider

When it comes to deferring taxes, people normally think of retirement accounts like 401(k)s, Keoghs, SEPs, and IRAs. But there’s another way to defer taxes on your investment earnings until you reach retirement: by purchasing an annuity.

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Is an Annuity Right for You?

When it comes to your retirement, there are three factors that you may want to take into account when planning for your retirement income needs.

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Variable Annuities: Another Retirement Savings Tool

From time to time, we all take stock in our lives and resolve to make positive changes going forward. However, this personal evaluation doesn’t always include a hard look at our own retirement strategy. No matter how investor's envision their retirement years, one thing is certain – investors will want to make sure that they have adequate savings and investments to enjoy their future.

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CHARITABLE GIVING



Charitable Giving: Good for the Heart and Your 1040!

It may be better to give than to receive, but it may be even better to give and see your generosity rewarded. Charitable giving can play a valuable role in your financial and tax strategies. A well-planned gift to charity could provide an income tax deduction and a reduction of estate taxes. Your donation could also help you maintain financial security, exercise control over assets both during your lifetime and after death, as well as provide for your heirs in the manner you choose.

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It’s Your Money. . .Who Decides How Your Charitable $$ will be Spent?

When you give $100 to your favorite charity, you are probably not overly concerned about how your donation is spent, as long as it advances the mission of the charity. On the other hand, if you are making a large donation, it is more likely that you have specific goals in mind, whether to fund a particular program or support another endeavor. This desire to specify exactly where your donation dollars will go may jeopardize your ability to claim an income tax deduction. Therefore, proper planning is essential.

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Private Foundations—An Alternative to Charitable Giving

For many individuals with accumulated wealth, occasional gifts to a favorite charity may satisfy their charitable inclinations. The added incentive of an often-substantial tax deduction, coupled with various estate planning benefits, can be the driving force behind such charitable gifts. However, for some individuals, philanthropy is a far more serious endeavor, often involving a succession of substantial gifts of at least $5 to $10 million, which may necessitate an amount of control and general oversight. In these situations, a

private foundation can be an ideal venue for managing a large, ongoing charitable giving program.

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When Giving, Get a Receipt

Charitable contributions can be especially important to help support an organization or a cause that’s close to your heart. As an added benefit, you may be able to deduct a portion of your contributions on your Federal income tax return. However, as with all tax deductions, it’s important to keep accurate records of charitable donations in the event you one day need to substantiate such gifts. Therefore, be sure to obtain a receipt to confirm your charitable contribution.

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DISABILITY INSURANCE



Disability Income Insurance: Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset

Have you ever wondered how you would manage financially if you were to sustain an injury or illness that left you unable to work? How long could you maintain your standard of living, pay your bills, and cover your daily expenses? The likelihood of such an event may be greater than you think. According to the Council for Disability Awareness (2013), Americans underestimate their chances of experiencing a long-term disability: 64% of working Americans believe they have a 2% or less chance of being disabled for 3 months or more during their working years; however, the reality is that the odds of experiencing a long-term disability are about 25%.

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EDUCATION PLANNING



Filing the FAFSA for Higher Education Costs

Even if you expect to cover your child’s college costs through sources other than Federal aid, it usually worthwhile to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition to determining your family’s eligibility for Federal assistance, the FAFSA is the primary qualifying form used by many college, state, local, and private financial assistance programs.

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College Admissions: Thinking Outside the Box

If you were asked how best to prepare your child for college, you might say that a well-rounded high school curriculum would be a good start. It may be true that your child needs to be a good student in order to get a foot in the door of higher education. Today, however, getting to college and finishing college are two distinct challenges.

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Paying for College with Help from Uncle Sam

When thinking about funding sources for your children’s college education, you may assume your family earns too much to qualify for Federal grants, loans, and work-study job assistance. However, families with higher incomes are frequently eligible to receive some form of financial aid from the Federal government.

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Budget Basics for College Students

One extracurricular activity that every student can master while in college is personal money management. Typically, a student’s daily spending is done on an improvised basis, meaning that overspending is often the norm rather than the exception.

