Your Life's Work

What Does The SECURE Act Mean For You?

1/21/20

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

Congress recently passed legislation which has made changes to various rules regarding retirement plans. While there are many different aspects of the new law, a few key components are worth noting. I encourage you to read this article by Sarah Brenner of the Slott Report for additional information regarding the SECURE Act. MarketWatch also published an article that goes in depth on the new rules which is worth reading.

 

The age for Required Minimum Distributions, or RMDs, has increased to 72 years old.

Employers are given tax credits for allowing workers to “auto-enroll” into retirement plans

The age limit for contributions to a traditional IRA have been removed.

New parents are exempt from the 10% penalty normally associated with taking premature withdrawals from retirement savings.

The “stretch IRA” has been effectively eliminated, as beneficiaries of an IRA would now be required to draw down the entire plan within 10 years, as opposed to using their lifetime.

These changes may have little impact on some families and major implications for others. With all of this in mind, look at your own retirement accounts and be sure that your beneficiary designations are up to date and still make sense now that the rules have changed. Plans that include a trust as a beneficiary will likely need to be updated. As always, consult with a financial professional before making any changes to your retirement plan. Our office is always available for any questions that you may have regarding your retirement plans.

Cheers!

Please Note: For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor. Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.

 

Holiday Scams

12/26/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

Happy Holidays everyone, I hope you are all enjoying some time with family and friends! I wanted to share some information from AARP regarding some common holiday scams that unfortunately pop up around this time of year. Here are just a few of the ways that criminals attempt to prey on people during the holidays:

  • Charity scams: Fake charities will exploit the giving spirit by soliciting donations through bogus websites and telemarketers. Make sure that you know and trust any organizations that you are donating to before providing any payment details.
  • Gift card scams: Scammers will take account details and pin numbers from unsold gift cards and then extract the value once they have been purchased. Check to see that the packaging has not been tampered with and the pin number is not visible when buying gift cards.
  • Travel scams: Watch out for travel deals that seem too good to be true. Fraudulent websites and emails can push offers that don’t exist, and only serve to steal your personal information.

To stay safe, keep an eye out for these warning signs to spot scams:

  • Huge discounts on hot gift items, especially when touted on social media posts or unfamiliar websites.
  • Spelling or grammar errors on websites or emails.
  • A shopping or travel site does not list a phone number or street address for the business and offers only an email address or a fill-in contact form.
  • The website does not have a privacy policy.
  • An unsolicited email asks you to click on a link or download an app to access a deal or arrange a delivery.

You can take a look at the Holiday Scams Article by clicking here, as well as some additional information on protecting yourself here. Stay safe this holiday!

Cheers!

 

Common Myths of Business Succession Planning

11/21/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

At some point in every business owner’s lifetime, the time comes when they will have to plan for succession. That plan can include passing ownership along to family members, a trained successor, or selling the business outright. Whatever the plan may be, it is important to understand what you want for yourself and your business so that you can outline the necessary steps to achieve that goal. I came across an article by David Scott that lays out five common myths regarding succession planning.

  • Time is not an issue
    • Owners often delay planning as they are busy with the day to day operations of the business and prefer not to think about the realities of time. However, being well prepared can make a big difference if unexpected circumstances require an owner to take a step back.
  • Selling the business is the easiest choice
    • Selling a business is not as simple as selling a home or used car. Determining the proper value of your business can be tricky and the right buyer is not always available when you are ready to sell.
  • The next generation is prepared to do my job
    • Simply naming a successor is not enough to ensure the future success of your business. That successor often will require years of apprenticeship and training before they are ready to successfully take over operations.
  • Ownership should be distributed evenly to all heirs
    • Dividing ownership stakes evenly amongst all heirs may seem to be fair at first glance, but the reality tends to be more nuanced. Some heirs may have placed more sweat and tears into the organization than others and could be insulted by receiving the same amount as a sibling who has pursued other interests.
  • You lose all control and income when you give up ownership
    • Succession plans do not have to be all or nothing, rather they can be crafted to slowly transition leadership as the owner begins to step back. These plans can help to ensure that your vision for the business remains intact, as well as maintaining your income into retirement.

