Bad Money Habits to Break

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Behaviors worth changing to improve your financial health.

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

Do bad money habits constrain your financial progress? Many people fall into the same financial behavior patterns year after year. If you sometimes succumb to these financial tendencies, now is the time to alter your behavior.


#1: Lending money to family & friends.

You may know someone who has lent a few thousand to a sister or brother, a few hundred to an old buddy, and so on. Generosity is a virtue, but personal loans can easily transform into personal financial losses for the lender. If you must loan money to a friend or family member, mention that you will charge interest and set a repayment plan with deadlines. Better yet, don’t do it at all. If your friends or relatives can’t learn to budget, why should you bail them out?

#2: Spending more than you make.

Living beyond your means, living on margin, whatever you wish to call it, it is a path toward significant debt. Wealth is seldom made by buying possessions; today’s flashy material items may become the garage sale junk of 2027. That doesn’t stop people from racking up consumer debts: a 2017 study conducted by NerdWallet determined that the average U.S. household carries $15,654 in credit card debt alone.1

#3: Saving little or nothing

Good savers build emergency funds, have money to invest and compound, and leave the stress of living paycheck-to-paycheck behind. If you can’t put extra money away, there is another way to get some: a second job. Even working 15-20 hours more per week could make a big difference. The problem of saving too little is far too common: at the end of 2017, the Department of Commerce found the U.S. personal savings rate at 2.9%, a low unseen since 2007.2

#4: Living without a budget

You may make enough money that you don’t feel you need to budget. In truth, few of us are really that wealthy. In calculating a budget, you may find opportunities for savings and detect wasteful spending.

#5: Frivolous spending

Advertisers can make us feel as if we have sudden needs; needs we must respond to, needs that can only be met via the purchase of a product. See their ploys for what they are. Think twice before spending impulsively.

#6: Not using cash often enough

No one can deny that the world runs on credit, but that doesn’t mean your household should. Pay with cash as often as your budget allows.

#7: Gambling

Remember when people had to go to Atlantic City or Nevada to play blackjack or slots? Today, behemoth casinos are as common as major airports; most metro areas seem to have one or be within an hour’s drive of one. If you don’t like smoke and crowds, you can always play the lottery. There are many glamorous ways to lose money while having “fun.” The bottom line: losing money is not fun. It takes willpower to stop gambling. If an addiction has overruled your willpower, seek help.

#8: Inadequate financial literacy

Is the financial world boring? To many people, it is. The Wall Street Journal is not exactly Rolling Stone, and The Economist is hardly light reading. You don’t have to start there, however: great, readable, and even entertaining websites filled with useful financial information abound. Reading an article per day on these websites could help you greatly increase your financial understanding if you feel it is lacking.  

#9: Not contributing to IRAs or workplace retirement plans

Even with all the complaints about 401(k)s and the low annual limits on traditional and Roth IRA contributions, these retirement savings vehicles offer you remarkable wealth-building opportunities. The earlier you contribute to them, the better; the more you contribute to them, the more compounding of those invested assets you may potentially realize.

#10: DIY retirement planning

Those who plan for retirement without the help of professionals leave themselves open to abrupt, emotional investing mistakes and tax and estate planning oversights. Another common tendency is to vastly underestimate the amount of money needed for the future. Few people have the time to amass the knowledge and skill set possessed by a financial services professional with years of experience. Instead of flirting with trial and error, see a professional for insight.

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 -.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2017/12/12/five-things-you-need-to-know-today-and-why-were.html [12/12/17]
2 - reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/strong-u-s-consumer-business-spending-bolster-growth-picture-idUSKBN1EG1J2 [12/22/17]

Download a pdf of Bad Money Habits to Break here
 

Managing Money Well as a Couple

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What are the keys in planning to grow wealthy together?

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

When you marry or simply share a household with someone, your financial life changes – and your approach to managing your money may change as well. To succeed as a couple, you may also have to succeed financially. The good news is that is usually not so difficult.

At some point, you will have to ask yourselves some money questions – questions that pertain not only to your shared finances, but also to your individual finances. Waiting too long to ask (or answer) those questions might carry an emotional price. In the 2017 TD Bank Love & Money survey consumers who said they were in relationships, 68% of couples who described themselves as “unhappy” indicated that they did not have a monthly conversation about money.1

First off, how will you make your money grow?

Simply saving money will help you build an emergency fund, but unless you save an extraordinary amount of cash, your uninvested savings will not fund your retirement. Should you hold any joint investment accounts or some jointly titled assets? One of you may like to assume more risk than the other; spouses often have different individual investment preferences.

How you invest, together or separately, is less important than your commitment to investing. Some couples focus only on avoiding financial risk – to them, maintaining the status quo and not losing any money equals financial success. They could be setting themselves up for financial failure decades from now by rejecting investing and retirement planning.

An ongoing relationship with a financial professional may enhance your knowledge of the ways in which you could build your wealth and arrange to retire confidently.

How much will you spend & save?

Budgeting can help you arrive at your answer. A simple budget, an elaborate budget, or any attempt at a budget can prove more informative than none at all.

A thorough, line-item budget may seem a little over the top, but what you learn from it may be truly eye opening.

How often will you check up on your financial progress?

When finances affect two people rather than one, credit card statements and bank balances become more important, so do IRA balances, insurance premiums, and investment account yields. Looking in on these details once a month (or at least once a quarter) can keep you both informed, so that neither one of you have misconceptions about household finances or assets. Arguments can start when money misunderstandings are upended by reality.

What degree of independence do you want to maintain?

