Blogs

  • All immigrants face a common barrier: a lack of US credit history. Here's a guide to building your credit score. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • May 22, 2019 Between two professional credentials that each need a lot of continuing education, plus family vacation time, Im on the road a lot when its not tax season.  Most of the time Ill be able to get a voicemail/text/email and answer within a reasonable time frame, except except for one week when Im [] The post Wendys Upcoming Vacation and Travel Schedule appeared first on Wendy Marsden, CPA, CFP® .
  • You may have heard it said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. That isn’t just a clever rearranging of words; it really has meaning. Financial planning is about the long-term and the short-term. The weather is getting warmer and in the short term, it is easy to spend money and be carefree [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Find Ways to Save on Summer Fun is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) made two significant changes that have a direct impact to post-divorce college planning. Alimony payments are no longer taxable to the recipient, and no longer tax deductible to the payor. College savings plans (also known as 529 plans) can now be used for K-12 education (up to $10,000 per year). This can be used for public, private, or religious schools. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • The May/June edition of the Brown Alumni Magazine features Zach and Values Added (link)! "Brown’s alumni ranks are full of people who aim to do well and also do good. Zach Teutsch ’05 has made it his mission to help others do the same."
  • Later this year, the first of my husbands and my term life insurance policies expire. Twenty years ago, I found out I was pregnant. In between waves of nausea I remember thinking We should get life insurance. We chose 20-year term life insurance policies. Term life insurance pays a benefit in the event of the []
  • If you’re over 50 and managing your investments for retirement. Check Our Video Blog On Forget Everything You Know About Inflation http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Today family-held businesses comprise 80% or 90% of all enterprises in the United States. Check Out This Interview On Family businesses http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Financial planning done well, allows you to align your money with your life.  Money is a tool. We want to use it optimally. So before we determine what we should do with your money, it is vital that we take time to focus on what matters most in your life.   At Stone Steps, we Continue reading "What is the EVOKE process?"
  • A portfolio that is well aligned with your risk profile helps you avoid emotional reactions to sudden changes in the market. Too much risk causes stress and worry that often results in the sale of stock mutual funds when they are down. The goal is to set an asset allocation that takes enough risk to meet your long-term goals, while giving you peace of mind to stay the course during rough market conditions.
  • Is your employer offering restricted stock units as part of their compensation package? When it comes time to apply for a mortgage for a home purchase, one logical question is: do my RSUs count as part of my income? (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Now that Mother’s Day is over and we are back to business as usual, let’s really take a look at and appreciate mothers in the United Statesmany of whom are balancing a lot of different responsibilities. According to Pew Research (6 Facts about Moms): The median age at which women become mothers is older than [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Mothers: Make Time for Financial Planning is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • For taxpayers who owe more in taxes than they are currently able to pay, the IRS does allow you to enter into a tax payment plan. You might even think of this as a loan (with applicable penalties and interest). However, unlike other lenders, the IRS requires you to come up with the terms on how you intend to repay the outstanding balance. The IRS then decides if those terms are acceptable or not. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Fearful headlines about the U.S. Check Our Video Blog On Why Stock Market Has Not Come Undone In Trade War http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Women can lean in and find mentors, and education can push STEM. Check Out This Interview On Women In Tech http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • It can be confusing to differentiate between all the different types of retirement plans offered. The acronyms are confusing and there are different rules for each plan. We're here to distill it for you! (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Did you know there’s a way to get up to $37,000 into your Roth IRA every year even though the contribution limit is $6,000 per year? (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • The latest economic reports contain positive surprises on four fronts. Check Our Video Blog On Goldilocks On Steroids http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • This is the time of year when people get swept up in the joy of seeing graduation photos and buying graduating gifts. It is a fun time but for some the fun only lasts until the realities of paying back student loans hits. While there is no need to ignore the joys of graduation season, [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Planning How to Fund a College Education is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • What happens if, in all the hustle and bustle, we forgot to file our tax returns on time? This article will attempt to outline the basics that would apply to most taxpayers. However, in the spirit of most disclaimers, this is not an all-encompassing article. It might not address your specific situation. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • 3 Questions to Ask Yourself before Determining Your Retirement Housing Needs
  • If you want to be rich, change. Grow, Get organized. Check Out This Interview On Better Finances in 30 days http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Since I began my career as a financial planner, I have always been searching for the best way to help clients plan and take action so they can live their ideal life. Traditional Financial Planning Traditional financial planning was where I started since that is how I was trained.  In traditional financial planning, we look Continue reading "Financial Life Planning = Financial Planning Done Right"
  • Déjà Vu All Over AgainFirst Quarter Market Review 2019 Once of the reasons that Step By Step Financial is a Dimensional Fund Advisor is DFA's focus on data driven investment strategies, and nowhere is that better reflected than in their quarterly market reports. These are great tools for not only us as professionals, but also for the private investor. The following excerpt from the conclusion starting on page 18 is an excellent example. Investment fads are nothing new. When selecting strategies for their portfolios, investors are often tempted to seek out the latest and greatest investment opportunities. Over the years, these approaches have sought to capitalize on developments such as the perceived relative strength of particular geographic regions, technological changes in the economy, or the popularity of different natural resources. But long-term investors should be aware that letting short-term trends influence their investment approach may be counterproductive. As Nobel laureate Eugene Fama said, “There’s one robust new idea in finance that has investment implications maybe every 10 or 15 years, but there’s a marketing idea every week.” After reviewing the data (which is fascinating!), read the conclusion on pages 18-19 in this first quarter market review: WHAT’S HOT BECOMES WHAT’S NOT THE FUND GRAVEYARD WHAT AM I REALLY GETTING? Read the full review here.
