16Oct
What If We Have Excess Money in a 529 Plan?
College Planning
With the ever increasing costs for college and post-high school education, parents and grandparents often contribute to Section 529 Plans.

529 college savings plans are often thought to be the most effective way to save for college education expenses.  Contributions to these plans can be deducted from state income tax, grow federal and state tax-free, and can even be withdrawn tax-free for the use of higher education expenses, such as tuition, room and board, books and other similar costs.  With the increasing amount of 529 plans, some are finding that a portion of the plan balance may not be needed, in fact, for college expenses.

Due to the variability in college expenses, planning for the precise amount can be difficult.  There are so many factors that affect college expenses.  In-state versus out-of-state tuition costs vary, as do public versus private institution costs.  Future tuition inflation levels and scholarships also can greatly affect a student’s college expenses.  Unlike some other child savings avenues, 529 plans give account owners control.  529 plans also provide ways to divert and divest the surplus or unused amount in the plan.  Some options account owners have are:

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09Oct
What May Happen to Prices in 2018
Economy

I read some predictions in the August 25 Kiplinger Letter which I thought might interest you.

  • Energy prices are on the rise. Crude oil is expected to increase “a few dollars a barrel”.  Natural gas could increase as much as 10% and electricity about 2%.
  • Employers can expect to pay an additional 4% for health insurance while prescription drugs could increase by 10.3%.  This is actually down from the 11.6% increase in 2017!
  • Airfares and freight costs will increase by about 2%. Hotels up about 2.2% and car rentals by 3%.
  • UPS and Fed Ex are expected to increase their rates by 3-5%.

So is anything expected to decrease in cost?  YES! Technology and telecom costs will continue to slide; smartphone, tablets, PC’s and printers may decrease by as much as 10%!

As Wall Street reaches new highs, hopefully it will provide a means for you to handle the higher prices.

Barbara A. Culver
CFP®, ChFC®, CLU, AEP®
Resonate, Inc.
(513) 605-2500

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06Oct
What the Future May Hold for U.S. Large Caps
Economy

Of course, no one knows for sure, but I thought you might be interested in the latest opinions I have received recently.

Tailey Leger, equity strategist for the Oppenheimer Funds states that she expects the large cap rally to continue for at least two more years.

Here is the thinking that supports this position:

  1. A weakening U.S. dollar and strengthening international economies are key reasons.  The foreign exposure of U.S. large cap companies results in 30% of the S&P 500 revenues coming from outside the U.S.
  2. If the president comes through with tax cuts for businesses, it may create more opportunity for growth.
  3. The Federal Reserve is committed to normalizing monetary policy and flattening the yield curve.  Historically large caps have outperformed small caps by an average of 1.8% in flattening yield curve regimes.

Please contact me to discuss your personal objectives and portfolio strategy.

Barbara A. Culver
CFP®, ChFC®, CLU, AEP®
Resonate, Inc.
(513) 605-2500

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03Oct
Is There a Hidden Agenda with Robo-Advisors?
Investing
The market for working with robo-advisers is growing rapidly.

As with anything that increases in popularity, there is new research available about these seemingly “neutral” programs.

Before I share it, let’s define a robo-“advisor”.

Roboadvisors are a class of financial adviser that provide financial advice or portfolio management online with minimal human intervention.  They provide digital financial advice based on mathematical rules or algorithms. (Wikipedia)

In other words, this is nothing more than computer- based programs into which certain data is fed about the investor.  Then, the computer applies algorithms to the data and spits out an allocated investment program.

Here in lies the potential problem.

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22Sep
Investing Tips from Warren Buffett
Investing

Warren Buffett is arguably one of the best investors of all times.  Here are three investing tips from the “Oracle of Omaha”.

  1. “Never lose money.”

    While even the legendary Buffett has suffered stock market losses, one key to his success is that the losses are small and infrequent compared with his larger long-lasting positions.(Please do not take this direct quote literally.  There are no guarantees in investing and there is always the potential to lose money.)

  2. “Be an investor, not a speculator.”

