Archive for the ‘personal finance’ Category

Wes Moss on the fiscal cliff: The good, bad and the so-so

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Last week’s “fiscal cliff” drama may seem old news by now. You watched or read about the back and forth in Congress and maybe even studied the main points our lawmakers approved.

But here’s a scorecard on what the deal means for those of us trying to keep our family or business finances in check or wanting to plan our investments. Let’s start with the good stuff (depending on your point of view, of course):

The (mostly) positives

– The bottom line is Congress finally passed legislation to avoid massive tax hikes and deep government spending cuts, which almost certainly would have triggered another recession.

– An estimated 90 percent of the “new tax revenue” to be collected by our government this year will come from families who earn $1 …

Continue reading Wes Moss on the fiscal cliff: The good, bad and the so-so »

Tips to help you prepare for tax season

Another year has come to an end, which means another tax season is about to begin.

Much of what will impact your 2012 taxes has probably already occurred, but even as you prepare to file, there are still some things you can do to make a difference on you return.

A good start, according to financial experts, is to take stock of your financial situation.

“It is the perfect time of the year to reassess finances,” says Mary Ellen Garrett, senior vice president of investments and wealth management advisor for Merrill Lynch in Buckhead.

Review and store your bank and brokerage statements, account numbers, retirement plan and income statements in one place, she says. Doing that will help familiarize you with things that are important for 2012.

Make sure you have a copy of your previous return, says Barbara Weltman, contributing editor to “J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2013,” (Wiley, John & Sons Inc., $22.95).

“It will remind you of things you did last year and will prompt …

Continue reading Tips to help you prepare for tax season »

Wes Moss: Seek good health, wealth in new year

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Like many of you, I spent some of the holiday season traveling to see and spend time with family. That’s easier said than done when it involves three small children age 5 and under.

Between airplane delays, crowded parking lots and long rental car lines, I ended up this past week in snow-covered Michigan, stuck in a house with my in-laws (God bless them), where every family member took turns with a stomach bug, in addition to a double ear infection for my 11-month-old. How relaxing!

As the children and adults finally recovered, it reminded me of a study from the University of Michigan I read earlier in the year about the importance of health in our quest for financial stability. Here are some staggering statistics that tell the story:

– Mean net …

Continue reading Wes Moss: Seek good health, wealth in new year »

Wes Moss: How dividends can affect share price

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Here’s a common question I get in my role as a financial advisor who advocates income investing, which includes the purchase of dividend-paying stocks: Why do the prices of such shares seem to fall by the exact amount of the dividend they just paid me?

As one client put it: “I had a $100 stock and it paid me $1 this quarter. But on the day I received my $1 in cash, the share price went down to $99. Isn’t that company just giving me my own money back?”

No;  the company actually is passing on profits to you. And you are gaining something.

Here’s how it works: On the day the dividend is issued, an investor receives his or her $1, which represents the person’s share of the company’s earnings for that quarter. The company itself has likely …

Continue reading Wes Moss: How dividends can affect share price »

Giving the gift of education — 529 plans

Holiday season is one of the most popular times of the year for opening 529 plans — the tax deferred accounts that help parents save and for qualifying higher education expenses.

Sometimes parents set up the accounts and invite relatives to make contributions during holidays and birthdays. Sometimes relatives or friends open the account and contribute on behalf of a beneficiary.

Here are a few tips from Harvey Snider, wealth management advisor for Merrill Lynch in Duluth on 529 gifting:

Start early. Starting when a child is young allows you to give appropriate consideration to the level of risk involved and to make sure you continually monitor and adjust the account as the child or children continue to grow, says Snider.

“When a child is younger the opportunity to assume a slightly higher level of risk in the hopes of a larger return is more appropriate than perhaps a year or two or three away from when the child needs to begin withdrawals,” Snider says.

Avoid issues of …

Continue reading Giving the gift of education — 529 plans »

Wes Moss: Plan to be the ‘happiest retiree on the block’

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

My registered investment advisory firm (RIA) manages about $1 billion in client assets. That’s like having two Queen Elizabeths on the client list at about $500 million each. Or four Mitt Romneys with about $250 million apiece. Or 10 Roger Federers at around $100 million each.

Those are pretty impressive names and numbers. But I’ll stick with my firm’s 1,000 clients, who average about $1 million in investments. None of these people are famous. Very few would be considered extremely wealthy. But they are among what I would consider the “richest retirees on the block.”

These folks are doing exactly what they want in retirement:

• Traveling overseas a couple times a year.

• Spending time with their grandchildren.

• Going back and forth …

Continue reading Wes Moss: Plan to be the ‘happiest retiree on the block’ »

Clark Howard: Keep an eye on savings bonds

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Are you unhappy with the low interest rates on savings accounts and CDs? The federal government could help you temporarily earn close to 2 percent on your money.

In the past, I’ve spoken with great enthusiasm about Series I U.S. savings bonds. Throughout the late 1990s and early last decade, they were a phenomenal deal. If you bought I bonds during the sweet spot, I advise you to hold those notes for the full 30-year term.

Series I bonds have a two-part interest rate. There’s a fixed rate that today sits at zero. Then there’s a floating rate based on inflation — that’s what the “I” in Series I stands for. During the next six months, that floating rate is .88 percent, which is 1.76 percent annualized over 12 months. …

Continue reading Clark Howard: Keep an eye on savings bonds »

Wes Moss: Keep market drops in perspective

(Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.)

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

It’s a classic cartoon scene: The loopy scientist looks through his telescope and sees a huge meteor hurtling toward Earth. He panics and sets all sorts of insanity in motion before realizing he was looking though the wrong end of the telescope — at a speck of dust.

Investors are playing the role of that nutty astronomer these days, based on feedback from my clients and calls to my radio show. We are experiencing the biggest, small correction in the history of the stock market because investor reaction to this dip is three times what it should be. The market is down approximately 6 percent and people are reacting as if it’s down 18 percent.

I call this the “3X Election Correction.” I’m getting more calls now than I did during the first and …

Continue reading Wes Moss: Keep market drops in perspective »

Wes Moss: A checklist for inheriting an IRA

(Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.)

“Of two things you can be certain, death and taxes.”  – Benjamin Franklin

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Sadly, those two unavoidables often present themselves at the same time.

If your spouse owned an IRA at the time of his or her death, you will need to make some decisions. Depending on the situation and relationship of those involved, there are a myriad ways to handle the situation.

First off, don’t feel the need to rush out and find something to invest the proceeds into. You will have plenty of time for that once things have settled down and your mind has cleared. But these simple guidelines will help make the process easier for you to understand at the outset.

If you are a spouse inheriting an IRA, and …

– Your spouse died before taking Required Minimum Distributions …

Continue reading Wes Moss: A checklist for inheriting an IRA »

Wes Moss: How to handle likely market swings

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

As Washington transitions from a lame-duck Congress to a new session and a second term for President Barack Obama, little has changed from an investor’s point of view:

• The “fiscal cliff” still looms — $700 billion worth of federal spending cuts and tax hikes that will take place in the new year if Congress doesn’t act on some type of fiscal reform. This essentially represents the deal leftovers from the debt ceiling debate earlier this year, along with the last few years of political wrangling. If left unresolved, it would affect unemployment benefits, payroll taxes, defense spending and the alternative minimum tax — a combined 4.4 percent drag on gross domestic product in 2013.

• Expiration of the Bush tax cuts would mean $220 billion-plus in …

Continue reading Wes Moss: How to handle likely market swings »