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You’ve Graduated: Now It’s “Payback” Time

It takes four years, on average, to graduate from most colleges and universities. During that time, students can accumulate a large amount of debt. For most, the degree is worth the burden of paying off student loans long after graduation. However, these questions remain: How should the debt be repaid? Are there any plans that can help make “payback” easier? What if a student can’t find a job right away?

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Estimating Future College Costs

For most people, a child’s college education is the second most expensive purchase (after that of a home) they will ever make. For parents and grandparents who wish to estimate the cost of a college education, the following tables can facilitate an educated guess.

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ESTATE PLANNING



Important Steps in Preserving Your Estate

If you are like most people, wills, trusts, life insurance, disability income insurance, and advance directives are topics you would just as soon avoid. Yet, timely planning is necessary to preserve the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate and to protect your loved ones. Here are some important steps you can take now to help ease your family’s emotional and financial burden in the event of your death:

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Estate Planning: A Team Effort

Estate planning often involves a team consisting of an attorney, a financial professional, an insurance professional, and yourself. However, whether you are establishing a new estate plan or revising an existing one, only you can provide the guidance, direction, and information your estate planning team needs to develop an effective plan.

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Keep Your Estate Plan on Track

For today's business owner, death can mark the beginning of a significant tax problem. The investment and sweat that went into building your business year after year could add up to a whopping federal estate tax bill for your heirs – up to 40% in 2016 of the combined value of your company and other assets.

With careful estate planning however, there are still ways to reduce the estate tax burden on your loved ones, while keeping the business intact. The following gives an overview of some available estate planning options.

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Your Estate and Life Insurance: It All Adds Up

It can be fairly easy to underestimate your net worth. After all, predicting the future value of your home and savings is merely hypothetical. On the other hand, you can rely on the fixed amount of the death benefit provided by your life insurance policy. However, adding this often significant sum to your asset pool could expose your estate to the Federal estate tax.

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The Importance of Advance Directives

Traditionally, estate planning has focused on minimizing estate taxes and directing the disposition of your assets after death. Today, managing your affairs often includes the issue of long-term health care. What would happen if you were to experience a debilitating illness or become incapable of managing your own affairs? Such a situation could occur gradually, due to a progressive medical condition, or suddenly, due to an unexpected accident or illness. If such an event were to happen, who would make important legal, financial, and health care decisions and on what authority?

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Ten Tips for Creating an Effective Estate Plan

Whether your estate plan is simple or complicated, many details can undermine the effectiveness of your plan. But, there are also ways to ensure the effectiveness of your plan. Here are 10 steps to help remedy or avoid some common estate planning mistakes:

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Trusts and Your Estate Plan

Arranging for the distribution of assets after death is not a task most people approach eagerly. It is, however, a necessary task. That's where trusts can come into play. A trust, simply defined, is an arrangement whereby one person holds legal title to an asset and manages it for the benefit of another. For estate planning, trusts may be used in several ways.

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Your Assets and Your Children: Dividing Your Estate

When planning the division of your assets, you may endorse the philosophy of “share and share alike” to avoid conflicts and complaints of favoritism. But does the idea of fairness equate with factors such as age, talents/skills, interests, needs, and degrees of material success? A more practical approach to the division of assets may be one in which you recognize and compensate for differences in the abilities and needs of your children, even at the risk of some disagreement.

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Estate Planning and the Importance of Drafting a Will

The prospect of writing a will can often bring up uncomfortable feelings. Yet, drafting a will is one of the most important components of estate planning. Having a will in place ensures that your heirs will be provided for and your wishes for asset distribution will be met. Like many people, have you postponed writing a will? Or, is it time to review and update it?

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INVESTMENTS



Analyzing the Flows in Your Financial Plan

For most investors—even those with significant wealth—a secure financial future doesn’t simply happen. Instead, it must be carefully crafted to help meet your most important goals and leave nothing to chance. Of course, the future is unpredictable and your own personal situation changes over time. That makes it all the more challenging to answer the most crucial of financial questions: Are you on track towards achieving your financial objectives?

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Are Your Assets Really Diversified?

You've heard the old investment adage, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." It's good advice. A diversified portfolio should be at the core of any well-planned investment strategy. While a worthy goal at any age, it's especially desirable as your net worth grows over the years.

