Financial Planning

Reviewing Your Estate Plan

 
Reviewing Your Estate PlanAn estate plan is a map that explains how you want your personal and financial affairs to be handled in the event of your incapacity or death. Due to its importance and because circumstances change over time, you should periodically review your estate plan and update it as needed.
 

When should you review your estate plan?

Reviewing your estate plan will alert you to any changes that need to be addressed. For example, you may need to make changes to your plan to ensure it meets all of your goals, or when an executor, trustee, or guardian can no longer serve in that capacity. Although there’s no hard-and-fast rule about when you should review your estate plan, you’ll probably want to do a quick review each year, because changes in the economy and in the tax code often occur on a yearly basis. Every five years, do a more thorough review. Continue reading

How can I protect my personal and financial information from credit fraud and identity theft?

 

How can I protect my personal and financial information from credit fraud and identity theft?In today’s digital world, massive computer hacks and data breaches are common occurrences. And chances are, your personal or financial information is now susceptible to being used for credit fraud or identity theft. If you discover that you are the victim of either of these crimes, you should consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report to protect yourself.
 
 
A credit freeze prevents new credit and accounts from being opened in your name. Once you obtain a credit freeze, creditors won’t be allowed to access your credit report and therefore cannot offer new credit. This helps prevent identity thieves from applying for credit or opening fraudulent accounts in your name. Continue reading

Infographic: Financial Lessons from Football

 

Infographic: Financial Lessons from Football

How much money should a family borrow for college?

 
How much money should a family borrow for college?There is no magic formula to determine how much you or your child should borrow to pay for college. But there is such a thing as borrowing too much. How much is too much? Well, one guideline for students is to borrow no more than their expected first-year starting salary after college, which, in turn, depends on a student’s particular major and job prospects.

 
But this guideline is simply that — a guideline. Just as many homeowners got burned by taking out larger mortgages than they could afford (even though lenders may have told them they were qualified for that amount), students can get burned by borrowing amounts that may have seemed reasonable at first glance but now, in reality, are not.
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Pretax, Roth, or After-Tax Contributions: Which Should You Choose?

 
Pretax, Roth, or After-Tax Contributions: Which Should You Choose?If your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan allows pretax, after-tax, and/or Roth contributions, which should you choose?
 

Pretax: Tax benefits now

 
With pretax contributions, the money is deducted from your paycheck before taxes, which helps reduce your taxable income and the amount of taxes you pay now. Consider the following example, which is hypothetical and has been simplified for illustrative purposes.
 

Example(s): Mark earns $2,000 every two weeks before taxes. If he contributes nothing to his retirement plan on a pretax basis, the amount of his pay that will be subject to income taxes would be the full $2,000. If he was in the 25% federal tax bracket, he would pay $500 in federal income taxes, reducing his take-home pay to $1,500. On the other hand, if he contributes 10% of his income to the plan on a pretax basis–or $200–he would reduce the amount of his taxable pay to $1,800. That would reduce the amount of taxes due to $450. After accounting for both federal taxes and his plan contribution, Mark’s take-home pay would be $1,350. The bottom line? Mark would be able to invest $200 toward his future but reduce his take-home pay by just $150. That’s the benefit of pretax contributions.

 
In addition, any earnings made on pretax contributions grow on a tax-deferred basis. That means you don’t have to pay taxes on any gains each year, as you would in a taxable investment account. However, those tax benefits won’t go on forever. Any money withdrawn from a tax-deferred account is subject to ordinary income taxes, and if the withdrawal takes place prior to age 59½ (or in some cases, 55 or 50, depending on your plan’s rules), you may be subject to an additional 10% penalty on the total amount of the distribution.
 
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