Do you want to have separate bank accounts? Separate “fun money” accounts? To what extent do you want to comingle your money? Some spouses need individual financial “space” of their own. There is nothing wrong with this, unless a spouse uses such “space” to hide secrets that will eventually shock the other.     

Can you be businesslike about your finances?

Spouses who are inattentive or nonchalant about financial matters may encounter more financial trouble than they anticipate. So, watch where your money goes, and think about ways to repeatedly pay yourselves first rather than your creditors. Set shared short-term, medium-term, and long-term objectives, and strive to attain them.   

Communication is key to all this.

In the TD Bank survey, 78% of the respondents indicated they were comfortable talking about money with their partner, and 90% of couples describing themselves as “happy” claimed that a money talk happened once a month. Planning your progress together may well have benefits beyond the financial, so a regular conversation should be a goal.1 

Click here to download a pdf of this article.


This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 - newscenter.td.com/us/en/campaigns/love-and-money [1/2/18]

Combining Finances When You Marry

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How separate (or intertwined) should your financial lives be?

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

 

Some spouses share everything with each other – including the smallest details of their personal finances. Other spouses decide to keep some individual financial decisions and details to themselves, and their relationships are just fine. 

Just as a marriage requires understanding, respect, and compromise, so does the financial life of a married couple. If you are marrying soon or have just married, you may be surprised (and encouraged) by the way your individual finances may and may not need to change.

If you are like most single people, you have two or three bank accounts.

Besides your savings account and your checking account, you may also have a “dream account” where you park your travel money or your future down payment on a home. You can retain all three after you marry, of course – but when it comes to your expenses, you have a fundamental decision to make.

After you marry, the two of you may also find it best to have three checking accounts.

A joint account can be set up specifically for household expenses, with each spouse retaining an individual checking account. Of course, each spouse might also maintain an individual savings account.

Do you want to have a joint bank account? The optimal move is to create it as soon as you marry. Some newlyweds find they need a joint bank account only after some financial trial and error; they may have been better off starting out married life with one.

If you only have individual checking accounts, that forces some decisions.

Who pays what bill? Should one of you pay most of the bills? If you have a shared dream (like buying a home), how will you each save for it? How will you finance or pay for major purchases?

 

It is certainly possible to answer these money questions without going out and creating a joint account. Some marrying couples never create one – they already have a bunch of accounts, so why add another? There can be a downside, though, to not wedding your finances together in some fashion.

Privacy is good, but secrecy can be an issue.

Over time, that is what plagues some married couples. Even when one spouse’s savings or investments are individually held, effects from that individual’s finances may spill into the whole of the household finances. Spouses who have poor borrowing or spending habits, a sudden major debt issue, or an entirely secret bank account may be positioning themselves for a money argument. The financial impact of these matters may affect both spouses, not just one.

A recent TD Ameritrade survey found that 38% of those questioned had little or no information about the debts their partner may hold. In another survey by Fidelity, 43% of respondents indicated that they had no idea what salary their partner brings home. This is hard to reconcile with the same Fidelity survey indicating that 72% of couples say that they are excellent communicators. Still, an effort to live up to that impression is a step in the right direction; more communication may help put both partners on the same page.1

So, above all, talk.

Talk to each other about how you want to handle the bills and other recurring expenses. Discuss how you want to save for a dream. Chat about the way you want to invest and the amount of risk and debt you think you can tolerate. Combine your finances to the degree you see fit, while keeping the lines of communication ever open.

Click here to download a PDF of this article.


This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 - time.com/money/4776640/money-tips-married-couples/ [6/1/17]

Comprehensive Financial Planning: What it is, Why it Matters

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Your approach to building wealth
should be built around your goals & values.

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®


Just what is comprehensive financial planning?

As you invest and save for retirement, you may hear or read about it – but what does that phrase really mean? Just what does comprehensive financial planning entail, and why do knowledgeable investors request this kind of approach?

While the phrase may seem ambiguous to some, it can be simply defined.

Comprehensive financial planning is about building wealth through a process, not a product.

Financial products are everywhere, and simply putting money into an investment is not a gateway to getting rich, nor a solution to your financial issues.

Comprehensive financial planning is holistic.

It is about more than “money.” A comprehensive financial plan is not only built around your goals, but also around your core values. What matters most to you in life? How does your wealth relate to that? What should your wealth help you accomplish? What could it accomplish for others?

Comprehensive financial planning considers the entirety of your financial life.

Your assets, your liabilities, your taxes, your income, your business – these aspects of your financial life are never isolated from each other. Occasionally or frequently, they interrelate. Comprehensive financial planning recognizes this interrelation and takes a systematic, integrated approach toward improving your financial situation.

Comprehensive financial planning is long range.

It presents a strategy for the accumulation, maintenance, and eventual distribution of your wealth, in a written plan to be implemented and fine-tuned over time.

What makes this kind of planning so necessary?

If you aim to build and preserve wealth, you must play “defense” as well as “offense.” Too many people see building wealth only in terms of investing – you invest, you “make money,” and that is how you become rich.

That is only a small part of the story. The rich carefully plan to minimize their taxes and debts as well as adjust their wealth accumulation and wealth preservation tactics in accordance with their personal risk tolerance and changing market climates.

Basing decisions on a plan prevents destructive behaviors when markets turn unstable.

Quick decision-making may lead investors to buy high and sell low – and overall, investors lose ground by buying and selling too actively. Openfolio, a website which lets tens of thousands of investors compare the performance of their portfolios against portfolios of other investors, found that its average investor earned 5% in 2016. In contrast, the total return of the S&P 500 was nearly 12%. Why the difference? As CNBC noted, most of it could be chalked up to poor market timing and faulty stock picking. A comprehensive financial plan – and its long-range vision – helps to discourage this sort of behavior. At the same time, the plan – and the financial professional(s) who helped create it – can encourage the investor to stay the course.1

A comprehensive financial plan is a collaboration & results in an ongoing relationship.