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Analyzing Investment Styles: Growth vs. Value

Growth or value—what’s your style? Growth investors look for stocks that will grow at a high rate for a relatively short period of time or mutual funds that focus on growth stock. Value investors look for stocks that are currently undervalued and are expected to increase to their true value over a longer time horizon or mutual funds that focus on value stock.

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LIFE INSURANCE



Inflation Affects Your Life Insurance Coverage

Determining your current life insurance needs is important, but your needs may change in the future. Projecting future coverage needs requires you to pay careful attention to inflation, as well as changes in your personal circumstances.

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Understanding Life Insurance Beneficiary Designations

In the language of life insurance, a beneficiary is the recipient of the proceeds of a policy when the named insured dies. The owner of a life insurance policy has a great deal of flexibility in naming beneficiaries and can generally name anyone he or she chooses. However, it is important to understand the different types of designations and methods of distribution before choosing your beneficiaries.

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Life Insurance: Adapting to Changing Needs

When Jennifer purchased her life insurance policy 10 years ago, she assumed that her life insurance planning was complete. She thought that if she just paid her premiums on time, she could sit back and not worry about life insurance any more. Jennifer’s policy has provided protection for herself and her family over the years. But letting her insurance program run on autopilot may not be the best route to take in the long run.

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Assigning Your Life Insurance Policy

Getting approval for a loan can sometimes depend on, for example, a lender asking a borrower, “How will this loan be repaid in the event of your death?” Your answer may be to assign your life insurance policy, a useful feature that can help provide necessary security for a lender.

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Whole Life Insurance: What You Should Know

When faced with the wide range of life insurance coverage available, you may wonder what type really fits your needs now and what coverage you should have in place for the future. A good first step is to understand basic whole life insurance coverage.

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LONG TERM CARE



Don’t Let Health Care Costs Crack Your Nest Egg

Escalating health care costs can undermine the best-laid retirement plans. One of the biggest risks lies in the cost of long-term care. Unfortunately, health care costs in general have been outpacing inflation, and this trend to may continue.

Even if you’re currently in good health, you can’t guarantee that it’ll continue in your later years. Not being prepared can be very expensive. According to data from Lincoln Financial Group’s long-term care website, current national averages for full-time long-term care services can range from $2,860 per month to $14,386, depending on the setting and level of care required1. At that rate, it wouldn’t take long to put a sizable dent into most nest eggs.

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REAL ESTATE



The Basics of Financing Your New Home

If you are in the market for a new home, interest rates are favorable, and good deals are not difficult to find in many areas of the country. Buying a home is the single largest purchase most people will ever make, and for first-time homebuyers especially, the financing process can appear complicated. The following information provides you with some preliminary information to understand how mortgages work.

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First-Time Homebuyers: Items to Consider

Contemplating whether or not to buy your first home can be an exciting and time-consuming process. For many, the purchase of a home is the largest purchase they will ever make. Therefore, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. If you feel that you will be better off financially as an owner instead of a renter, one question remains: What mortgage amount can you afford?

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RETIREMENT PLANNING



The Reality of Early Retirement

Is early retirement on your wish list? Do you envision a relaxing lifestyle in a warmer climate or the leisurely pursuit of a personal hobby? Unfortunately, retiring later than anticipated, rather than sooner, is becoming more and more commonplace. But some people are still managing to retire early. You may be asking yourself, “How do they do it?”

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Traditional IRAs vs Roth IRAs

Currently, there are two popular Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) vying for your attention: the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA. While both are long-term savings vehicles with tax benefits, each has different rules concerning contributions, age, and income that may change from one year to the next.

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Mapping the Road to Retirement

It makes sense to periodically review your financial strategy along the road to retirement to make sure you are taking advantage of all available tools and resources that may help build your retirement income. Your ability to save more now, before retirement, will provide you with a nest egg that will help support a comfortable retirement. You may want to consider these five steps to stay on track toward reaching your retirement goals:

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Retirement Planning: Let the Journey Begin

The sage advice that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, also applies to saving for your retirement. It’s up to you to take that first step. If you wait until you have “enough” money to begin saving, you may never start at all. Instead, focus on the first step. Then, you can begin transforming that thousand-mile journey to retirement into smaller, more manageable goals.