  • While there are benefits of holding the EB-5 visa, it comes with major tax consequences that catch some people by surprise. If you’re thinking about applying for the EB-5 visa, make sure you know about the tax implications. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • Bankrate and Barron’s used different angles to address retirement planning issues for parents: Half of parents financially helping their adult children say it’s putting retirement savings at risk:“Bankrate asked Americans at what age they thought a person should start paying for their bills. Most of the results dovetailed the traditional mindset that 18 is the [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Are Your Adult Children Derailing Your Retirement Planning? is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • When dividing assets in a divorce, a common mistake people make is assuming that IRAs and 401k accounts are the same. While both are different types of retirement accounts, there are some key differences. Not accounting for those differences can have a huge financial impact. Here are six key differences between IRAs and 401ks that you should know. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • The U.S. economy grew by 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019. Check Our Video Blog On Stocks Break Record High On Economic Surprises http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Wealth is nothing more than a byproduct of success. The pursuit of success is dependent upon the desire to succeed and become wealthy. Check Out This Interview On Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Success http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • If you are like many of us, your day-to-day life requires an increasing number of passwords. Maybe you forget one from time to time and find yourself locked out of something you need to access and going through the hassle of proving your identity so you can gain access again. Or maybe you use a [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Password Access is a Part of Estate Planning is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • This is part two of a two-part article on the IRS’ first time tax penalty abatement. While this policy can provide a lot of relief for taxpayers, particularly those with six figures of tax debt, there are a lot of details involved. Instead of writing one long article, we decided to break this up into two. The first article detailed the IRS’ first time tax penalty policy, while this article will outline the procedures involved. That way, after reading the eligibility requirements outlined in the first article, you can decide if you need to go through the trouble. (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • The U.S. economy has slowed since 2018’s fast pace but is continuing to grow Check Our Video Blog On U.S. Leading Indicators, Retail Sales, And Atlanta Fed Forecast Signal Strength http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Have you ever found yourself thinking that a mission is just a buzzword and a mission statement is nothing more than corporate fluff? If so, you are not alone. Check Out This Interview On Executive Leadership http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Identity theft protection services cannot prevent identity theft, they monitor your personal information and alert you of any unusual or suspicious activity. There is no way to fully protect your identity, the information needed to compromise your finances is already out there.
  • Whether you just filed yesterday, filed earlier in 2019 , or have asked for an extension, as Policygenius.com says, you should “Start determining your 2020 tax strategy today.”  This is especially true if you filed an extension because you want to be better prepared next year: “Although Tax Day 2020 is a year away, remember [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Bring Clarity to Your 2020 Taxes is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • Let's all breathe a big sigh of relief together. Tax season (February to April 15) is the busiest time of year for many financial planners, and we are always so relieved when it is over! We love doing what we do; it really is a joy to help people on their way to financial security. However, it always feels great to be able to look back and say, "tax season is over for the year!" So what's next here at Step By Step? We're going to start talking about investments. During this next quarter, our client meetings will focus on making client money work for the client. Each of our ongoing financial planning clients will have a meeting with us to review current investments, discuss and assess risk levels, and to rebalance their portfolio as necessary. Clients will log in to Riskalyze and make sure it reflects their current situation, updating for any recent professional or personal changes. Then, we'll do a thorough portfolio analysis, researching current investments and identifying any areas needing attention to keep the portfolio aligned with the clients' unique risk level and net worth goals. Even if you aren't one of our ongoing financial planning clients, it's a good time of year to do an investment review. Now that you've finished your tax returns and checked up on your 2019 tax assessment strategy, take a look at your portfolio! It is an area we tend to set up and "forget" about, and not actively manage as time goes on. We hope we've inspired you to take a good long look at yours!
  • We are nearing the end of the first tax season post Tax Reform, formally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The majority of filers saw a reduction in their tax liability this year as noted by my colleague Bill Starnes. Many people, however, got lower refunds. This is because their tax withheld during []
  • Some indications that you might be dealing with a fraudulent investment include the promise of high returns with little or no risk and claims of historical performance that is overly consistent. It is not realistic to earn high returns without volatility and risk.