Since the plan is goal-based and values-rooted, both the investor and the financial professional involved have spent considerable time on its articulation. There are shared responsibilities between them. Trust strengthens as they live up to and follow through on those responsibilities. That continuing engagement promotes commitment and a view of success.

Think of a comprehensive financial plan as your compass.

Accordingly, the financial professional who works with you to craft and refine the plan can serve as your navigator on the journey toward your goals.

The plan provides not only direction, but also an integrated strategy to try and better your overall financial life over time. As the years go by, this approach may do more than “make money” for you – it may help you to build and retain lifelong wealth.

Click here to download this article as a PDF.


This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 - cnbc.com/2017/01/04/most-investors-didnt-come-close-to-beating-the-sp-500.html [1/4/17]

How Much Income Can You Take Home in 2018?

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Reviewing Your Form W-4 After TCJA

By Jeremy Rodriguez, JD
IRA Analyst

With the tax deadline having just passed, now is the perfect opportunity to start planning for next year. Last year’s return should be readily available, and you may even have many important items committed to memory. Additionally, four months into the year is the perfect time to begin making current year projections. Of course, this year is different. That’s because 2018 will be the first we file under the changes created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

One thing you should do is reexamine your withholding. Back in February, the IRS released an updated withholding calculator that reflects changes under the new tax law. You can find the new withholding calculator here (https://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator).  The great thing about using the calculator is that you won’t have to deal with the new W-4 worksheets. The IRS specifically encourages taxpayers who fall into the following groups to double-check their withholding:

1.    Two-income families;

2.    Taxpayers with two or more jobs at the same time or who only work for part of the year;

3.    Taxpayers with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit;

4.    Taxpayers who itemized deductions in 2017; and

5.    High income taxpayers and those with complex returns

To use the calculator, you’ll need your most recent pay stub (and your spouse’s, if applicable). Don’t bother starting if you don’t have this information; it’s practically impossible without it. You should also have a copy of your 2017 tax return. While not completely necessary, it will help you more accurately estimate potential deductions and credits. Finally, any other sources of income you expect to receive, along with anticipated deductions, should be factored in. Remember, underestimating your income can lead to a tax bill at the end of the year, so you want to be accurate.

The website will immediately ask you for your filing status and whether you can be claimed as a dependent. After that, you’ll indicate whether you expect to claim any credits for 2018, such as the Child and Dependent Care Credit or the Child Tax Credit. Remember, TCJA enacted major changes to the Child Tax Credit, including doubling the amount (i.e., $2,000 per qualifying child), increasing its refundable portion, and dramatically increasing the phase-out thresholds. In 2018, the credit does not begin to phase-out until adjusted gross income reaches $200,000 for a single filer and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly; compare that to 2017, where the credit began to disappear for married couples that earned more than $110,000! TCJA also added a commonly overlooked $500 non-child dependent credit to help offset the loss of the personal exemption. The calculator automatically calculates this credit based on your information.

In the next section, you’ll enter your expected wages and bonuses for 2018. This is the part where the current paystub becomes essential. In addition to wages, you’ll include your projected yearly contributions to any tax-deferred retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan and any pre-tax cafeteria plan (e.g., any health insurance or flexible spending account plan). Find the amount you contribute per pay period and multiply it by the number of pay periods in a year. Your payroll statement may have year-to-date information making this task much easier. Finally, enter the total federal income tax withheld from your pay this year and the rate withheld per pay period. For this step, do not include Social Security, Medicare, state, or local withholding.

The last section will ask about estimated itemized deductions. This is where a copy of your 2017 return will come in handy. The calculator takes into account the increased standard deduction for 2018 ($12,000 for individual and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly). Therefore, it will use the larger of the two numbers (i.e., estimated itemized deductions vs. standard deduction) to estimate your taxes. Once all this information is entered, the website will give you the following information:

1.    Your anticipated 2018 income tax;

2.    The amount that will be withheld if you do nothing, and whether you will receive a bill or a refund on that basis;

3.    A withholding adjustment you can make to come closer to your anticipated 2018 income tax; and

4.    The amount of any refund or payment expected if the recommended changes are adopted.

With the new tax law kicking in, it’s likely that your taxes will be much different next year. Thus, it’s better to plan now than wait for a surprise next April. In fact, you may be able to adjust your withholding and take home additional pay immediately! All it takes is delivering an updated Form W-4 to your human resources or payroll department.

What Are Your Odds of Being Audited?

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They are low, unless you show the I.R.S. some conspicuous “red flags” on your return.

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

Fewer than 1% of Americans have their federal taxes audited. The percentage has declined recently due to Internal Revenue Service budget cuts. In 2016, just 0.7% of individual returns were audited (1 of every 143). That compares to 1.1% of individual returns in 2010.1,2

The rich are more likely to be audited – and so are the poor. After all, an audit of a wealthy taxpayer could result in a “big score” for the I.R.S., and the agency simply cannot dismiss returns from low-income taxpayers that claim implausibly large credits and deductions.

