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Do You Owe Estimated Taxes?

If you are self-employed or have additional sources of income outside of your regular job, you may fall into the category of Americans who are required to file their federal taxes not just once a year in April, but four times annually. While no one likes having to pay estimated taxes to the IRS, you can make the process easier by setting aside money regularly and keeping detailed records.

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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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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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Creating a Long-Term Financial Plan

To help manage your personal finances, you can now purchase computer software that will balance your checkbook, figure out your budget, track your investments, and even help take the sting out of filing your income tax return. Even with the best apps available, you still have to take the initiative to create a strategy that will meet your needs while reducing the stress that goes along with financial planning.

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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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ESOPs: Rewarding and Motivating Employees

Profit-sharing plans have long been popular with employees because of the opportunity they provide to share in the profitability of a growing firm. Many business owners look beyond shared profitability to shared ownership through employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).

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Economic Policy and the Fed

While consumers affect the economy by spending according to their own situation and financial pressures, Federal policy decisions also influence the economy. Fiscal policy, enacted by Congress, uses taxation and legislation to boost employment, stabilize prices, and stimulate economic growth. In contrast, monetary policy, which is controlled by the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed), manipulates short-term interest rates in an effort to spur growth or control inflation.

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Get SMART: Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Regardless of which phase of the business life-cycle you’re in, you can get SMART about setting goals to motivate yourself, move forward to grow your business, and track your success.

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Free Tax Preparation

Did you know that a free, Federal income tax preparation and electronic filing program called Free File is available to U. S. taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of $58,000 or less?

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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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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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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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Your Family Business and Estate Planning

If you are like most entrepreneurs, you don’t expect the business you worked so hard to establish to falter when you are no longer here to run it. But sometimes, when business owners die without leaving wills or estate plans, the business must be liquidated to pay the tax liability, or the company collapses because family members have not been sufficiently prepared to take over operations. If you own a family business, you may want to consider taking steps now to help ensure this valuable asset will remain intact for your children, grandchildren, and others.

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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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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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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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An Introduction to Split-Dollar Life Insurance

Contrary to what you may think, split-dollar life insurance is not an insurance policy, at least not in the classic sense. It is a type of arrangement that allows two parties, typically an employer and an employee, to split life insurance protection costs and benefits. The premium payments, rights of ownership, and proceeds payable on the death of the insured are often split between the company and a key employee. In many situations, however, the employer pays all or a greater part of the premiums in exchange for an interest in the policy’s cash value and death benefit. Cash values accumulate, providing repayment security for the employer, who is paying the majority of the premium. In this scenario, business owners have the opportunity to provide an executive with life insurance benefits at a low cost. Another option for companies to consider is to use split-dollar policies in place of insurance-funded nonqualified deferred compensation plans.

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A Financial Review Can Pay Off at Year End

Today, many people find themselves bombarded by a constant stream of financial news from television, radio, and the Internet. Yet, does all this “information age” data really help you manage your finances any better now than in the past? Often, what are considered old-fashioned practices, such as performing periodic financial reviews, can lead to greater success in the long run. Why not spend a few hours reviewing your finances? The changes you make today could result in increased savings. Consider the following seven important items:

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A Budget May Help Boost Your Savings

Whether you have substantial resources or live close to your means, a budget may be an effective foundation for a savings program. It can help you monitor your personal and household expenditures, potentially freeing up income that can be redirected toward savings. Consider the following:

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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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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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Control Your Runaway Expenses

For many of us, the cost of living has risen faster than our income has. In some cases, consumption has increased, as well. If you are looking for ways to control both rising expenses and increasing consumption, here are some timely suggestions.

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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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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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Want to Pass Down the Family Vacation Home?

For many families it is very important to keep the vacation home in the family for generations tocome. However, without proper planning guaranteeing this can be very difficult. While a vacation home is meant to be fun and relaxing place to get away from everyday life, they can cause problems between siblings after their parents pass away.

Problems arise due to the fact that the heirs rarely have the same level of financial success, interest in the property and opportunity to use it. As a result it is common for at least one child (if not all) to become disgruntled.

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College Education - How Can Families Get Their Money’s Worth?

Investment in a college education is approaching an average of $200,000 for four years of private college tuition, room and board and other associated expenses according to The College Board. College tuition rates are growing at an average of 8% per year, which is much higher than the general inflation rate. It has long been a part of the American dream to provide a college education for their children. However there are growing concerns about how well and at what cost higher education is preparing graduates for the job market.

So how can families get their educational money’s worth? One way is to address ways to reduce college costs. Secondly, choose the most cost effective means of saving for college costs. Finally choosing a college major deserves close attention due to its impact on career outcomes.

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Have You Prepared Your Family for Your Wealth

You have spent a lifetime creating, growing, preserving and protecting your wealth. You have ensured that you and your spouse are financially secure and that potential risks to your security have been addressed. You also have determined how your wealth will be distributed upon your death. However that is only the first step.