    Speculators tend to bet on price without paying much attention to earnings or dividends.  Speculators tend to be short term technical traders.  On the other hand, investors tend to take the long view and expect to be paid continuously for owning an asset.  This could be in the form of interest or dividends.

  3. “Diversify, diversify, diversify.”

    This advice includes owning both U.S. and International positions, stocks and bonds, multiple sectors, and non-correlated asset classes.

While we understand that each client’s investment strategy and risk tolerances are unique, I hope that these general investing tips are both of interest and value to you.

I also look forward to sharing a conversation with you, to discuss these concepts further and explore how they could apply to your investment goals and objectives.

(Credit for some of this information goes to Steve Jurich, IQ Wealth Management September 2017.)


Barbara A. Culver

CFP®, ChFC®, CLU, AEP®
Resonate, Inc.
(513) 605-2500

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19Sep
Your Children and Athletic Scholarships
College Planning

The new school year has begun!  Besides a new school year, fall also rings in another sports season for many families.  I have an 8-year old son, and for the first time, he will be playing tackle football.  I still don’t know how I feel about that!

He also plays fall soccer for a club team, winter basketball for his school, spring baseball with his school, and another round of club soccer in the spring.  He plays these sports out of passion for the game and being a “Energizer” bunny full of athleticism.

While he may play a lot of sports, I always instill that school comes first and if he starts to struggle in school, the sports schedule will be fiercely re-evaluated.

I tell you all of this because at 8 years old, I am already hearing other parents and coaches tell me that he could be a candidate for athletic scholarships for college.  First, I am by no means taking any of that to heart.  He is 8 years old and has many moons before college.  Second, it triggered this blog post, because I had an article from Wealthmanagement.com magazine titled “How to Get an Athletic Scholarship”, written by Lynn O’Shaughnessy.

I found the article very interesting because as financial planners, we do a lot of education projections and creating strategies for families to afford not only college, but in some cases, elementary and high school educations.  Through our experience with the education planning, we run across parents who are “counting on” athletic scholarships to pave the financial way for their children to attend college.

The reality may be different from what many parents anticipate.

The article pointed out that the odds of receiving an athletic scholarship are very small; “2% of high school athletes receive a sports scholarship at a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) school”.  The article further points out that the scholarships tend to be less generous than the financial aid or merit scholarships that students can receive.

It was an interesting read and pointed out a couple of other college funding options for athletes – focus on merit scholarships and financial aid.  If you have a student who wants to get noticed by college coaches, have them utilize an online recruiting service (Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) or BeRecruited).  The students can also reach out to college coaches to introduce themselves and follow up with the coaches.  Another resource for students and parents would be the ScholarshipStats.com website.  This site is a source for athletic scholarship statistics to research specific sports and individual schools.

When it comes to financial planning for your children’s education, putting too many hopes onto an athletic scholarship is not advisable.  Let’s talk through all the options that your children will have for college and beyond.

Erin Savage-Weaver
CFP®
Resonate, Inc.
(513) 605-2500

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24Aug
Who Will Be the Next Chair of the Federal Reserve?
uncategorized

While only the president knows this answer for sure, odds are that Janet Yellen’s term will not be extended.

In the July 28 issue of The Kiplinger Letter, we read:

“The best bet to replace Yellen is Gary Cohn.”

Cohn is a former president of Goldman Sachs and currently serves as the director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

If Cohn is appointed, what might we expect?

Again, Kiplinger suggests that Cohn would not be likely to deviate from present policy of gradually increasing interest rates while also watching carefully for any signs of a slowing economy.

Stay tuned as Janet Yellen’s term expires in February, 2018.

Barbara A. Culver
CFP®, ChFC®, CLU, AEP®
Resonate, Inc.
(513) 605-2500

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16Aug
How Resonate Provides Value
Economy
Richness of LifeIn case you have not read the first blog in this short series, I invite you to do so.

Since completing it, I have given thought to which of the many client stories I wanted to share with you.

The first story is that of a recent widow who was referred to us.  When I met with Alice, (not her real name, of course), I found her to be very clear and communicative in spite of the recent and sudden passing of her husband.