Data compiled by the non-profit Tax Foundation shows that in 2015, just 0.47% of Americans with income of $50,000-75,000 were audited. Only 0.49% of taxpayers who made between $75,000-100,000 faced I.R.S. reviews. The percentage rose to 8.42% for taxpayers who earned $1-5 million. People with incomes of $1-25,000 faced a 1.01% chance of an audit; for those who declared no income at all, the chance was 3.78%.2    

What “red flags” could prompt the I.R.S. to scrutinize your return? Abnormally large deductions may give the I.R.S. pause. As an example, suppose that you earned $95,000 in 2016 while claiming a $14,000 charitable deduction. Forbes estimates that the average charitable deduction for such a taxpayer last year was $3,529.3

Sometimes, the type of deduction arouses suspicion. Taking the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) without a penny of adjusted gross income, for example. Or, claiming a business expense for a service or good that seems irrelevant to your line of work. A home office deduction may be ruled specious if the “office” amounts to a room in your house that serves other purposes. Incongruous 1099 income can also trigger a review – did a brokerage disclose a big capital gain on your investment account to the I.R.S. that you did not?4

Self-employment can increase your audit potential. In 2015, for example, taxpayers who filed a Schedule C listing business income of $25,000-100,000 had a 2.4% chance of being audited.2

Some taxpayers illegitimately deduct hobby expenses and try to report them on Schedule C as business losses. A few years of this can wave a red flag. Is there a profit motive or profit expectation central to the activity, or is it simply a pastime offering an occasional chance for financial gain?

If you are retired, does your audit risk drop? Not necessarily. You may not be a high earner, but there is still the possibility that you could erroneously claim deductions and credits. If you claim large medical expenses, that might draw extra attention from the I.R.S. – but if you have proper documentation to back up your claims, you can be confident about them.

The I.R.S. does watch Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) closely. Failure to take an RMD will draw scrutiny. Retirees who neglect to withdraw required amounts from IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans can be subject to a penalty equal to 50% of the amount not withdrawn on time.1

The fastest way to invite an audit might be to file a paper return. TurboTax says that the error rate on hard copy returns is about 21%. For electronically filed returns, it falls to 0.5%. So, if you still drop your 1040 form off at the post office each year, you may want to try e-filing in the future.4

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.   

Citations.

1 - kiplinger.com/slideshow/retirement/T056-S011-9-irs-audit-red-flags-for-retirees/index.html [3/17]
2 - fool.com/retirement/2017/02/06/here-are-the-odds-of-an-irs-audit.aspx [2/6/17]
3 - forbes.com/sites/baldwin/2017/01/23/tax-guide-deductions-and-audit-risk/ [1/23/17]
4 - fool.com/retirement/2016/12/19/9-tax-audit-red-flags-for-the-irs.aspx [12/19/16]

 

Did the Stock Market Drop Rattle You?

 Image courtesy of pexels.com

Image courtesy of pexels.com

Crises pass, and markets eventually regain equilibrium.

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

We have seen some uneasy times lately.

This past Monday the DOW dropped 1,175 points - a record single day point decline. Uneasiness impacts the financial markets. When it does, we all need to keep some long-term perspective in mind. Those who race to the sidelines and exit equities may regret the choice when crises pass.

Wall Street loves calm. Traders literally want “business as usual,” every day. If breaking news disrupts that calm, it can rattle the market – but every investor must realize that these disruptive events are exceptions to the norm. (If the major Wall Street indices rollercoastered dramatically every day, who would invest in stocks to begin with?) 

History shows how the market has bounced back in the past.

You probably know the old financial industry saying: past performance is no guarantee of future results. That is certainly true, but it is also true that the major indices have staged some impressive recoveries when confronted with turbulence. After the crash this past Monday, by Tuesday the market had already recovered half of its losses.

Market dips like the one we experienced this past week are like self-perpetuating fear loops. Inexperienced, uneducated investors pull out, which causes the market to dip further. Computer algorhythms written to buy or sell stocks are then triggered to sell, which again, causes the market to dip further. At this point, experienced asset managers buy, because they know that the market will recover. Unless the sell-off is connected to a systematic event in global markets, there is no cause for concern during a dramatic correction.

Stock market corrections happen regularly.

This past week reminds us these ups and downs are simply the nature of the stock market. Although startling corrections may be unsettling, historically, these fundamentals have been supportive of the market.

Investing for Volatile Markets

My clients are in well-diversified portfolios specifically tailored to their risk, goals and time frames. The amount of U.S. stocks ranges from 8% to 28%.  The big dip and recovery this week minimally affected their portfolios.

The remaining investments are stocks from around the world and a variety of bond classes. I also incorporate a really good hedge fund that can “go anywhere”  to reduce portfolio volatility.  This fund has only had 1 down years in the last 20 years, and when the S&P went down 37% in 2008, this fund was up 5.33%.

 

Portions of this material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent their views.All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.    

Citations.
1 - businessinsider.com/stock-market-news-buy-the-dip-bulletproof-rebound-2017-8 [8/15/17]
2 - investopedia.com/financial-edge/0911/how-september-11-affected-the-u.s.-stock-market.aspx [9/11/17]
3 - investopedia.com/news/why-stock-market-correction-may-rattle-investors/ [7/18/17]
4 - latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-market-corrections-20170530-story.html [5/30/17]

For the Millennials in Your Life

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2 Estate-Planning Documents Millennials Need

By Angel McCall CFP®

Ask yourself this: If I got into a car accident tomorrow and became incapacitated, who would make medical decisions on my behalf? Do you know if that person’s decisions would be in line with your wishes? Do you know who would pay your bills? If these questions concern you — and they should — it’s time to start thinking about some basic estate planning even if you don’t have a spouse or children or a substantial amount of wealth to pass on.

