April 29, 2015

A chance to help the people of Nepal

The devastating earthquake in Nepal is a reminder of how lucky we are to be safe, well-fed, and secure. The devastation from the earthquake is incredible and many villages which were totally destroyed have yet to receive any outside assistance due to the poor infrastructure, rugged terrain, and the bad weather that will only get worse as the monsoon intensifies. Having traveled in Nepal I wanted to make a contribution, but one that I felt confident would do the most good. So I contacted author Jeff Greenwald (http://www.jeffgreenwald.com/) who has lived in Nepal and has written extensively about the country. He recommends donations to Portland-based Mercy Corps which is a 501(c)3 IRS-approved non-profit. Mercy Corps meets all 20 of the Better Business bureau Wise Giving Alliance standards for charitable accountability as well as Charity Navigator's highest 4 star rating. 88% of funds go to humanitarian programs with only 12% spent on fundraising and administration. Greenwald worked with Mercy Corps in post-tsunmai Sri Lanka. According to Greenwald, "they are already in Nepal, have been for many years, and are excellent with their distribution of funds and resources." According to Mercy Corps, they have 90 people (many of them locals) working to distribute aid. Donations can be made at Mercy Corps' website: https://www.mercycorps.org/donate/survivors-need-your-help-now

Will your end-of-life wishes be carried out?

Do the names Karen Ann Quinlan or Terri Schiavo ring a bell? Have you watched a friend or relative die a long, prolonged and painful death? Have you seen family members argue over how long to keep grandma alive? As medical advances enable very costly life-prolonging care, it is more important than ever to put your wishes in writing and ensure that your preferences will be carried out. If you have elderly parent or grandparents facing these questions, it's time to begin the conversation before it is too late. Join us for a discussion on how to talk with your family about your wishes for end-of-life care. Thursday, May 7, 4-5 pm at the cache County building, 179 N Main. Suite 109. For more info: call Amy: 435-535-5296 or Pat: 435-770-8272.

April 20, 2015

Student Loan Resources on eXtension

If you are considering using student loans to finance post-secondary education or already have student loan debts, a great resource is the eXtension website. Check out the student loan page: http://www.extension.org/pages/72895/student-loans#.VTWzafBvCDk

April 17, 2015

The more you save, the less you need for retirement!

“If you sock away just 10% of your income, you might indeed require 80% of your final salary to retire in comfort. But if you save 25%, you could sustain your current lifestyle with perhaps 65%,” according to The Wall Street Journal writer Jonathan Clements. Think about it. If you can get by on less today in order to save more, then you need less to maintain your current level of income in retirement.  Quote from “Why you will need less money than you think for retirement,” WSJ, April 9, 2015.

College financial aid shopping tool

It's that time of year when students face difficult decisions about where to pursue higher education. College financial aid offers can be very confusing since there is no standard form. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers the College financial aid shopping sheet to help compare offers: http://collegecost.ed.gov/shopping_sheet.pdf
For more information on how to use this tool and advice on making prudent decisions on how much to borrow for that degree check out "Know before you owe" http://www.consumerfinance.gov/students/knowbeforeyouowe/
I wonder how many families who vote for politicians who staunchly opposed the formation of the CFPB and lobbied heavily against appointing Elizabeth Warren (now senator from Massachusetts) as director, will be using this valuable tool.

