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Friday, March 28, 2014

Important Steps to Follow When Creating an Estate Plan

Having an estate plan—designating what should happen to you and your assets if you should die or become incapacitated—is extremely important in order to meet your financial goals and provide for your loved ones.
I recommend consulting with a financial advisor or an estate planning attorney for assistance in designing a plan that works for your specific circumstances. After all, we are all different and have different needs, wishes and desires.
Here are some of the key steps involved:

1. Take Inventory of What You Own, What You Owe and to whom.
Compile a comprehensive list of your assets and debts, including account numbers and contact information for financial institutions and advisors. Keep this list in a safe place. Include original copies of important documents and don't forget to give a copy to the executor of your will.

2. Make a Contingency Plan. Remember Murphy's law. Any thing that can go wrong, will. 
Plan ahead and make provisions to protect your future and your retirement income. Don't forget to include documents that allow your family to handle your affairs if you became incapacitated.
This includes having disability insurance and a strategy to cover potential care-giving expenses.

3. Make arrangements for Children and Dependents. Find a suitable guardian for children under age 18 and provide for dependents who might not be specifically addressed if you plan to leave assets to a current spouse. This might include any children you have from a previous marriage or someone with special needs.

4. Protect Your Assets. Maintain your assets for heirs and your legacy by minimizing expenses, cover estate taxes and outline strategies for transferring or disposing of family owned business, real estate or investment property. Many people use find that using permanent life insurance allows you to leverage your money. Some create different types of trusts for this purpose trusts to handle this.
5. Document Your Wishes in writing. Make certain your wishes can be carried out by creating the necessary legal documents, including an updating your will to dispose of your assets, make sure you have a living will specifying your end-of-life wishes, and powers of attorney for health care and financial matters. Very important step is to confirm beneficiaries for your life insurance policies, retirement accounts and other assets, and ownership of personal possessions such as automobiles and property by making sure they are  properly titled. Having your estate as your beneficiary will cause delays and probate costs while having a named beneficiary may avoid hassles.

6. Appoint Fiduciaries. You need to designate someone to act on your behalf as executor of your will, a trustee for your assets, a legal guardian for your dependents and/or power of attorney if you became incapacitated. If not, the courts will have to make that decision for you and it may not be according to your wishes. Do not assume, check with your fiduciaries to make sure they agree to be appointed and remember where you can find your original estate planning documents.
All that preparation is useless if no one knows where those documents are.

Whether you are very young and just starting out or you have accumulated great wealth over a lifetime, an up-to-date estate plan can help you minimize the impact of unexpected events on yourself and on your family by preserving, protecting and helping to  manage your estate.
A good financial advisor and an estate planning attorney can provide the required expertise to help you in creating a plan that meets your financial and estate planning goals that can impact you well into the future.

Additional things to consider: Is a trust right for you?
Call an advisor or consult with an estate planning attorney.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cybercrime Update: Tips to Help Protect Your Money, Privacy, and Identity

Cybercrime Update: Tips to Help Protect Your Money, Privacy, and Identity
Federal prosecutors recently indicted members of an alleged gang of cyber thieves for stealing $45 million from banks in coordinated global attacks, each of which lasted only several hours. Sophisticated hacking techniques were used to remove spending limits on prepaid debit-card accounts at two banks in the Middle East. Organized crime cells then programmed corresponding debit cards to withdraw money from bank ATMs around the world, including $2.8 million from nearly 3,000 ATMs in New York City in two separate attacks that took place in December 2012 and February 2013.¹
The heist is believed to be the second-largest global bank robbery on record. In New York City, the bank theft was second only to the 1978 Lufthansa robbery depicted in the movie “Goodfellas.”²
News of such brazen and costly attacks demonstrates how difficult it can be for individuals, businesses, and governments to detect the latest cyber threats and protect their interests. Unfortunately, millions of American consumers could become victims of cybercrimes such as debit- or credit-card fraud and identity theft each year.
Here’s a closer look at common cybercrimes that could affect you, as well as steps to help safeguard your personal information and financial accounts.