That’s right; even young, single people need to do some estate planning. The good news is that you don’t need an elaborate, complex plan at this point. You can set up a plan for your medical and financial affairs by executing two simple documents — an advance health-care directive and a durable power of attorney — and you can do it in less than 30 minutes.
 

1) Advance health care directive

An advance health care directive comprises a living will and a health care proxy.

  • A health care proxy allows you to name someone who will have the legal authority to make health care decisions for you in this situation. Give this a lot of thought — it’s a big job for the person you choose.

In Colorado, if you have not designated someone to make these decisions, you family will need to have the Court appoint someone.

  • A living will lays out your wishes for your medical care, should you become incapacitated. It covers topics such as whether you want your life to be artificially prolonged if you are in a vegetative state or have a terminal condition.

 Why is it so important to do this? Every state has different laws regarding who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

However, what if your family members disagree? The infamous case of Terri Schiavo — who remained in a persistent vegetative state for years while her family fought over what to do — is a sad example of the worst-case scenario when someone becomes incapacitated without an advance health care directive. Having this document is good for you because it ensures that your preferences for your medical care are put into writing and known in advance. It’s good for your family because it removes a lot of the guesswork and potential for family conflict over your care.

You can find out more information and free forms at: http://coloradoadvancedirectives.com/advance-directives-in-colorado/
 

2) Durable power of attorney

A durable power of attorney is a legal document you can use to designate a person to handle financial transactions on your behalf. While some powers of attorney are used for single transactions, a durable power of attorney gives the designated person the power to essentially step into your shoes and act “as you” in handling all of your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. Don’t let the name deceive you — the person you choose does not have to be an attorney. Most people choose their most trusted friend or family member.

If you become temporarily incapacitated, you’ll want someone to be able to pay your mortgage, deposit checks, file your tax return and take care of other financial obligations for you so you won’t be facing financial disaster when you recover.

In the unfortunate case that your incapacitation is permanent, it will be much easier on your family and friends if you’ve designated someone ahead of time to handle your financial affairs. As with the advance health care directive, having a durable power of attorney in place for your financial affairs is good for both you and your loved ones. You can find forms for these documents online for free.

You don’t need to consult with an attorney, but it can’t hurt if you want to be thorough. For the advance health care directive, be sure to use a form that applies to the state where you live.  you can search for “advance health care directive form” and your state’s name to find the right one. Durable power of attorney forms don’t differ from state to state. You can find a free form online.

With both forms, be sure to follow the instructions to the letter; otherwise, they may not have legal authority. Once you have executed them, keep both digital and hard copies for yourself in a place where they can be easily found. Then, give copies to the people you designate as your health care proxy and attorney-in-fact, your primary-care physician and any other friends or family members you think should be involved.


A Good start...

As you probably know, these two estate-planning documents don’t constitute a complete estate plan. However, if you are young and single and don’t have significant assets, you may not need a will. It certainly couldn’t hurt, though, and if you want to be thorough, you can draw up a simple will online for around $60.

For many young professionals, the bulk of their financial assets are in retirement accounts, which generally don’t pass by will. These assets are transferred automatically at your death to the beneficiary you have listed on the account, so make sure that information is up to date. Doing so can add another important element to your starter estate plan.

Taking these simple steps today will give you a good start on estate planning and can help make it easier on your loved ones if something happens to you. Of course, if you have more complicated estate-planning needs, you should consult an attorney.

Analyze Your Social Security Options

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As part of the financial planning services that I offer, my software can guide you through filing decisions that could increase your annual benefit by as much as 76%1 and increase your lifetime benefit by tens of thousands of dollars.

As part of the financial planning services that I offer, my software can guide you through filing decisions that could increase your annual benefit by as much as 76% and increase your lifetime benefit by tens of thousands of dollars.

Identify Social Security filing strategies tailored to your unique needs

  • Learn how your Social Security will be taxed or reduced when you have additional income.
  • Know how divorce or death of a spouse will affect your benefits
  • Receive a personalized report
  • Position Social Security to help guide your retirement planning

For my current clients and clients of estate planning attorneys, this report is free. For non-clients, the analysis and report is only $60.

Call Angel at 720-373-4143 to order a report.

1 Based on an individual with full retirement age of 66, comparing early filing as age 62 and receiving reduced benefits of 75% of primary insurance versus delayed filing at age 70 and receiving credits to increase benefits by 32% of primary insurance amount.

Was Your Social Security Account Hacked?

Since the Equifax data breach affecting 143 million Americans, one of my clients told me that their online account had been suspended after someone tried - unsuccessfully - to log into their account.

The pilfered information which includes Social Security numbers, name, birthdate and address could possibly lead to a diversion of benefits or changes to an account to allow access for many years without your knowledge.

To date, the SSA has not sent out widespread notice to Americans on extra security measures to take to protect their account.

Whether or not you are receiving Social Security benefits, I suggest that you check to make sure that your online info is secure.

If You Have Not Set Up an Online Account Previously:

 Create your account today and take away the risk of someone else trying to create one in your name. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account at: http://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/.  The Equifax hackers have enough information to do this.  If you suspect someone has created a fraudulent account in your name, you should begin by contacting the toll-free Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271.)

If You Already Have an Online Account:

If you have not signed into your account lately, you should do so to see if a hack attempt has been made.  (There will be a notice when you log in if this has happened.)

There are extra security measures available to add additional security that include:

  1. Info from your W-2 tax forms or self-employment tax form.
  2. Upgraded code mailed to your home with instructions on how to use this code to finalize your upgrade.
  3. You can choose to have a one-time code texted to your cell phone or sent to your e-mail address on file as an added security measure.