For Retirement or Any Savings Goal, Try Being Lazy and Self-Centered

Seems like strange advice? As much as we would like to believe that people are rational, they usually aren’t when it comes to money and deferring gratification. “What makes us really want to save? Self-actualization, says Jae Min Lee, a visiting scholar at the Ohio State University. Lee’s research finds that saving is most motivated by our search for personal fulfillment.” Lee reports it is more effective to focus on specific personalized goals like a specific vacation destination or a retirement home, rather than trying to reach a magic number like $1 million or saving “as much as I can.” Get inspired at: https://www.mainstreet.com/article/for-retirement-or-any-savings-goal-try-being-lazy-and-self-centered

Put your tax refund to work

The average income tax refund (overpayment to the government paying no interest) is about $2800. Instead of blowing that money, it's time to get serious about ensuring financial security in retirement. With as little as $100 (yes, one hundred) you can start a Roth IRA with Schwab in their total stock market index fund (SWTIX) https://www.schwabplan.com/FundDetail/SWTIX.pdf
For $1,000 consider a target retirement fund Roth IRA with Vanguard: https://investor.vanguard.com/mutual-funds/target-retirement/#/
Get started today!

Are YOU as stock or a bond?

For working age people, “the most valuable asset is often not a retirement portfolio or even a residence; it's one's own ability to continue to earn income through employment.  In fact, for those who are relatively young, the cumulative fruits of labor are a form of ‘human capital’ that overwhelmingly trumps the value of everything else combined.” Read what Michael Kitces has to say about the relationship between job security and how one should invest. For some public sector employees or tenured university faculty with secure jobs and excellent benefits, their job is like a steady bond, whereas entrepreneurs and employees with tenuous job security, their income is like a volatile stock. Kitces explains the relationship between human capital and investing at: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102569674

Increase your credit card limits BEFORE retiring!

Before you retire you should request higher limits on your credit cards. Consider whether your current limits are enough if you plan expensive travel. When you try to increase your credit limit online or with phone reps, all they ask for is income. You can waste a lot of time with an employee who can only provide boilerplate answers and doesn’t understand that you will pay your bills not out of income but by tapping retirement accounts. So, even if you think your credit limits are sufficient, it wouldn't hurt to increase them while you are still fully employed.

April 16, 2015

Low investment returns mean you need to keep costs low!

Virtually all the projections that I've read about investment returns in the next few years (and longer) strongly suggest that overall returns will be considerably less than historical averages. Thus, it is even more critical than ever to ensure that you are not paying too much for management fees and investment advice. Are you sure you understand how much you are being charged for investment advice in terms of adviser fees, commissions, and management fees? If your adviser is charging "only" 1% of assets under management, you had better educate yourself about how that eats into your returns.
Check out Walter Updegrave's advice on reducing costs at: http://time.com/money/3821009/retirement-one-investment-you-need/

April 15, 2015

National Retirement Planning Week: 4 Questions for your adviser

It's National Retirement Planning Week!
Here are 4 questions to ask your adviser, courtesy of Forbes:
1. How do you provide value as a retirement advisor?
2. Do you provide comprehensive retirement planning?
3. Do you have advanced financial planning education?
4. How are you compensated?
Read the details at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiehopkins/2015/04/14/4-questions-everyone-must-ask-their-retirement-advisor/

Consumer Reports "Problem Solver"

Have a frustrating consumer experience and need some extra fire power behind your complaint? Or have a complaint that you feel goes beyond your individual case? Get help and perhaps change a bad policy by contacting Consumer Reports' "Problem Solver" by sending your story to: problemsolver@cr.consumer.org

April 2, 2015

Affordable Care Act resources available on IRS.gov/aca

"The Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care law, adds new health insurance coverage and financial assistance options for individuals and families.

IRS.gov/aca explains the tax benefits and responsibilities for individuals and families. This includes information about the individual shared responsibility provision and premium tax credit provision. It also provides basic information about how health insurance choices you make may affect the tax return you file.

IRS electronic publications include:
Watch the IRS You Tube videos for an overview of the individual shared responsibility provision and the premium tax credit. Subscribe to Health Care Tax Tips to understand the tax provisions of health care law.

IRS.gov/aca has the most updated information about the Affordable Care Act tax provisions for individuals and families. IRS.gov/aca also provides information about rules and responsibilities for employers, as well as tax provisions for insurers, tax-exempt organizations, and other businesses."
(direct quote from IRS)
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