Compromised Accounts
It has become increasingly common for criminals to install “skimmers” that collect the data embedded in the magnetic strip on the back of credit and debit cards. The electronic devices are placed on ATMs, inside gas pumps, or at other retail establishments where cards are swiped, and they may be used in conjunction with small cameras that capture the cardholders’ PIN numbers.
Cloned cards can then be used to make purchases or steal cash until the account is frozen by the bank. In many cases, victims may not realize that “skimming” has occurred until fraudulent transactions appear on their accounts or they are contacted by the bank.
Before swiping your card at an ATM or a gas station, inspect the machine and look closely at the card slot to detect a skimmer. When you enter your PIN, cover your hand to prevent a camera from recording your number.
To help limit the hassles and potential losses of a cybercrime, monitor your accounts regularly and notify your bank immediately if you notice any suspicious activity. Stolen funds are typically returned to customers when claims of fraud are filed promptly. The U.S. Secret Service estimates that ATM skimming is responsible for more than $1 billion in losses on an annual basis.³
Identity Theft Persists
Identity theft is not a new problem, but criminals continue to devise sinister schemes to steal personal information and cash in after they have it. About 12.6 million people had their identities stolen in 2012.4
Cyber thieves are not only after your existing financial accounts. A person who gains access to your Social Security number might apply for credit, file a fraudulent tax return, or receive government benefits in your name.
Phishing schemes are spam emails that try to trick you into giving your personal information or log-in credentials to computer hackers. At first glance, a sophisticated attempt may look as though it was sent from your own bank or a company you do business with. However, legitimate businesses generally won’t ask you to provide sensitive data via email.
Don’t Leave a Paper Trail
Keep important records (including your Social Security card) in a locked drawer at home. If you have a Medicare card, carry only a copy of it with all but the last four digits blacked out. Shred documents or cards instead of throwing them in the trash.
Send outgoing mail from an official or locked mailbox. When you are out of town, have the postal service hold your mail or ask a friend to pick it up.
Be Cautious Online
To help thwart hackers, create strong passwords with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Use a separate password for every account, and don’t use an automatic log-in feature that saves your username and password. Never enter personal data on a public computer unless you can log in and out of a secure account.
Enter sensitive data only on encrypted sites that display a “lock” icon on the status bar of your Internet browser. Mobile devices may also be vulnerable, so it’s important to enable the encryption and password features on your smartphone.
For more information about online security issues and consumer scams (compiled by a coalition of government and consumer protection agencies), visit

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Irish Blessing? Or what did Sir Winston Churchill have to do with the discovery of Penicillin

Irish Blessing? Or what did Sir Winston Churchill have to do with the discovery of Penicillin...
His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while
trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming
from a nearby bog. He dropped his   tools
and ran to the bog.
There,   mired to his waist in black muck, was a   terrified boy, screaming
and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what
could have been a slow and terrifying death.
The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse
surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced
himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had   saved.

‘I want to repay you,’ said the nobleman...  'You saved my son's   life.'
'No, I can't accept payment for what I did,’ the Scottish farmer replied
waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the
door of the family hovel.
'Is that your son?' the nobleman   asked.
'Yes,’ the farmer replied proudly.
'I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my
own son will enjoy if the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt
grow to be a man we both will be proud of.' And that he   did.
Farmer Flemming's son attended  the  very best schools and in time,
graduated from  St. Mary's Hospital Medical  School in London,  and went on
to become  known throughout the world  as the noted  Sir Alexander Fleming,
the  discoverer of   Penicillin.
Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the  bog was
stricken with  pneumonia.
What   saved his life this time?   Penicillin.
The name of the nobleman?  Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name?
Sir Winston Churchill.
Someone once said:  What goes around comes around.
Work like you don't need the money.
Love like   you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Sing like nobody’s listening.
Live like it’s Heaven on Earth.
It's National Friendship Week.  Send this to everyone you consider A

Pass this on, and brighten some one’s day.
AN IRISH FRIENDSHIP WISH: You had better send this back!! Good  Luck!
I hope it works...
May  there always be  work for your hands to  do;
May your  purse always hold a coin or   two;
May the sun always shine on  your  windowpane;
May a rainbow be  certain to  follow each rain;
May  the hand of a  friend always be near  you; May God fill your  heart
with  gladness to cheer you. And may  you  be in heaven a half hour before the devil   knows you’re dead.
OK, this is what you have to do.... Send this to all of  your  friends.
But - you HAVE to send this within 1 hour from when you open   it!
Now.....Make A wish!! I hope you made your wish!
Now then, if  you send  to:
1 person --- your wish  will be  granted in 1 year
3 people ---  6  months         
5 people --- 3  months           
6  people --- 1  month                                            
7 people --- 2  weeks                                                                                                                                 8  people --- 1 week                       
9 people  --- 5  days                                                                                                                                    10 people --- 3 days                              
12   people --- 2 days                       
15 people --- 1   day                                                     
20 people --- 3 hours
If  you  delete this after you read it, you  will have 1  year of bad luck!
But, if you send it to 2 of your friends, you will automatically have 3
years good  luck!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The 1% Factor: A Way to Help Boost Retirement Savings