End-of-the-Year Money Moves

 Image provided by https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictures-of-money/

Image provided by https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictures-of-money/

Aspects of your financial life to review as the year draws to a close.

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

The end of a year makes us think about last-minute things we need to address and good habits we want to start keeping. To that end, here are seven aspects of your financial life to think about as this year leads into the next.

Your investments
Review your approach to investing and make sure it suits your objectives. Look over your portfolio positions and revisit your asset allocation. 

Your retirement planning strategy
Does it seem as practical as it did a few years ago? Are you able to max out contributions to IRAs and workplace retirement plans, like 401(k)s? Is it time to make catch-up contributions? Finally, consider Roth IRA conversion scenarios. If you are at the age when a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) is required from your traditional IRA(s), be sure to take your RMD by December 31. If you don’t, the IRS will assess a penalty of 50% of the RMD amount on top of the taxes you will already pay on that income. (While you can postpone your very first IRA RMD until April 1, 2018, that forces you into taking two RMDs next year, both taxable events.)1

  

Your tax situation
How many potential credits and/or deductions can you and your accountant find before the year ends? Have your CPA craft a year-end projection including Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). In years past, some business owners and executives didn’t really look into deductions and credits because they just assumed they would be hit by the AMT. The recent rise in the top marginal tax bracket (to 39.6%) made fewer high-earning executives and business owners subject to the AMT – their ordinary income tax liabilities grew. The top bracket looks as though it will remain at 39.6% for 2018 even if tax reforms pass. So, examine accelerated depreciation, R&D credits, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, incentive stock options, and certain types of tax-advantaged investments.2

Review any sales of appreciated property and both realized and unrealized losses and gains. Look back at last year’s loss carry-forwards. If you’ve sold securities, gather up cost-basis information. Look for any transactions that could potentially enhance your circumstances.

 

Your charitable gifting goals
Plan charitable contributions or contributions to education accounts, and make any desired cash gifts to family members. The annual federal gift tax exclusion is $14,000 per individual for 2017, meaning you can gift as much as $14,000 to as many individuals as you like this year, tax-free. A married couple can gift up to $28,000, tax-free, to as many individuals as they like. (The limits rise to $15,000 and $30,000 in 2018.) The gifts do count against the lifetime estate tax exemption amount, which is $5.49 million per individual (and therefore, $10.98 million per married couple) in 2017.3,4

You could also gift appreciated securities to a charity. If you have owned them for more than a year, you can deduct 100% of their fair market value and legally avoid capital gains tax you would normally incur from selling them.5

Besides outright gifts, you can explore creating and funding trusts on behalf of your family. The end of the year is also a good time to review any trusts you have in place.

Your life insurance coverage
Are your policies and beneficiaries up-to-date? Review premium costs and beneficiaries, and think about whether your insurance needs have changed.

Life events
Did you happen to get married or divorced in 2017? Did you move or change jobs? Buy a home or business? Did you lose a family member or see a severe illness or ailment affect a loved one? Did you reach the point at which Mom or Dad needed assisted living? Was there a new addition to your family this year? Did you receive an inheritance or a gift? All of these circumstances can have a financial impact on your life as well as the way you invest and plan for retirement and wind down your career or business. They are worth discussing with the financial or tax professional you know and trust.

Lastly, did you reach any of these financially important ages in 2017? If so, act accordingly.

Did you turn 70½ this year?
If so, you must now take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRA(s).

Did you turn 65 this year?
If so, you are likely now eligible to apply for Medicare.

Did you turn 62 this year?
If so, you can choose to apply for Social Security benefits.(I can calculate if this might be beneficial to you.)

Did you turn 59½ this year?
If so, you may take IRA distributions without a 10% early withdrawal tax penalty.

Did you turn 55 this year?
If so, you may be allowed to take distributions from your 401(k) account without penalty, provided you no longer work for that employer.

Did you turn 50 this year?
If so, you can make “catch-up” contributions to IRAs (and certain qualified retirement plans).1,5

The end of the year is a key time to review your financial “health” and well-being. If you feel you need to address any of the items above, please feel free to give me a call. Little year-end moves might help you improve your short-term and long-term financial situation.

Click here to download a pdf of this article.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Key Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Too many people make these common errors.

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

Many affluent professionals and business owners put estate planning on hold.
Only the courts and lawyers stand to benefit from their procrastination. While inaction is the biggest estate planning error, several other major mistakes can occur. The following blunders can lead to major problems.

Failing to revise an estate plan after a spouse or child dies.
This is truly a devastating event, and the grief that follows may be so deep and prolonged that attention may not be paid to this. A death in the family commonly requires a change in the terms of how family assets will be distributed. Without an update, questions (and squabbles) may emerge later.

Going years without updating beneficiaries.
Beneficiary designations on qualified retirement plans and life insurance policies usually override bequests made in wills or trusts. Many people never review beneficiary designations over time, and the estate planning consequences of this inattention can be serious. For example, a woman can leave an IRA to her granddaughter in a will, but if her ex-husband is listed as the primary beneficiary of that IRA, those IRA assets will go to him per the beneficiary form. Beneficiary designations have an advantage – they allow assets to transfer to heirs without going through probate. If beneficiary designations are outdated, that advantage matters little.1,2

Thinking of a will as a shield against probate.
Having a will in place does not automatically prevent assets from being probated. A living trust is designed to provide that kind of protection for assets; a will is not. An individual can clearly express “who gets what” in a will, yet end up having the courts determine the distribution of his or her assets.2

Supposing minor heirs will handle money well when they become young adults.
There are multi-millionaires who go no further than a will when it comes to estate planning. When a will is the only estate planning tool directing the transfer of assets at death, assets can transfer to heirs aged 18 or older in many states without prohibitions. Imagine an 18-year-old inheriting several million dollars in liquid or illiquid assets. How many 18-year-olds (or 25-year-olds, for that matter) have the skill set to manage that kind of inheritance? If a trust exists and a trustee can control the distribution of assets to heirs, then situations such as these may be averted. A well-written trust may also help to prevent arguments among young heirs about who was meant to receive this or that asset.3   

Too many people do too little estate planning. Avoid joining their ranks, and plan thoroughly to avoid these all-too-frequent mistakes.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Click here to download a pdf of this article.