Like any responsible parent, you want your children and grandchildren to learn the importance of personal initiative, hard work and social responsibility. Are you concerned that inheriting money may become a disincentive to their self-motivation, productivity and achievement?

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Why Are Beneficiary Designations So Important?

When was the last time your reviewed the beneficiary designation form from your retirement plan, IRA, investment accounts, life insurance policies or annuities? If your answer is typical, you do not remember.

Beneficiary designations are one of the most basic and most overlooked items in financial planning. We review our client’s beneficiary designation on all investment, insurance and estate planning documents annually to make sure they meet our client objectives and wishes.

So why does this matter?

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Tips for Filing an Amended Return

Did you make an error on a federal tax return? If so, you may need to file an amended return. Here are ten tips that can help the taxpayer file.

  1. Tax form to amend a return. Taxpayers should use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct a tax return. Taxpayers must file a paper Form 1040X; it cannot be e-filed. Taxpayers can get the form on www.irs.gov/forms at any time.
  2. Amend to correct errors. Taxpayers should file amended tax returns to correct errors or make changes to their original tax returns. For example, taxpayers should amend to change a filing status, or to correct income, deductions or credits.

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Want to Avoid Spoiled Children?

Ideally, inherited wealth will provide your heirs with important career opportunities and foster a sense of social mission. Unfortunately, all too often the financial free ride of a hefty inheritance only produces spoiled and unhappy adult children. The missing factor: a healthy dose of Financial Parenting!

Why “Financial Parenting”?

Financial Parenting is the process of educating children/grandchildren on the financial and social responsibilities that come with money. It’s important to start the educational process early in life; helping the children/grandchildren become familiar with managing money they will earn or inherit someday.

Yet, too often, parents don’t give their children lessons in the financial “facts of life." This lack of communication may be the result of many different things: lack of time, privacy concerns, geographic separation of family members, and just not knowing how to get started.

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Manage Your Own Investments?

I recently came across an interesting article on www.about.com which asked the question – should you manage your own investments? Maybe you watch the financial shows on television, read the business section of the newspaper, hear a stock tip and consider managing some of your own investments in a brokerage account of your own. Is this a wise move on your part? Here are some questions and comments the author Joshua Kennon suggests to ask yourself before making that very important decision.

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Preparing for Tax Time - Questions You Should Ask

It may seem early to you now to start thinking about tax season but it really helps to be prepared. We believe that comprehensive financial planning entails integration of estate, retirement, insurance, business succession and income tax planning. Therefore we proactively work closely with our clients’ tax advisors.

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Hacked Accounts?

If your personal account has been compromised or hacked, there are ways to regain control.

How do I know if my email or social network account has been hacked?

  • There are posts you never made on your social network page. These posts often encourage your friends to click on a link or download an App.
  • A friend, family member or colleague reports getting email from you that you never sent.
  • If you were notified that your information was lost via a data breach, malware infection or lost/stolen device, there is a chance that your account could get hacked.

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How Do You Prepare Your Children for Inherited Wealth?

It is natural for parents to want to leave their children better off but the best way to prepare them to handle wealth is to develop their powers of self-discipline, hard work and clear thinking. Many of our clients want to give their children more than just material wealth. They want to give them the tools necessary to live happy, productive, meaningful lives. In financial parenting one of the best gifts we can give our children is to teach them certain fundamental skills that will help them throughout their life.

What characteristics should your children have to lead productive, successful and self-motivated lives? First children will feel most successful when they can earn their own income and support their own standard of living. If children grow up with the expectations from their parents that they are supposed to get a job and support themselves once they are out of college they tend to have a greater sense of self-worth.

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In-Home Care or Assisted Living: How Do You Decide?

When your aging parent begins to seem frail, forgetful, confused, or less able to take care of herself, unfortunately one of the main decisions you are going to face is whether to help her "age in place" so she can continue living in the home with the help of in-home care, or whether it would be a better idea for her to move into an assisted care facility.

It comes to no surprise that the first choice of the majority of older adults is to age in place. However it may not always be the best, safest, or most cost-effective option. In fact, one of the many surprising discoveries that adult children often make is that as time goes on, in-home care can become as expensive if not more expensive than residential care in some circumstances.

Having dealt with this situation personally, this is not an easy decision since there are many good reasons for older adults to remain in their homes, and many good reasons to move. It is a huge commitment to care for an aging parent. If your parent needs 24 hour care think how hard it will be to find consistent, trusted three caregivers a day for 5 days a week and then another three caregivers per day for the weekend.

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How is the Family Vacation Home Treated in Your Estate Plans?

Now that summer is over, your trips to the family vacation home may be winding down as well. This may be a great time to plan what exactly you want to happen with your vacation home when you are no longer around. It is critical that you carefully consider your overall estate planning goals, objectives and family relationships.