You should also consider reviewing this checklist from Sun Life Financial that details the many things that will need to be taken into account when making an exit plan. Our firm can be an objective resource when considering your options for the future of your closely held business. We can also assist in identifying tax and legal guidance as you develop your succession plan. I encourage you all to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.

Cheers!

 

 

Stay Safe Online

09/23/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, with the Federal Trade Commission estimating up to 9 million Americans having their identities stolen every year. Large cyber-attacks such as the recent Capital One data breach and the Equifax breach in 2017 have exposed many people’s personal information. There are still other nefarious ways criminals attempt to steal from you. Here is information on how to stay safe online:

  • Phishing is when hackers or scammers try to get you to click on a seemingly harmless link that then installs malware on your device.
    • To stay safe, check to see that the website in the link is what it appears to be. Look out for misspellings in the URL, and mouse over the hyperlink before clicking to ensure that the destination website matches the text.
    • Be cautious of any emails which ask you to take action that come from unexpected sources, or that you are not expecting.
    • Phishing is not limited to just e-mail; criminals have been using phone calls and text messages to try and deceive people as well.
    • Spear phishing is a type of phishing that is highly specialized and targeted at specific individuals or a business. Cyber criminals can send emails that look like they are from your organization, so people must be extremely cautious with any email links.
  • Viruses are harmful programs that can be transmitted to devices through several different ways and often give the attacker access to the infected computer.
    • Make sure you have anti-virus software installed on all your devices, there are many companies that offer these programs for free.
    • Keep your virus protection and operating systems up to date to keep up with the new threats that emerge every day.
  • Social Media has become a big part of many people’s lives, so be cautious about how much personal information you choose to divulge.
    • Strict privacy settings can go a long way in keeping hackers from accessing your profile.
    • Avoid connecting with accounts that you don’t recognize and never reveal personal details to people claiming to be administrators for the service.
    • Even if you are not compromised, your friends and family may be. The less information you offer, the harder it is for criminals to steal your identity.

Cybercrime is only going to grow as our world becomes more digital. We encourage you all to familiarize yourselves and your family with safe browsing habits so that you can protect yourselves from threats. Please feel free to reach out to the office if you have questions on identity theft or are looking for additional resources.

 

https://staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online

https://www.connectsafely.org/safetytips/

 

Do You Get a Slice of the Equifax Settlement?

08/07/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

As many of you may remember, in 2017 the credit reporting agency Equifax was the victim of the largest breach of customer data ever. More than 147 million Americans had their personal data compromised due to a criminal cyberattack on Equifax, as well as negligent information security practices within the company. Equifax has reached a settlement in the class action lawsuit against them and will pay up to $700 million to provide cash payments for those affected. Below are the details of what will be paid out, how to check if you were affected, and how to file your claim.

  • Free Credit Monitoring: Up to four years of free credit monitoring services from all three bureaus, and up to six more years through Equifax. There was previously an option for a $125 cash payment, however the fund established was not large enough to meet the demand.
  • Cash Payments Based on Time Spent: The time you spent remedying fraud, identity theft, or other misuse of your personal information caused by the data breach or purchasing credit monitoring or freezing credit reports is eligible for up to 20 total hours at $25 per hour.
  • Recouping Losses due to the Breach: Equifax will pay up to $20,000 for any out-of-pocket losses resulting from the data breach, and up to 25% of the cost of Equifax credit or identity monitoring products you paid for in the year before the data breach announcement.

This data breach affected nearly half of all Americans, so there is a high chance that you or someone you know was impacted. The deadline for the initial claims period is January 22, 2020 so be sure to go through your financial documents to see what you are eligible for.

Feel free to contact the office if you have any questions about this settlement or credit monitoring in general.

Cheers!

 

To find out if your information was affected by the breach, go to

https://eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/en/eligibility

If you were impacted, review your records to determine what you are entitled to and file a claim at:

https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/file-a-claim

 

Should You Consider A Family Limited Partnership?