Citations.

1 - thebalance.com/why-beneficiary-designations-override-your-will-2388824 [10/8/16]

2 - fool.com/retirement/2017/03/03/3-ways-to-keep-your-estate-out-of-probate.aspx [3/3/17]

3 - info.legalzoom.com/legal-age-inherit-21002.html [3/16/17]

Avoiding the Cyber Crooks

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How can you protect yourself against ransomware, phishing, and other tactics?

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

Imagine finding out that your computer has been hacked. The hackers leave you a message: if you want your data back, you must pay them $300 in bitcoin. This was what happened to hundreds of thousands of PC users in May 2017 when they were attacked by the WannaCry malware, which exploited security flaws in Windows.

How can you plan to avoid cyberattacks and other attempts to take your money over the Internet? Be wary, and if attacked, respond quickly.

Phishing:

This is when a cybercriminal throws you a hook, line, and sinker in the form of a fake, but convincing, email from a bank, law enforcement agency, or corporation, complete with accurate logos and graphics. The goal is to get you to disclose your personal information – the crooks will either use it or sell it. The best way to avoid phishing emails: stick to a virtual private network (VPN) or extremely reliable Wi-Fi networks when you are online.1

Ransomware:

In this scam, online thieves create a mock virus, with an announcement that freezes your monitor. Their message: your files have been kidnapped, and you will need a decryption key to get them back, which you will pay handsomely to receive. In 2016, the FBI fielded 2,673 ransomware attack complaints, by companies and individuals who lost a total of $2.4 million. How can you avoid joining their ranks? Keep your security software and operating system as state of the art as you can. Your anti-virus programs should have the latest set of virus definitions. Your Internet browser and its plug-ins should also be up to date.2

Advance fee scams. A crook contacts you via text message or email, posing as a charity, a handyman, an adult education provider, or even a tax preparer ready to serve you. Oh, wait – before any service can be provided, you need to pay an “authorization fee” or an “application fee.” The crook takes the money and disappears. Common sense is your friend here; avoid succumbing to something that seems too good to be true.

I.R.S. impersonations:

Cybergangs send out emails to households and small businesses with a warning: you owe money. That money must be paid now to the Internal Revenue Service through a pre-paid debit card or a money transfer. These scams often prey on immigrants, some of whom may not have a great understanding of U.S. tax law or the way the I.R.S. does business. The I.R.S. never emails a taxpayer out of the blue demanding payment; if unpaid taxes are a problem, the agency first sends a bill and an explanation of why the taxes need to be collected. It does not bully businesses or taxpayers with extortionist emails.1

Three statistics might convince you to obtain cyberinsurance for your business. One, roughly two-thirds of all cyberattacks target small and medium-sized companies. About 4,000 of these attacks occur per day, according to IBM. Two, the average cost of a cyberattack for a small business is around $690,000. This factoid comes from the Ponemon Institute, a research firm that conducted IBM’s 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study. That $690,000 encompasses not only lost business, but litigation, ransoms, and the money and time spent restoring data. Three, about 60% of small companies hit by an effective cyberattack are forced out of business within six months, notes the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance.3

Most online money threats can be avoided with good security software, the latest operating system, and some healthy skepticism. Here is where a little suspicion may save you a lot of financial pain. If you do end up suffering that pain, the right insurance coverage may help to lessen it.

Click here to download a pdf of this article.

Citations.

1 - gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/avoid-12-scary-money-scams/ [8/28/17]

2 - eweek.com/security/the-true-cost-of-ransomware-is-much-more-than-just-the-ransom [8/18/17]

3 - sfchronicle.com/business/article/Interest-in-cyberinsurance-grows-as-cybercrime-12043082.php [8/28/17]

Before Making a Donation, Here’s How to Find Out if the Charity is Legitimate.

Your Donation May Not Go to a Worthy Cause

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

When I received the lovely greeting card, tender letter and dream catcher from a Native American School, I immediately wrote out a check. Then, I thought to look up the organization to learn more about it. I learned that even though they collected $51 million last year, almost none of it went to a school.

Prospective donors can find a suitable charity just about anywhere they look. However by doing some homework, you can better distinguish among the many giving opportunities available to you.

What Makes a Charity a Charity?

Generally, a charity is a tax-exempt organization that can receive tax-deductible contributions. To be recognized as a charity, most organizations must file an application with the IRS. Once approved, the IRS generally issues a determination letter confirming that the organization is tax exempt and that contributions to it are tax deductible for federal income tax purposes.

Mission Critical

While the IRS designation recognizes an organization's intent to operate in the best interest of a cause, it does not evaluate the effectiveness with which the organization pursues its mission. To be successful, a charity needs

  1. A mission statement/strategic plan: Does the organization's mission statement clearly state whom or what it serves and what it hopes to achieve—and how it will execute its plan?

  2. Financial statement/Form 990: This form provides a financial snapshot of the charity's fiscal strength. The IRS requires most tax-exempt organizations to file a Form 990 annually, although there are many exceptions. Individuals can request copies of a charity's Form 990 directly from the charity or view them online at Foundation Center and other websites.