Failure to plan for the vacation home may result in children owning the home as tenants-in-common, in equal shares -- typically a recipe for disaster. These arrangements mean that each child has an equal right to use the property and make decisions about it; each is equally responsible for the costs of upkeep, too. That sounds fine in theory -- but in practice, the heirs rarely have...

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Holding a Family Meeting

If you’ve been working hard and investing for years, you probably have enough resources to live well and feel confident in your financial future. Your next consideration may be how to build a legacy for your family and future generations. No matter what your asset level, holding family meetings to clarify your values and plans for the transfer and management of your wealth can be an essential part of...

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Why Write an Ethical Will?

An ethical will is a document written to communicate values and wisdom, history, stories, and love from one generation to another. It preserves who you are and what matters most to you. It is a way for you to be remembered and to make a real difference. It outlines "your values, blessings, life's lessons, and hopes and dreams for the future," according to Dr. Barry Baines, author of the book, Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper. This is not a legal document and it is usually shared with family and community while the...

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Yours, Mine, and Ours: Estate Planning for Today's Blended Family

In a “traditional” estate plan, each spouse provides for his or her assets (or most of the assets) to pass to the surviving spouse, with the understanding that those assets will go to their children at the surviving spouse’s death. This planning approach may work well when the spouses have only been married once — to each other — and the only children involved are the ones they have together.

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Do You Understand the Role of an Executor?

Are you named as an executor on behalf of a friend or family member? If you have found yourself as the executor position of handling someone’s estate, it is vital that you understand the responsibilities and steps that you need to take. We recommend our clients to consult with an estate planning attorney. Here are some helpful suggestions of the steps you should take as an executor.

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What You Need to Know About Long-Term Care Insurance

Many people are under the mistaken belief that Medicare and Medicaid supplement policies will cover the cost of long-term care. While these plans provide benefits to help pay for hospital care and physician services, they provide very limited payment for the cost of long-term nursing home care.

We review the following questions with our clients:

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Who Will Take Care of You?

Who will take care of you as you get older? If you are like most Americans, you may hope you will never need care, and you would rather not think about it. Thanks to expanding longevity, people over 85 make up the fastest-growing segment of the population. And two-thirds of those in this age group have functional limitations that require help.

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Do Your College Students Have Skin in the Game?

We have written before about the importance of parents having their son or daughter to have some skin in the game when it comes to paying for college. When it comes to thinking of ways to have skin in the game, we urge parents to think beyond student loans. To the teenager brain, loan payments several years down the road do not necessarily provide the motivation to study that we parents would wish. Does that mean your student does not have to contribute to the costs of college?

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Help Your Kids Avoid Maxing Out Credit Cards

For better or worse credit cards are a part of American life. Help your kids learn about how to use credit before the stakes are too high. You would not let your kids drive without taking driving lessons so why you send them off to college before understanding credit cards late fees and interest charges...

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Are Mom and Dad Being Too Thrifty?

We all have heard about problems of spending too much. But what if your retired parents are spending too little? They have worked hard, been frugal and saved all their life. However when your parents retire extreme thrifty behaviors could be harming their quality of life. Being frugal is okay however your parents could be harmed by what they are not spending money on...

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Attention Women - Avoid These Mistakes

Women expect nothing less than the truth when it comes to asking their girlfriends for advice. We understand that discussing your financial affairs is a difficult and often complicated issue. During these turbulent and difficult economic times, the first step to a better prognosis is to start the conversation with your spouse, or significant other and a trusted financial advisor...

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Want to Make a Difference

We often hear from our clients that they "want to give back" but not sure how and how much. Some clients want to give because it is a source of happiness. Others want to give because of gratitude they feel toward key people or organizations that helped them they were in need. Some even give to gain tax advantages. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, many of us wake up to the realization that it’s better to share money than count it.

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Which Tax Form Should A Taxpayer File?

Which form should a taxpayer use to file the taxpayer’s federal income taxes? These days, most people use a computer to prepare and e-file their tax forms. It is easy, because tax software selects the right form for the taxpayer. If a taxpayer files on paper, the taxpayer will need to pick the right form to use...

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Eight Tax Savers for Parents

The children of taxpayers may help qualify for valuable tax benefits. Here are eight tax benefits parents should look for when filing their federal tax returns this year.

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Want to Avoid Being a Victim of Crime While Traveling?

What harm is it when you post on Facebook or tweet details or photos while traveling? Did you know that these actions can expose your family to a robbery or kidnap risk? Technology has become the newest weapon in the tools of crime. If a criminal realizes that an affluent person will be at a particular location at a certain time, this information can be the means for a criminal to search you out.

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Ten Tips to Help Choose a Tax Preparer

Many people hire a professional when it is time to file their tax return. If a taxpayer pays someone to prepare their federal income tax return, the IRS urges taxpayers to choose that person wisely. Even if taxpayers do not prepare their own return, the taxpayer remains legally responsible for what is on it.

Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:...

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Is it Time to Look at Concierge Medical Care?

Have you been searching for new health care plans in light of the Affordable Care Act? Did your health insurance company drop you? Do you have to wait several weeks before getting a doctor’s appointment and then you see the doctor for only 10 minutes? You may want to consider an alternative to the traditional primary-care physician model and consider concierge medical care. We made this change several years ago and are very happy with the decision.

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Want to Know What is Taxable and Nontaxable Income?

Are you looking for a hard and fast rule about what income is taxable and what income is not taxable? The fact is that all income is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it.

Taxable income includes money a taxpayer receives, such as wages and tips. It can also include noncash income from property or services. For example, both parties in a barter exchange must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return.

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Does Your Estate Plan Share Your Values with Heirs?

Financially responsible and caring individuals typically put a lot of importance into planning the transfer of their assets to family and charity. But have you put together a plan to transfer your legacy of values, life lessons along with words of encouragement on the responsible management of the inheritance with your heirs? Without an appreciation of the...

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Want to Know the Risk Factors of an IRS Audit?

No one wants to be audited! Although you may not be able to avoid an IRS audit there are some factors that will cause the IRS to take a second look at a return. “The IRS sorts returns based on a scoring system, which is secret, but there are some things that will cause them to pay more attention to a particular tax return,” per Janet C. Hagy, president of Hagy & Associates PC, member of the AICPA's IRS practice and procedures committee in a recent article of Investment News.

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Want to Know How to Get IRS Forms and Publications?

The IRS offers free tax forms and publications on many topics. Here are four easy ways to get the tax products taxpayers need from the IRS:

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Preparing for the Retirement You Want

Retirement is when great things can occur. It can be the perfect time to become the person you would like to be and do the things you have always wanted to. Of course this does not happen automatically, you must plan. We help our clients who are nearing retirement map out a transition strategy designed to maximize their potential for enjoyment and financial security.

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The Devastating Impact of Elder Care Costs on You and Your Family

Millions of American families are faced each day with the issues of an aging parent or relative. Planning for elder care will typically involve more services and assistance to cope with one’s daily lives and/or a sudden serious health crisis. How do you know when loved ones need additional help? When should you consider alternative living accommodations and what type? The costs of care through each stage can be shockingly high.

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The Challenge of Selecting an Elder Care Facility For a Loved One

If you have an elderly parent or loved one, you probably know that one day you may have to move him or her away from their home. The decision can be difficult, if not painful, for all parties but sometimes conditions dictate that a change is necessary.

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Are You Uncertain About The Future Behavior of Your Heirs?

Grantors who are leery about passing their hard-earned wealth to heirs with relaxed lifestyles and spending habits may find incentive trusts to be useful. Uncertain about the future behavior of their heirs, wealthy families can use incentive trusts to motivate beneficiaries to act in a particular way to earn future benefits.

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Are Cost Segregation Tax Deductions Available to Your Business?

While not the case for everyone, many business owners who also own the buildings where they conduct their business are missing out on a great deal of tax savings because many assume they cannot take advantage of cost segregation. I have often recommended to my business owner clients that own the buildings where they operate their business to consult with a cost segregation expert.

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Getting Close to Age 65?

Are you or someone you know nearing age 65? It is time to understand how the decisions you make on Medicare will have a lasting impact on your health-care costs in retirement. It is a very complex program, so there is a lot of room for error. For instance, if you don’t time Medicare enrollment correctly, you could find yourself paying a late-enrollment penalty every month of every year that you have Medicare for the rest of your life. If you miss your Medigap open enrollment period, you may never be able to purchase a Medigap policy without undergoing medical underwriting.

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What to Do if You Missed the Tax Deadline

Taxpayers who missed the April 15 tax filing deadline should not panic. Here is some advice from the IRS.

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Ways to Protect a Small Business from Hackers

Beware, identity thieves and hackers have branched out from individuals to small businesses as the new target. Why are small businesses a target? With deep credit lines, many financial transactions and multiple users, businesses make it easier for thieves to operate. Small business owners are at risk especially if the business credit line is tied to the owner’s personal credit line. Erroneous charges can go unnoticed for a long time in a busy business setting. The results can be devastating!

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Need Help on Your IRA Required Minimum Distribution?

To some wealthy clients the IRA Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) requirement at 70 ½ years old is an issue when the income from required withdrawals is not needed. Are you looking for creative options to maximize total return and minimize tax consequences?

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I JUST GOT REAR ENDED! NOW WHAT?

Karen was recently rear ended on the 405 freeway during rush hour traffic. Thank goodness she is okay though her 2011 Mini Clubman did sustain over $8,500 in damages. If you are ever in an accident, you will discover it is important to know what to do.

