Giving Stock

Q: When I was a kid, my grandfather gave shares of stock to his grandkids—actual stock certificates. He thought it would help us learn to be better investors. I remember how I loved to look at those colorful and intricately engraved pieces of paper. Is it still possible to give stock certificates today?
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3 ideas to make the holidays brighter

I love the holiday season. It is a great time to gather with family and friends and build memories that last a lifetime. However, sometimes the holiday bustle can turn into a real hassle and the post-holiday let down can be a real bummer. If the shine has come off your holidays in recent years, maybe it’s time for a change. Here are three financial ideas that might help your holidays shine a little brighter.
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Making the most of a bad market

In case you hadn’t noticed, the stock market has been under a little pressure lately. The S&P 500 index has fallen 10% from its all-time high on September 21. The tech-heavy NASDAQ index has been hit even harder, dropping 15% from its high on August 29. The market’s sharp drop has raised the anxiety level for some investors. I have had several people ask me if this is the start of a bear market. I always tell them the same thing: I don’t know. Nobody does. The pundits who try to tell you otherwise are simply fooling themselves.
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Saving for retirement with your HSA

Q: I contribute every year to a health savings account and use it to help pay for medical expenses before I reach my deductible. Recently someone told me that they use their HSA to save for retirement, kind of like an IRA. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but is it a good idea? Is it better to use the money now or save it for later?
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How Safe Are My Retirement Accounts, Really?

Q: I have a very successful small business. My wife and I are the only employees. Over the years, we have been blessed to save a significant amount of money in our retirement accounts (SEP IRAs, Roth IRAs and solo 401k plan). Much of our net worth is tied up in those accounts. I’m not worried about bankruptcy at this point, but I am worried about protection from other potential creditors, particularly lawsuits. How safe are my retirement accounts, really?
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Year-end tax scramble

It’s time for the annual year-end tax scramble—the time when people like you and I try to figure out how to wrangle a few extra bucks out of our anticipated tax bills. After last year’s tax reform, this year’s scramble is probably going to be a little more limited. However, here are a few end-of-year tax saving ideas you should look at.
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An interesting wrinkle: RMDs and Deferred Annuities

Q: Last year I purchased a deferred annuity in my IRA. My insurance company recently sent me a statement reminding me that I need to take a required minimum distribution before year-end. They included the amount of my RMD and I was shocked to discover that it is significantly higher after buying the annuity than it was before the annuity. I called my broker and he assured me the higher RMD was correct. I’ve been paying RMDs for several years, but I have never seen anything like this. What’s going on?
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Let’s talk Medicare

If you are one of the 44 million Americans currently covered by Medicare, you probably know that Medicare’s annual open enrollment period just started. Between now and December 7 you have the opportunity to make adjustments to your Medicare coverage. Paying for health care is one of the biggest financial challenges many people face in retirement. If you are 65 or older, Medicare is probably an important part of your financial picture. However, if you are new to Medicare you may be surprised by Medicare’s complexity and the gaps in your coverage.
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Financial foolishness

Are you foolish? I know that’s a provocative question. Nobody likes to appear foolish to themselves or to others. However, to paraphrase Forrest Gump’s mama, “Foolish is as foolish does.” We all play the fool sometimes, so it’s a good idea to engage in a little self-reflection occasionally to make sure we aren’t fooling ourselves. Self-reflection followed by self-correction enables us to grow wise despite our foolishness. As a financial planner I am especially interested in helping people escape financial foolishness. In my experience, there are three common ways in which people fool themselves financially.
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Escaping the tax on your RMD

Retirees of a certain age face the harsh reality that the IRS is lurking in the shadows. As soon as they turn 70 ½ years old, the IRS comes knocking. “Hello, Mr. Retiree,” says the nice IRS man. “You’ve had the tax-free use of this money for years and you have built up a nice little nest egg. Now we want our share.” They get their share by requiring you to take minimum distributions every year from your retirement savings. The distributions are taxed as ordinary income which makes the IRS man very happy. Now what if I told you there was an easy and perfectly legal way to beat the IRS man at his own game?
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