  3. Board of Trustees: The board oversees an organization's financial and legal responsibilities, manages its executives, and guides the vision that promotes the organization's cause.

Choose Carefully

While independent groups such as the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Guide Star provide helpful information, it is ultimately up to you to judge whether a particular charity matches your giving objectives.

For Example: Only 2 of the 47 Native American charities are accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

Before choosing a charity, consider the organization's programs and whether they reflect its stated mission. Request copies of the organization's financial documents, including its annual report and a list of its board members. These should provide a clear view of the charity's operations and its management team. Also, spend some time browsing the charity's website to learn more about its activities, capital campaigns, and other unique features.

Most importantly—Ask questions! For many nonprofits, the best way to evaluate their operations is to simply ask representatives about their mission, programs, financials, and board of trustees.

In charitable giving, information is critical. By taking time to research your choices, you can rest assured that your generosity will be put to good use.

Click here to download a pdf of this article.

Your Personal Email as a Doorway for Hackers

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Your personal email is a liability to your online security.

Provided by Angel McCall CFP®

There isn’t a single online application or website that we use more frequently than our email. Email addresses have long since expired their role of exclusively sending and receiving instant messages. We use our email address to register for online services and subscriptions, to send and receive confidential information, and to set up social media accounts, financial apps, and much more. Because of the diverse use of our email addresses, and the countless subscriptions and personal accounts it is linked to, our personal email is putting us at an increased risk for online hacks and identity theft. Hackers don’t need much to access these private channels of your life. Just having your email address stolen poses a great threat.

Whenever we share our email address with a company or an app, we are trusting that these companies have the ability to protect our personal information. The recent Equifax security breach has taught us that this isn’t so. Even the most established brands can’t guarantee that your personal information will not be compromised in the event of a hack.

Many of the online services we rely upon use our email addresses to identify us when we login. In the event that we forget our passwords to login to sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, your bank’s website, etc., there is usually a reset process that allows you to regain access. This process may include answering the security questions that you setup when creating the account. Much of the time, a hacker can find the answer to these common questions simply by scanning your social network accounts for personal information, such as the name of the High School you went to, or your Mother’s maiden name, etc. You can also reset these passwords by clicking a link sent to the email address used to setup the account. If a hacker gains access to your email account, they can access these personal accounts, change the login information to lock you out, and send messages, make bank transfers, access personal, medical, and professional information, and much more.

In order to protect yourself from hackers accessing your confidential information by hacking your email, you should consider creating a secret email address to connect your critical accounts to. When creating this email address, leave out any personal identifying information, such as your name and birthday. This email address should be used exclusively for your most critical accounts - most importantly - your online banking. When possible, request that password recoveries for these sites are done by a phone text, and not through security questions or email alone. You should also opt for a two-step verification process when given the option. This makes it so anyone accessing your account from an unknown device is required to enter a code sent to your personal phone before logging in.

For more tips on how to decrease your likelihood of being hacked, you can read my article “Protecting Your Financial Apps From Being Hacked,” here.

Click here to download a pdf of this article.

Angel McCall CFP® of Lifetime Financial Strategies Named 2017 Five Star Wealth Management Award

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For Immediate Release

Denver, CO -- Angel B McCall, CFP® will be featured in a special section of 5280 Magazine's November issue as a winner of the 2017 Five Star Professional Wealth Management Award. Angel has received the Five Star Professional Award for more than 5 years; an accomplishment less than .5% of Denver wealth managers have achieved.

The 2017 Five Star Wealth Manager award winners have been carefully selected for their commitment to providing quality services to their clients. The award is based on an in-depth research process incorporating peer and firm feedback with objective criteria such as client retention rates, client assets administered, industry experience, and regulatory and complaint history.

“I am deeply honored to again be a part of this year’s prestigious group of award-winning advisors. Throughout my career, my mission as an advisor has been to help my clients become financially independent and self-reliant,” says Angel B. McCall, CFP®, of Lifetime Financial Strategies, Inc.

“Before becoming a financial advisor, I continually saw people struggling to plan for their financial future wondering whether their advisor truly had their clients’ best interests in focus,” says Angel. “I built my practice without ties to financial corporations and offer unbiased advice. I do not sell products.”

The Five Star Wealth Manager award, administered by Crescendo Business Services, LLC (dba Five Star Professional), is based on 10 objective criteria:

  1. Credentialed as a registered investment adviser or a registered investment adviser representative.
  2. Active as a credentialed professional in the financial services industry for a minimum of 5 years.
  3. Favorable regulatory and complaint history review (unfavorable feedback may have been discovered through a check of complaints registered with a regulatory authority or complaints registered through Five Star Professional’s consumer complaint process*).
  4. Fulfilled their firm review based on internal standards.
  5. Accepting new clients.
  6. One-year client retention rate.
  7. Five-year client retention rate.
  8. Non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered.
  9. Number of client households served.
  10. Education and professional designations.

Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or awarded. Once awarded, wealth managers may purchase additional profile ad space or promotional products. The award methodology does not evaluate the quality of services provided and is not indicative of the winner’s future performance. Of over 10,000 Denver wealth managers, 3,008 were considered for the award; 517 (18 percent of final candidates) were named Five Star Wealth Managers.

“Based on our evaluation, the wealth managers we recognize are committed to pursuing professional excellence and have a deep knowledge of their industry. They strive to provide exemplary care to the people they serve,” stated Dan Zdon, CEO, Five Star Professional.

Click here to download a pdf of this press release