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Need Help to Resolve IRS Tax Problems?

Were you aware of The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)? It is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers who are experiencing unresolved federal tax problems.

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Avoid Expensive Rollover Mistakes

Are you thinking about rolling your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) from one financial institution to another? Have you changed jobs and need to rollover your qualified retirement plan? Perhaps you are looking for higher returns, more investment selections or better service. You should always double-check the advice you receive regarding rollovers with a specialist. A mistake in planning has the potential to cost you a lot of money.

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8 Expensive IRA Beneficiary Mistakes

Your IRA assets and your parents’ may be at risk. I am not talking about the market risk or lousy investment choices, but the cost of naming the wrong beneficiary. Beneficiary mistakes can cost you and your family in terms of taxes and loss of tax deferred growth.

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Getting First Class Treatment When Traveling

Do you want to know how to extend that hard earned dollar when traveling on vacation and receive first class treatment? You have worked hard so you want your vacation to be relaxing, pleasant and memorable. Listed below are some tips that we have learned over the years of traveling overseas and domestically.

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How Much Allowance Should Kids Receive?

During our Money Talks: Making it Say the Right ThingSM workshops for parents, a frequent question is on the subject of allowances. An allowance can be a powerful tool for teaching kids how to manage money. The ultimate goal of an allowance is to teach children how to handle money wisely.

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Do Your Kids Know How to Give?

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” For many families, philanthropy is an important part of their value system. In his book The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, author David Niven commented that, “Life satisfaction was found to improve 24 percent with the level of altruistic activity.” We could not agree more.

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#1 Common Financial Parenting Mistake: Not Talking to Your Kids about Money

Millions of Americans are learning the hard way about the pitfalls of teaser mortgage interest rates, runaway credit card debt and unsound investing. The recession is probably the most unsettling event many youth have faced aside from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The economy is forcing frank discussions as families try to cope with job losses, dwindling savings and retirement accounts. If there were ever a teaching moment about the perils of financial ignorance, it’s the current economic crisis.

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#2 Common Financial Parenting Mistake: Talking Negatively About Money

Chicken Little’s philosophy of “the sky is falling” is what many families are feeling and maybe even saying these days. Bad news about money dominates the airwaves. Children will normally assume the worse when they hear “this is a disaster” or “people are losing their homes and jobs in record numbers”.

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Eight Reasons Why a College Graduate Is Not Being Hired

We are currently in the process of interviewing for an Administrative Assistant for our wealth management firm. Frankly I am shocked at the lack of preparation for interviews, poor grammar in cover letters and resumes, poor interview skills (using the word "like" way too much, using the word "sucks", unprofessional dress just to name a few), low grade point averages, lack of work experience, sense of entitlement and no follow-up.

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Ability to Manage Money is a Survival Skill Kids Need to Master

The ability to deal successfully with money is one of the primary survival skills a child needs to master. Whether they earn their own money or are able to handle inherited money, learning to manage finances is critical to responsible and successful adulthood. Many of our clients express concern about the impact of wealth is having on their children and grandchildren. At the same time we are startled by the statistics surrounding the sad state of financial literacy among young adults today...

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Avoiding the Trust Baby Trap

Sound estate planning involves more than simply minimizing taxes. Ideally, inherited wealth will provide heirs with important career opportunities and foster a sense of social mission. Unfortunately, all too often the financial free ride of a hefty inheritance only produces Trust Babies -- encouraging sloth and self-indulgence. The missing factor: a healthy dose of Financial Parenting!

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Dependent Adult Children – It’s Complicated

“You can’t expect to make a place in the sun for yourself if you keep taking refuge under the family tree.” -- Claude McDonald

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Preparing Your College Bound Student Financially

Is your child ready to face the new world of credit cards, checking accounts, and loans?

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Should You Buy Your Teenager a Car?

Do you remember your first car? I remember fondly scrapping together enough money to buy a 1969 Dodge (that broke down in the first week). My wife remembers getting her parents used 1970 Ford Pinto. As young people head back to school in what may be their first car, parental nostalgia is giving way to concern. I was discussing with one of my clients recently whether or not to buy their teenager’s first car.

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Should You Buy College Housing?

Parents with college bound children have wondered if it makes sense to buy their student housing. The decision is not a no-brainer.

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Ten Ways to Involve Your Children in Philanthropy

Through your own philanthropic generosity-whether volunteering, supporting a charity as a benefactor, attending fundraisers or setting up a family foundation-you are educating your children about your values and teaching them to be generous. While you may identify your philanthropic values more formally in a family charitable mission statement, children learn a lot through observation.

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The Why and How to Disinherit a Child

The saying goes we choose our friends not our family. I have had clients who specifically wanted to disinherit one of their adult children. Why even consider such a drastic measure? The reasons why a child is disinherited are unique. Reasons for cutting out a child can range from hate, abandonment, and addictions. Other reasons for disinheritance are to provide for the child that needs it the most or deserve it the most.

