FAQ's

What are your Business Hours?

Our offices are open from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. During the tax season we have extended hours on week nights and are open on Saturdays. Your individual Financial Representative may accommodate earlier or later appointments on an individual basis.

What if I can’t get my documents to you during business hours?

If you need to drop off documents before or after business hours we have a secure Drop Box located by the main entrance on the upper level (north side of the building). The drop box is checked daily.

Where should I park?

We have two levels. Suite 201, the upper level, has parking available on the north side of the building and has handicap accessible parking. Suite 102, the lower level, has parking available on the South side of the building. There is a wheelchair ramp located to the west of the doorway on the lower level.

How long should I keep financial records?

The IRS recommends hanging on to your files for assets until the statute of limitations expires for the year in which you sell them. Your financial planner can offer guidance in this area for your specific situation.

It would be wise to keep records on assets such as stocks, bonds or your house longer than the statute of limitations suggests.

How long should I keep tax records?

According to IRS recommendations, taxpayers should keep their returns and any supporting documentation for three years. After three years, the statute of limitations for an IRS audit expires.

However, the IRS can go back six years to assess additional tax if income has been under-reported by more than 25%. Therefore it is recommended that you keep your tax records for at least seven years. If you don't file a tax return, or if you file a fraudulent return, the IRS has no statute of limitations. In this case it may be best to keep your records indefinitely. As always, consult your tax preparer for more details.

What is financial planning?

Financial planning is the process of meeting life goals through the proper management of finances. Financial planning helps to make advance provisions for financial needs that will arise in the future. The objective of financial planning is to ensure that the right amount of money is available at the right point in the client’s future.

Why should I make a financial plan?

Financial planning provides direction and meaning for financial decisions. It allows our client to understand how each financial decision they make affects other areas of finance. For example, buying a particular investment product might help a client to adequately finance their child’s higher education. It may also provide enough for a comfortable retirement. Clients will more easily adapt to life changes when they feel more secure that their financial goals are on track.

Who is a financial planner?

The key function of a financial planner is to help people identify their financial planning needs, their present priorities, and the products that are most suitable to help them meet their needs. The planner possesses detailed knowledge of a wide range of financial planning tools and products, but their major role is to help clients choose the best product for each need. The planner can take a 'big picture' view of the client’s financial situation and make recommendations that are right for each need.

What should I look for in a financial planner?

A financial planner works for the client. Their loyalty should be to the client, not the product(s) he or she is trying to sell. The financial planner should be in a position to provide the client with unbiased advice, and recommend products or services that match their needs.

Why should I look at my insurance needs?

Evaluating insurance needs are part of personal financial planning. Insurance takes care of unpredictable needs and as these needs can arise at any time, insurance is extremely important. Investments take care of your predictable needs and ideally should follow after unpredictable needs are first addressed.

How do I plan for my taxes?

It is important that financial plans are tax efficient. The financial plan we create with you should help to minimize tax liability and maximize the client’s after-tax returns from their investments. Our financial planners are also highly qualified tax preparers.

Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

There are myriad important numbers in your financial world, but few as critical as your credit score. This FICO number, ranging from 0-850, can affect your ability to buy a house or car, get a credit card or other loan, or even get a job.

FICO scores are based on your credit reports. Credit agencies track credit history and sell it to parties who are interested in your credit-worthiness. Credit reports consist of four elements:

  • Personal information (compiled from credit applications)
  • Credit history (details of your credit relationships)
  • Credit report inquiries (entered anytime someone views your record)
  • Public records (judgments from government sources, like liens)

The main three agencies track credit scores: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You're entitled to a free report once every 12 months so you can:

  • See your current credit score
  • See who's been making inquiries about your credit
  • Check it for errors
  • Find out if you're an identity theft victim
  • Gauge your chances of getting a loan

A bad credit report doesn't have to follow you forever. Even bankruptcies generally drop off after seven years. If your score is less than optimal, you can improve it. Stick with your program and you'll increase your chances of--eventually--getting into that top 5%, or even 1%.