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Retirement Planning: Keeping Pace with Change

Planning ahead for retirement means setting long- and short-term goals, while deciding how they will be met, within the framework of a changing financial picture. As your golden years approach, consider these factors to better position yourself to enjoy your retirement years:

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Planning for a Long Retirement

Americans are living longer than ever, thanks to advances in health care, improved diets and better exercise. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95, according to data from the Social Security Administration.

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Inflation and Your Retirement

Even if your retirement is years away, it’s important to understand how inflation can affect your retirement savings. You probably know that inflation can depreciate your savings over time.

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Countdown to Retirement: Strategies for Saving in Your 50s

The Baby Boom generation is about to enter another era: retirement. Never known for accepting the status quo, Baby Boomers are ready to redefine the “golden years.” Forget about endless days of leisure. This generation seeks adventure, travel, and new business pursuits. While these changes may redefine retirement, will Boomers be able to finance their plans? Today, many people age 50 and older have not begun to save for retirement or have yet to accumulate sufficient funds.

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SMALL BUSINESS



Steps for Managing Your Cash Flow

Small business owners inevitably juggle many competitive priorities. While it can be challenging to keep everything running smoothly, “dropping the ball” on cash flow can be a costly oversight. Effectively managing the money flowing in and out of your company is key to staying in business. As you plan for success, three basic steps can help you successfully manage your cash flow: tracking, analysis, and budgeting.

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Options for Financing Your Business

Using many years of experience and industry know-how to establish a business is a goal held by many would-be entrepreneurs. In fact, finding a location, formulating a business plan, and hanging the "Open" sign might be one of your long-cherished dreams. However, securing capital to begin operations can often be frustrating and difficult. But, there are a number of potential sources of financing to explore. Some entrepreneurs are able to secure bank loans or venture capital, while others may turn to family members or friends for financing.

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Designing an Employee Benefit Plan

When you begin to create an employee benefit plan, you may want to start with a few core benefits, including life insurance, health insurance, and a retirement plan. These benefits form a base from which your company’s benefit plan can grow and evolve in the future. Every year or two, it may be wise to consider the addition of a new benefit to the plan, such as dental insurance or disability income insurance. Rather than bearing the entire burden of cost, you can contribute a portion of the cost, with your employees paying the balance.

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Choosing the Right Retirement Plan for Your Business

You’re an entrepreneur and you’re not looking back. You’ve opened your own business, whether alone or with partners, and you’ve achieved success. Now you’re thinking about retirement, not just for you, but also for your employees. Offering a retirement plan can help your business attract and retain employees, while making it easier for you to save for your own retirement. Here are some of the options available to business owners:

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Points for Business Succession Planning

  1. Start now—address the issue of business succession—don’t put it off!

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TAXES



Trimming Your Taxes While Saving for Retirement

Contributing to tax-advantaged retirement plans is one of the most effective financial planning strategies available to U.S. taxpayers: Saving money in a 401(k), IRA, or a Roth IRA account can trim your tax bill, while helping you prepare for the future. Even if you are already contributing to a retirement plan, you should review your retirement savings strategy regularly to ensure that you are making the most of the tax breaks you qualify for.

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Financial Recordkeeping for Tax Purpose

Keeping thorough and accurate financial records is one of the less exciting tasks that business owners face, but it is a necessary one. In addition to enabling you to monitor the progress of your business and make informed decisions on a daily basis, keeping good accounting records is essential when it comes time to prepare your tax returns. While the smallest businesses may be able to get by with the “shoebox method,” having in place a reliable and comprehensive financial recordkeeping system is crucial if you want your business to grow.

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The Tax Implications of Changing Jobs

Whether you are moving to another employer because of a new opportunity or because you were laid off from your previous position, changing jobs can have major tax implications, both for the amount of taxes owed in the year you start a new position, and for your long-term retirement planning.

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Year-End Tax Planning Strategies

Waiting until just before April 15 to start thinking about your taxes may prove to be a costly mistake. Preparing a draft of your tax return before the end of the year will provide you with a more complete picture of what you are likely to owe, and it may leave you with enough time to reduce your tax liability by contributing to tax-advantaged savings accounts or qualifying for deductions. Advance tax planning is especially important if your circumstances have changed over the past year due to events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a family member.

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