07/03/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

Those with family businesses know that planning an effective ownership strategy is crucial to the continuation of the business. One estate planning strategy worth considering is the family limited partnership.

By creating general and limited partnerships within your business, you can gift limited partnerships to your children while holding the general partnership interest in your business. There are several advantages to this type of strategy:

  • Gifting partnership shares to your children over time allows you to take full advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion
  • It can reduce your estate tax liability
  • Incentivize family members within the enterprise with ownership
  • A family business can include real estate or investments

I encourage you all to take a look at this article, which can be viewed here on my website. There are other articles and videos available here as a resource to you, and I welcome any feedback you may have.

Cheers!

Please Note: For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor. Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.

What's In a Good Exit Plan?

05/17/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

For most entrepreneurs, their business represents a lifetime of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Building a successful company is extremely challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. However, many business owners find themselves so caught up with day to day operations, that they fail to prepare a plan for exiting their business. The Business Enterprise Institute estimates that a successful business exit plan takes between 3 and 10 years to successfully complete. Many owners have not established a plan at all. This often results in highly profitable businesses being liquidated or closed, leaving potentially millions of dollars on the table.

A Forbes article titled, “What's In A Good Exit Plan?”, by John Brown poses seven questions based on the Business Enterprise Institute's exit planning process:

Step One: Setting Exit Objectives: Do you know your retirement goals and what it will take—in cash—to reach them?

Step Two: Determining Business Value: Do you know what your business is worth today, in cash?

Step Three: Increasing Business Value: Have you identified the best ways to increase your company's value and cash flow?

Step Four: Sale To A Third Party: Do you know how to sell your business to a third party for maximum dollars and minimum taxation?

(or)

Step Five: Transfer Your Business To Insiders: Do you know how to transfer your business to insiders (family members, co-owners or employees) for cash rather than give it away?

Step Six: Business Continuity Planning: Do you have a continuity plan to protect your business should you die or become disabled prior to your exit?

Step Seven: Wealth and Estate Planning: Do you have a plan to assure your family's financial security should you die or become disabled?

In my view, having an exit plan is a critical part of any business plan because like it or not, nobody can or should work forever.  

 

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbrown/2017/05/04/whats-in-a-good-exit-plan/#1f9b0341904a

https://www.exitplanning.com/solutions/planning/exit-planning-process

 

 

Have You Made an Estate Planning Checklist?

04/02/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

Recently I hosted a workshop where we discussed several topics related to estate planning. Listed below are several important steps that everyone should take when it comes to ensuring your wishes will be carried out.

  • Is your testamentary will up to date? Be sure that you update this document whenever major financial or lifestyle changes occur to best reflect your wishes. Pay special attention to review your named executors, beneficiaries, and trustees as appropriate.
  • Have you granted medical power of attorney to a trusted individual? This person would be able to make important medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you were incapacitated.
  • Similar to medical power of attorney, granting someone durable power of attorney for your financial affairs allows them to make decisions regarding your finances if you are incapacitated.
  • Do you have a HIPAA authorization in place? These documents allow your medical records to be released if needed to a third party.
  • Make sure all beneficiary designations are up to date. This includes any retirement accounts, insurance policies, or pension plans you might own. As a rule, always update your beneficiary designations after any major changes in your life such as the birth of a child/grandchild, divorce, loss of spouse, etc.
  • If you have trusts, be sure that the trust records are easily accessible to those who would need them.
  • Notify trusted family members where your important documents are located.

There is often a perception that estate planning is only for wealthy people, but this could not be further from the truth. Having a well-organized plan for how you would like your wishes carried out can relieve your family of stress during a difficult period. Please reach out to your financial and legal professionals if you have any questions or concerns regarding your own estate plan.

Cheers!