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What are the Problems with Joint Ownership between Parent and Adult Child?

Why should you be worried if a parent adds a child’s name to an asset such as a bank account, investments or real estate? First of all it is typically done to help an elderly parent with bill paying, managing assets or to avoid probate court. While both parties may have the best of intentions they do not consider the possible problems that may arise. The elder parent is giving up control and risking problems that they may not have considered.

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Life Insurance and Divorce: Protecting Your Family’s Future

Sometimes in life, things don’t work out as planned. One of the most trying examples is when a couple decides they can’t make their marriage work and, subsequently, files for divorce. Divorce can take a significant financial and emotional toll on a couple, their children, and other family members. In the midst of immediate financial and legal concerns, couples also need to consider ways to help protect their individual financial futures and that of their children’s in the event of death. Life insurance may offer a solution.

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“Gifting” Your Way to Estate Tax Savings

If you have been fortunate enough to accumulate substantial assets during your lifetime, do you know that estate taxes could reduce the amount you will be able to pass on to your heirs? Federal estate tax rates can reach as high as 35% for estates greater than $5.12 million in 2012. Unless Congress takes further legislative action, starting in 2013, the top estate and gift tax rates will revert to 55%, with exclusion amounts of $1 million. Therefore, it is important to develop an estate planning strategy that helps reduce the impact of estate taxes. By making gifts of existing assets during your lifetime, you can help reduce the size of your estate and lessen your family’s future estate tax burden.

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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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Location Matters When Choosing a Retirement Home

Retirees have many options when choosing where to live. While climate, proximity to family, and the cost of housing will likely factor into the decision about where to retire, prospective retirees should also take into account the amount of taxes they will owe in the state and town where they have their primary residence.

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Working with a Financial Advisor: Six Steps to Help You Get the Most Out of the Relationship

Would you trust your medical diagnosis to a casual acquaintance? Do you cut your own hair or dry clean your own clothes? For some services, it makes more sense to pay a professional who has the expertise to deliver the appropriate results. A professional financial advisor can help you build a sound estate plan, designed to help you toward your long-term financial planning goals. These six steps can help you locate and get the most out of this important relationship.

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Retirement Savings: Do Yours Measure Up?

When you envision retirement, do you picture yourself living in a warm climate, traveling to exotic places, or doing whatever suits you on any given day? It might surprise you to learn that, regardless of your age or circumstance, a "lifestyle plan" is an important part of retirement planning.

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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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Social Security and Retirement

When contemplating retirement, you, like many other people today, may be counting on Social Security benefits to provide you with a basic level of income. The age at which you choose to retire is an important part of the equation. In addition, there are many other issues to consider when making that choice.

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Retirement Saving: Let the Journey Begin!

We've all heard the old adage, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." The same concept 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 into smaller, more manageable goals.

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Understanding the Basics of Economic Forecasting

When weather forecasts are inaccurate, we can usually change our plans with little consequence in the greater scheme of things. When economic forecasts are inaccurate, however, the consequences may be more significant. While making financial decisions does involve some guesswork, an educated guess - even with elements of uncertainty - may be better than making a decision with no forecast at all.

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Investigating Employee Misconduct

The Federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) relaxed the rules governing employer investigations of employees accused of misconduct such as discrimination, sexual harassment, and workplace violence, etc. A business can hire an outside firm to investigate allegations of employee misconduct without receiving the accused employee’s written consent for the investigation. In addition, businesses are only required to provide a report when adverse action is taken and may withhold the names of interviewed sources.

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The Importance of Conducting Employee Background Checks

If you are planning to hire a new employee, it is important to conduct proper and legal background checks to verify the information that the applicant has provided to ensure that he or she is the best fit for the position. There are many different types of background checks and various ways to obtain records. However, you are required at all times to abide by the laws that regulate background screening, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

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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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Succession Planning with Buy-Sell Agreements

Planning for certain contingencies, such as death, disability, or retirement, is a concern that affects all business owners. For family businesses, in particular, continuation planning is inevitably intertwined with business, tax, and estate planning. One succession tool that can help ensure a smooth transition is the buy-sell agreement. These multifaceted agreements serve many valuable purposes, such as establishing a sale price for business interests; valuing an estate for estate tax purposes; providing liquidity; and easing the transfer of ownership between partners, family members, or a third party.

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Top 10 Tips for Fiscal Fitness

As days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months, it may feel like there is little time to catch up on all of your financial responsibilities. Sometimes it may be easier to simply toss ATM receipts, credit card bills, and bank statements into the “junk drawer” to deal with later. But, later never seems to come. Is it time for you to put fiscal fitness at the top of your to-do list?