In a survey of workers who participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, 71% said they wanted their employers to increase their savings rate automatically by 1% each year.1 Some plans have auto-escalation features that increase workers’ contributions by a percentage point on an annual basis.2 Regardless of whether you save by default or by choice, increasing your retirement contributions could make a big difference in the amount you accumulate during your working years (see chart).

Although there’s nothing magical about a 1% annual increase, it may be a manageable way to get closer to an appropriate contribution level for your age and personal situation. Industry estimates suggest that workers need to save 13% to 15% of salary throughout their careers in order to fund a retirement lifestyle equivalent to their pre-retirement standards of living.3 People who don’t start saving until later in life may have to save a higher percentage.

Here are a few suggestions that could help you save more without making major changes to your current lifestyle.
Save your raise. When you receive a raise, it’s tempting to increase your spending, but it’s also a great opportunity to increase your retirement savings. Even if you need some of the additional income for current expenses, you could divert a portion of it to your retirement account. And when you contribute on a pre-tax basis, the difference in your take-home pay may not be as significant as you might expect.
Make payments to your future. If you pay off the balance on a car loan, student loan, or credit card, you could continue making the same monthly payments directly to your retirement account. Because the payment is already part of your monthly budget, this provides a way to help increase your savings without a major change to your cash flow.
Pay as you go. Paying off a credit card may allow you to save more, but it might be wiser to avoid credit-card debt in the first place. Unless you pay off your balance in full each month, credit-card interest can grow quickly and could stand in the way of building the retirement savings you may need.
Limit the daily treats. You deserve an occasional treat, but spending on “little things” can add up over time. For example, if you stop for a $3.50 latte each day on your way to work and have another one in the afternoon, you would spend about $150 each month. If this amount was instead invested in an account earning a 6% annual return, you could accumulate more than $100,000 after 25 years.
This hypothetical example is used for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific investment. Fees, expenses, and taxes are not considered and would reduce the performance described if they were included. Actual results will vary.
Saving for retirement may seem daunting, but small steps could make a big difference for your financial future.
1), January 17, 2013
2) Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association, 2013
3) Employee Benefit News, May 7, 2013

The information in this article is not intended as tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. Copyright © 2013 Emerald Connect, LLC.

Helpful Resources

by Michael Sondheim 12-15-2013 – CD rates with personal finance advice – a free rating report on the financial strength of banks and credit unions – review the FDIC’s frequently asked questions, which should help clarify what is and is not covered by FDIC – to check on the financial strength of the insurance company offering your annuity – for buying your U.S. Savings bonds and I Bonds – for comparing life and health insurance agencies – free Internet tool that can do the categorizing of your expenses for you – online tools for determining life expectancy – a quick way to help uncover all of the fees you are paying on mutual funds – use its long-term care calculator to find out what percentage of people with similar histories needed long-term care and what percentage did not and the average time and average amount of money spent on long-term care – visit this website to get an idea of how much long-term care insurance premiums cost
\ – visit this webisite to get some ideas on how to maximize your social security benefits.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Affordable Care Act Seminar

Confused? You are not alone.
How much will the Affordable Care Act 
affect  you starting Jan. 1? 
 (Enrollment begins October 1st)
Date: Tuesday, September 26th
Time: 6:30- Workshop starts promptly (Please Don’t be Late)
Location: Epworth LeSourd United Methodist Church    
                                      710 S. Anderson, Tacoma                                      
This FREE 1 hour informational event is designed to educate and inform you to better understand the new laws.
The seminar is open to the public. Individuals, business owners, Workers and families of workers that are laid-off, part-time workers and early retirees are highly encouraged to attend.
This is an informational workshop only- nothing is being sold!
Please RSVP to Wanda Urquhart at 800-993-9996 or e-mail