  • In this Dennis the Menace comic, you see Dennis about the break a piggy bank with a hammer and the caption reads, “Sorry, Piggy…But investments come with risks.”  At his young age, Dennis understands that it is not all smooth sailing when you invest. In this case, he has found some reason to literally ‘break [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Financial Literacy 101: Investing Comes with Risks is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • Forbes discusses “10 Common Financial Myths That Should Be April Fools Jokes” and now that the first of April has passed, we hope that you will consider some of what they say and not take it as a joke.  It isnt about doing the exact opposite of what everyone says; rather it is about making [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Dont Fall for Common Financial Myths is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • It may be time to adjust your strategy.When you prepared your federal tax return for 2018, you likely noticed some changes that had an effect on your overall tax liability. While we had prepared for the changes to rules regarding charitable donations and medical deductions, many of my clients were still surprised at how different their tax return was, and have asked what to do going forward. Something that my clients, as well as many others, will likely benefit from is the strategy of "bunching" deductions. Your taxes are counted by calendar year, even if the reality is that they are 364 days apart. It is difficult to predict major medical needs, so those are harder to strategize. With charitable donations, however, it is easy! Under the previous rules, making a larger annual donation each December to your favorite charity was usually the best strategy, or smaller ones throughout the year. A new way, which may make more sense for you, is to "bunch" your donations within calendar years. For example, for places you make annual donations, make your donation in January 2020 and then again in December 2020, only 11 months apart. Then make your next donation 13 months later in January 2022, and again in December 2022 (11 months later). This keeps your donations spread reasonably apart, ensuring level cash flow for you and for your receipient. If you successfully do this with all of your donations, even the smaller ones, you will much more likely to utilize the new, higher deduction levels.
  • A Fee-Only financial planner can help you manage the money you have and advise you on how to reach your financial goals. Depending on your relationship, a financial planner may offer advice on how to increase your funds. But it is unlikely that your financial planner will be present when you negotiate your salary, fees, [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Women: Negotiate Salary Strategically is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • When the stock market fell yesterday, the financial news blared about falling rates and trouble in bonds. Yet it was a spectacular day for bonds! [More] (Feed generated with FetchRSS )
  • My father and his wife moved into a CCRC last year and in no way feel they have moved into a nursing home. Instead, they would say it is closer to a cross between a college campus and a country club. He was recently featured in the 2.5 minute video (above) for their community (Garden Spot Village) to show the under-represented side to CCRCs: the youthful, adventurous, and active side experienced by many of the physically active residents.
  • Naming the beneficiaries of your 401(k), IRA, or life insurance policy may appear pretty straight forward, but there is one important nuance that should be strongly considered and may result in your estate not passing to the individuals you desire.
  • A primary financial goal for most people is to retire comfortably. We look forward to the opportunity to relax, pursue new hobbies, travel and spend time with friends and family. To improve your chances of having a financially worry-free retirement avoid the following pit-falls.
  • Accounts of Sylvia Feldman Porters life often cite the fact that her widowed mother lost $30,000 in the 1929 stock market crash as the thing that lit the spark for her career as a financial columnist but that interest may have been piqued even earlier. Porter also watched her parents lose money selfing Liberty Bonds at [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Womens History: Finance Columnist Sylvia Porter Hid Her Gender is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • Quick Review on IRAs:When you save into a Roth IRA, you save money you have already paid income tax on, and don't pay income taxes when you withdraw it at retirement. When you save into a Traditional IRA, you save money that has not been subject to income tax, and you pay income taxes on that money when you withdraw it. Now to the point of this post: with the recent changes in tax brackets, have you reviewed your IRAs? If your tax bracket has changed for the better (assuming that you prefer to pay less of your hard earned income in taxes and consider a lower bracket a "good" thing), it's possible that converting your Traditional IRA to a Roth might make sense for you. What exactly should you consider? Consider what your retirement income level will be, so you know what tax bracket you're looking at during that time compared to your current bracket. Calculate how much tax you'll pay on your traditional IRA funds at the time of distribution (this will be based on your income at the time). Calculate how much tax you'll pay on your traditional IRA funds if you convert now. Remember that Traditional IRAs require minimum distributions beginning at a particular age (affecting your tax liability with increased income), but that Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals during your lifetime (also affecting your tax liability with income with more flexibility). If you'd like a primer on IRAs, I recommend Vanguard's website as a source of great information. Click here to view Vanguard's IRA comparison site . One final thought: the current tax rates are set to expire after 2025 if no further action is taken by Congress. With that in mind, if your tax bracket has lowered, converting traditional IRAs to Roths becomes an even more appealing idea.
  • How do you see yourself spending retirement? Golfing in Florida? Traveling the country in an RV? Spending time with family and grandchildren?
  • I recently read the best seller Atomic Habits by James Clear. In fact it was my book giveaway in January, I highly recommend it. In this book I learned the tale of the French philosopher Denis Diderot, who in 1765 found himself unable to pay for his daughters wedding. He was poor, but well known []