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The "Taxing Effects” of Selling Your Home

Because of the generous capital gains exclusion on selling a primary residence, you may find that you do not owe Federal taxes when it comes time to sell your home. But there are situations in which a seller may incur a tax liability, especially if the sale price is very high, if the house is sold soon after purchase, or if the owners are unmarried or are selling as the result of a divorce. In many of these cases, however, the amount owed to the IRS can be minimized, or offset, with some advance planning.

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Non-Working Spouses and Roth IRAs

For many married couples, retirement planning has become not only a personal responsibility but a financial necessity. Since Americans are living longer, retirement funding may need to span several decades beyond the normal retirement age. When you consider the escalating costs of health care, the uncertainty of Social Security and Medicare, and the pace of inflation, it is more important than ever to explore tax-advantaged saving options that can fit into you and your spouse’s overall financial plan for retirement. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

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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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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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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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Minimizing the Risk of Getting Audited

The IRS has been stepping up its efforts to ensure that Americans are accurately reporting the taxes they owe and is auditing a growing number of taxpayers, especially those with high incomes and complex financial arrangements. While all taxpayers are at risk of being audited, you may be more likely to attract the attention of the IRS if certain “red flags” appear on your return.

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The Tax Consequences of Selling a Business

Business owners who are considering selling their company should take into account the taxes they will owe before putting the "For Sale" sign up. When a sale produces income, owners have to pay taxes on at least part of their gains from the sale. How these gains are taxed depends in large part on the structure of the business, whether the business is being sold as a set of assets or as an entity, as well as the type of assets being sold.

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What is Vesting?

Vesting refers to an employee’s entitlement to funds contributed to a qualified, employer-sponsored retirement plan. An employee’s contributions—and any earnings on these contributions—are fully vested from his or her start in the plan. An employer’s matching contributions, on the other hand, may vest according to a schedule set by the employer, as specified in the plan document and following applicable regulations. Therefore, an employer can arrange his or her contributions to follow a vesting schedule that rewards loyalty by fully vesting plan participants after a specified number of years.

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Succession Planning for Business Owners

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve invested a great deal of time and effort into building your company. With day-to-day demands, it may be difficult to imagine your eventual transition into retirement. Yet, if you want to build personal financial security and ensure business continuation, it is important to plan ahead. Business succession planning can help create retirement income for a retiring business owner and facilitate the transfer of operations and/or ownership to family or another entity. A succession plan can also provide a strategy to handle unforeseen events, such as death or disability.

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Disability Planning and Your Business

Many business owners have life insurance to help protect the financial well-being of their families in the event of their death. They also have property and casualty insurance to help cover the value of their personal belongings in the event of damage, fire, or theft. However, many business owners may overlook one of their most valuable assets, which is their ability to earn an income.

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Exploring Your Retirement Plan Options

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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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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Recruiting: Staying One Step Ahead of the Competition

Whether you run a small, family-owned business or a large company, attracting and retaining key employees is challenging in today’s economy. Businesses often compete for skilled and talented employees in the same way they compete for a customer’s business. So, how can your business set itself apart with top performers?

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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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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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Rent or Own: You Decide

If you’re considering whether or not to buy your first home, it 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’s 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 important question remains: What mortgage amount could you afford?

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Key Employees: Protecting Your Most Valuable Assets

Suppose you arrive at your company one morning and discover that a key employee died unexpectedly the night before. Have you ever considered how such a turn of events may affect your company? Along with losing a valued member of your team, you may also be losing knowledge, skill, and important professional relationships cultivated over many years.

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EAPs Help Employees Cope with Personal Challenges

Otherwise dedicated and productive employees can feel overwhelmed by domestic hardships, the death of a family member, mental or physical health issues, financial concerns, substance abuse, or severe work-related stress, which can interfere with their ability to perform effectively on the job. Therefore, a growing number of companies are adding employee assistance programs (EAPs) to their benefit packages to offer professional help. Compared with other types of benefits, EAPs may be relatively inexpensive.

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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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Leaving a Legacy

For millions of Americans, “charity begins at home.” Many have decided to make a difference by donating money to local religious, educational, social, or cultural organizations. In addition to the immense satisfaction that comes from giving to others, charitable giving can provide tax benefits for the donor and his or her heirs when done as part of an overall estate plan.

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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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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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The Value of an Appraisal

Television shows featuring auctions and appraisal fairs have ushered the art of appraising into the limelight with fascinating stories—an ancient artifact unknowingly passed down from generation to generation, a rare trinket picked up at a yard sale, or an historic relic found tucked away in the corner of the attic. While appraisals occasionally lead to surprising discoveries, they more often play a key role in developing financial strategies.

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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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The "Value" of an Appraisal

Television shows featuring auctions and appraisal fairs have ushered the art of appraising into the limelight with fascinating stories—an ancient artifact unknowingly passed down from generation to generation, a rare trinket picked up at a yard sale, or an historic relic found tucked away in the corner of the attic. While appraisals occasionally lead to surprising discoveries, they more often play a key role in developing financial strategies.