 

 

The Economy Holds Steady

03/07/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

There has been a lot of discussion out there about the economy cooling down, so I wanted to take some time to talk about a few key indicators which have been performing very well, despite the recent government shutdown and the ongoing trade disputes. The Institute for Supply Management is an organization which publishes a report every month that looks at indicators relating to various sectors of the economy. The February Report on Business, which you can access here, showed that the Non-Manufacturing Index (NMI) was at 59.7, up 3 points from January. This number is a composite of data from all the non-manufacturing industries about business activity, new orders, employment, and supplier deliveries. Each non-manufacturing industry experienced growth, and while they did report concerns about the uncertainty of tariffs, capacity constraints, and employment resources, they were optimistic about the overall business conditions and economy.

So what is the takeaway from all of this data? Despite the turbulence in the political climate and the stock market, the consumer remains strong. The fundamentals for many companies are strong, despite slowing growth. As always, consult with your financial professional before making any major changes to your strategies.

Cheers!

Sources:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-05/u-s-services-gauge-tops-forecasts-in-sign-of-economic-health

https://www.instituteforsupplymanagement.org/ISMReport/NonMfgROB.cfm?navItemNumber=31115

 

Please Note:  The information being provided is strictly as a courtesy.  When you link to any of the websites provided here, you are leaving this website.  We make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these websites.  Nor is the company liable for any direct or indirect technical or system issues or any consequences arising out of your access to or your use of third-party technologies, websites, information or programs made available through this website.  When you access one of these websites, you are leaving our website and assume total responsibility and risk for your use of the websites to which you are linking.

 

 

Beware of Snowbird Scams!

02/05/19

By Wayne Locke, CFP®

 

Happy Winter everyone! I wanted to share an article from the January edition of Retire Wise by Katie Williams. It talks about some things to be aware of if you're someone who likes to fly to warmer climates for the winter. Take a look at the article below, and you can access Retire Wise by clicking here.

Retirees aren't the only ones seeking warmer weather when temperatures drop. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), scammers and con artists flock to areas including Florida and Arizona in droves to prey upon unsuspecting “snowbirds” from November through April each year.  Despite the passing of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which was designed to help protect seniors, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one in 10 older adults lose an estimated $2.9 billion a year to elder financial abuse. And reports from the FBI show that almost 50,000 people over age 60 lost $342.5 million in 2017 to internet fraud and scams. AARP lists the following among the top snowbird scams:

  1. The malevolent mechanic. Waiting outside shopping malls or supermarkets, they watch for snowbirds (often recognized by out-of-state license plates) to park and go inside. If the car's older or left unlocked, they can pop the hood and disable the vehicle by pulling wires. When the owner returns, they offer help getting their car started, which usually includes driving them to the bank to get money to pay for the repair. Their main target: women in their 70s or 80s.
  2. The condo caper. These crooks frequently work in pairs. They arrive unannounced as self-described utility workers, contractors or exterminators, requesting to enter your home and claiming that the condo association sent them. Typically, one creates a distraction to divert your attention while the other stealthily steals valuables.
  3. The lottery winner who can't collect. In a parking lot, someone approaches you claiming to hold a winning lottery ticket, but he or she “is in the country illegally and can't collect.” They offer to give you the winning ticket if you pay a portion of the jackpot in cash. Its number may be "verified" by a passerby — "I saw it announced on TV last night." In reality, this person is an accomplice and the ticket is worthless.

How can you avoid becoming a victim of snowbird financial abuse?

  • Remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings, especially in parking lots or in large crowds where distracted individuals are seen as easy targets for would-be pick-pockets, purse snatchers and car thieves.
  • Never let anyone claiming to be a worker inside your dwelling unless you initiated contact, or the homeowners' or condo association gives prior notice.
  • Never agree to provide cash in person or over the phone (via credit card or gift cards) for a transaction you did not initiate yourself or to claim a lottery or sweepstakes prize. Remember, while good faith is an admirable quality, there's no replacement for good judgment when it comes to protecting your safety, your property and your assets.

 

If you are a victim of one of these scams, contact the local police department as soon as possible and provide as many details as you can. You may also want to contact your children or grandchildren to keep them informed of the situation. Finally, our office is always available to you as a resource in case you need advice.

Stay safe out there!

 

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-11-2012/7-common-snow

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/06/12/curbing-elder-abuse-whats-been-helping-whats-needed/#7430400e457e