The stories she told me about her experiences in the financial services world both angered and saddened me.  Assumptions were made that, of course, she would not be able to “handle her own affairs nor make thoughtful decisions” primarily because she was a woman.  On several occasions, male advisors from different companies assured her that “they knew what was best” and even provided “solutions” without bothering to understand the client and her life.

In contrast, I discovered, that when given the opportunity, this woman was quite amazing in how quickly she was adjusting to new life and found her thought process to be remarkably clear.

This included her clarity of thought that the “solutions” provided probably benefited the advisor more than they would benefit her.  Upon discussion and review of the various recommendations, I supported her thinking.

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04Aug
Client Fees & Value
Economy
It seems that everywhere we turn today, the media is emphasizing advisory and product fees.

Common questions are:

“Are you paying too much?”

“Do you know what you are paying for?”

I consider this type question to be one-dimensional and shortsighted.  For example, if one wants to “stay on the numbers’ side”, then where is the question:

 “Are you receiving value for your fees?”

The interesting thing that happens when we insert the word “value” is that we add the possibility for an intangible answer in addition to the one-dimensional tangible answer.

Here are two recent examples of how we have added both tangible and intangible value for our clients:

Example One:

Clients recently came in for their conversation with us, which includes portfolio review. They brought a folder with them and asked: “Will you please look over these estimates for us to pre-pay our funerals?”

This led to a conference call with the clients and the director of the funeral home.  At the end of the conversation in which I asked many questions, the clients said, “Thank you so much.  We understand this now, and are very pleased with the decisions we have made.  Mostly, we feel wonderful that we have taken this burden off of our family.”

Tangible Results: the clients ended up saving $1100 from the original quote.

Resonate Time: 90 minutes

Resonate Fee for this work: $0 

 

Intangible Value Received by the Client: Relief; peace of mind.

Intangible Value Received by Resonate: Knowing we did the “right thing” for aging clients.

 

Another Example…

A client called recently and said: “I’m not sure if these new legal documents prepared by an attorney match our objectives discussed with you.”

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18Jul
IRS on Your Mind? – Here Is What NOT To Try!
Taxes

The subject of taxation is not normally a welcomed topic – here are some “fun” court cases provided by Kiplinger’s.

“A Little Peace and Quiet”

A busy tax preparer ran her business from her home.  During tax season, she felt so harassed from clients calling her at all hours of the day and night that she occasionally booked a room at a local hotel for some peace and quiet.  On her own return, she deducted the cost of this rest and relaxation as a business expense.  Unfortunately for her, the Tax Court ruled that the cost of her good night’s sleep was a nondeductible personal expense.

 

“Billing Mommy”

A wife was sent to jail for killing her husband.  Although she was named as the primary beneficiary of his 401(k) plan, state law barred her from receiving any of the funds because of her crime.  The account was paid to their son instead as the secondary beneficiary.  He claimed that his mother should be taxed on the payout as the intended beneficiary.  An Appeals Court gave him an A for effort but an F in taxation, ruling that he owes tax on the distribution.

 

“Wrecking a Rental Car”

An airline employee needed to get to New Orleans but was stranded by heavy fog.  He worked out a great deal with a rental car company where he paid nothing for a car that the company needed driven to New Orleans.  Unfortunately, he wrecked the auto in Mississippi and had to pay for the damages.  He tried to deduct the payment as a casualty loss, but the Tax Court denied his write-off because he wasn’t the owner of the vehicle.

Now here’s a little good news:

Kiplinger’s recently a report on “The LEAST Tax Friendly States in the U.S. for 2016”.

The good news is that Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Indiana are NOT on the list.

Here are the factors that were considered to create the list: income, property, gas and sales tax.

In order from the LEAST tax friendly, here are the top states. (Before reading further, it might be fun for you to see how many of them you could guess.)….  California, Hawaii, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Maine, Vermont, Illinois, and Rhode Island!

From our Blogs page, simply search for “tax” to find additional articles of interest.

Please note that, while we are not accountants and cannot provide tax advice, we do work cooperatively with very qualified accountants.  The information that we will share is available to the general public and should not be construed as giving income tax advice.

Barbara A. Culver
CFP®, ChFC®, CLU, AEP®
Resonate, Inc.
(513) 605-2500

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