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Understanding Interest Rates and Your Financial Situation

When discussing bank accounts, investments, loans, and mortgages, it is important to understand the concept of interest rates. Interest is the price you pay for the temporary use of someone else's funds; an interest rate is the percentage of a borrowed amount that is attributable to interest. Whether you are a lender, a borrower, or both, it is important to consider how interest rates may affect your financial decisions.

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Tax Planning for A Move Abroad

Many Americans are considering moving abroad to take advantage of professional and personal opportunities in a global economy. But as a U.S. citizen living in a foreign country, your tax situation may become more complex, especially because the U.S. requires all of its citizens and green card holders living abroad to continue to file returns in the U.S., and pay taxes on their worldwide income. Depending on the source and level of your income, however, you may be entitled to a number of tax breaks, chiefly designed to keep you from being taxed doubly by your adopted country, as well as in the United States. Whether you actually come out ahead on taxes will depend on which country you work in and its tax rates, along with your individual financial and employment situations.

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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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Tax Advantages of Turning a Hobby into a Business

Many people dream of turning their passionate pursuit into a money-making venture. Creating a successful and profitable business is seldom easy, but the Federal government offers tax incentives to business owners that could make converting an avocation into a business start-up an effective part of your overall tax planning strategy. If you are thinking about turning your hobby into a business, you would need to realistically appraise your chances of building a profitable enterprise before you declare yourself a business owner.

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The Four Forms of Property Co Ownership

Owning property with another individual or partner may create a complicated relationship. Due to the complexity of the situation, the way in which you take title or ownership must be determined in advance. Consulting with your legal professional can help you establish the form of ownership in such a way that will benefit you and your future heirs. The four forms of co-ownership, one of which will likely be better suited to your circumstances, are as follows:

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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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Solidify Your Future: Use Advance Directives

Traditionally, estate planning has focused on minimizing estate taxes and directing the disposition of your assets after death. Today, managing your financial well-being often includes the potential need for long-term health care. If you were to sustain a debilitating illness, or become mentally incapacitated, which can occur gradually due to a progressive medical condition, or suddenly, from an unexpected accident, who would make your important legal, financial, and health care decisions, and on what authority?

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Securing a Business Loan with Term Life

As a business owner, you have probably worked long and hard to build a successful company. Yet, even when profit projections look promising and a project is backed by a sound business plan, your banker may be reluctant to lend the funds necessary for expansion, particularly if the success of your venture depends too heavily on you.

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Subtract Inflation and It All Adds Up!

Some of us may remember the “good old days,” when gasoline prices were as low as 25¢ per gallon. Others may recall when a can of soda cost 15¢. But prices tend to rise over time—sometimes steadily and sometimes abruptly. In the years ahead, inflation will most likely decrease the purchasing power of your money, which means that during retirement, your dollars will buy less than they do today.

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Plan Carefully When Choosing Your Executor

One important decision you will need to make when writing your will is selecting an estate executor. Ideally, your executor should possess the tact of a diplomat and the administrative skills of a professional executive. You may want to choose someone who knows you and your family well enough to faithfully carry out your wishes, but who also has the necessary objectivity to handle any conflicts that may arise.

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Strategies for Making Tax-Free Gifts to Loved Ones

Prospective insurance buyers are often confused about disability income insurance because the features and benefits can vary widely from one policy to another. Essentially, there are a few key elements that could make a big difference when you make your choice. If you are in the market for disability income insurance, here are some significant points to consider:

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Protect Your Estate with an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

Many estate planning practitioners view the irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) as a flexible and useful tool that can provide a number of benefits to their clients. Because the question of where the ILIT fits into the overall estate planning process can be somewhat confusing, a closer look at its potential advantages may prove helpful.

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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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Taxes and Your Estate: Reconcile Your Domicile

Increased mobility in today’s society has changed the ways in which we live, work, and play. Compared to previous generations, it is now quite common for work and recreational activities to cross state lines, resulting in ownership of property and formal relationships in more than one state. However, the expanded opportunities created by mobility may come at a price: the increased likelihood that several states may be able to tax your estate when you die. If you were to die today, do you know if more than one state would attempt to levy taxes on your estate?

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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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Planning Your Estate before Remarriage

Despite the best intentions, marriages may not last forever. If you are divorced or widowed, and planning to remarry, you may want to take the opportunity to review and revise your estate conservation strategies. This is especially important if you and your future spouse have children from previous marriages.

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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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Newlyweds: Get a Financial Head Start

If you are newly married with no children, you may have a special opportunity to build your savings and investments. Financially, a married couple can be more than the sum of its parts. One spouse can work steadily, while the other studies for a college degree or launches a promising business. Or, if both spouses hold jobs, you can try to live on one paycheck and save or invest the other paycheck.

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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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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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