  • Report mistakes immediately to the appropriate credit agency. Do this in writing, and document it.
  • Pay everything on time. Even one late payment on a credit card can lower your credit score.
  • Budget your credit card payments. They should be as much a part of your budget as your mortgage and food.
  • Don't let balances on your revolving credit accounts, like credit cards, get too high. Having a high credit debt-credit limit ratio can lower your credit score.
  • Pay off the cards with the highest interest rate first. No matter what the balance, you should always pay any extra you have on the card that's costing the most. Pay minimums on the rest. When you have that top card paid off, continue the process with the second in line and so on. Whenever you can, pay more.
  • Keep an emergency reserve so you can always pay at least minimums on time. Don't be intimidated by this. If you can't save thousands of dollars, at least squirrel away a few hundred dollars earmarked for this occasion.
  • Ask your credit card issuer for a lower rate. This actually works sometimes, so it's worth a try. Credit card interest is simply lost money.
  • Use your credit cards occasionally and carefully. Show that you can borrow money and pay it back responsibly.
  • Try to maintain a stable job and residence. Lenders are more interested in people who show stability in their personal lives.
  • Avoid collection agencies and judgments against you. When you've satisfied a lien, be sure to check that the lien has been released and report that to the three reporting agencies if necessary.
  • Improving your credit score will likely take time and some sacrifice on your part. But it's worth it, and it'll save you money eventually. The higher the FICO score, the better your chance of credit and loans, and the lower your interest rate may be. So keep plugging towards the payoff.

What is a Required Minimum Distribution?

Tax-deferral for money in IRAs, 401(k)s, and other qualified retirement plans eventually comes to an end. By law, under most circumstances, you must begin taking a required minimum distribution (RMD) annually once you reach age 70 1/2. For tax purposes, these distributions must be considered income. (Of course, if you have made nondeductible IRA contributions, they are not considered taxable income when withdrawn.)

How much should I be saving in my 401(k) plan?

Most financial advisors recommend that you aim to save at least 10% of your salary. However, if that sounds too tough, try the 1% solution: start by saving an amount you can afford, and then raise it by one percentage point each year. For example, if you start by saving 2% of your income save 3% in the next year. Save 4% of your income in the third year- and so on. You'll soon be saving more than you thought possible!

Should I borrow money from my 401(k) plan?

A home-equity loan is often cheaper than a 401(k) loan. If you have a significant amount of equity in your house and a good credit record, you will usually be better off taking out a home-equity loan rather than borrowing from your plan. That's because in most cases you can deduct your home-equity interest payments from your income taxes, which dramatically reduces the real cost of the loan. By contrast, interest on a 401(k) is not deductible and IRS penalties may apply.

Can I take a loan from my IRA?

No, you may not borrow from your IRA. However, once per 12-month period, a distribution may be taken and rolled back into an IRA within 60 days of receipt of the distribution. No taxes or IRS penalties will be incurred by the account holder as long as the distribution is rolled back within 60 days. But, as always, you should consult your tax-advisor to ensure you do not incur any IRS penalties.

What should I do with my company retirement money if I am leaving my job?

If you're about to receive a payout from your employer's retirement plan, you need to make an informed decision about placing your funds where taxes and penalties won't affect them. The most popular choice for sheltering retirement plan payouts is a Traditional Rollover IRA because it offers several advantages. With a Traditional Rollover IRA you will:

  • Avoid taxes and IRS penalties you would incur if you receive your payout directly.
  • Continue to have your money grow tax-deferred until you retire, when withdrawals may be taxed at a lower rate.
  • Have the flexibility, at a later date, to move your money into a new employer's retirement plan (if funds are not co-mingled with other IRA funds).

Can I make additional contributions to my Traditional Rollover IRA?

You may make additional contributions to your Traditional Rollover IRA. However, in doing so, you may forfeit your opportunity to roll over your assets into a new employer-sponsored retirement plan. This includes cash contributions, combining an existing IRA with your Rollover IRA and even a 401(k) or 403(b) payout.

Can I make additional contributions to my Inherited IRA?

You cannot make additional contributions unless you are the spouse of the decedent and are eligible to treat the IRA as your own.

What is the difference between a 401(k) and a 403(b) plan?

A 401(k) plan is a type of qualified retirement plan offered to you by your employer under section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code. A 403(b) plan is a somewhat different type of retirement plan, which has many of the same features of the 401(k) plan, but is offered only to employees of tax-exempt, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions.

How will signing up for a 401(k)/403(b) plan affect my take-home pay?

Contributing "pre-tax" money to your employer's qualified retirement plan reduces your current taxable income by the amount of salary you defer under the plan. Therefore, you are able to invest more than you otherwise would if you put your money into a comparable after-tax investment.

What is an employer match?

A big advantage of your employer's retirement plan is that your employer may match a portion of the contributions you make to the plan. For example, your employer may make matching contributions of 50 cents for every dollar you contribute. You will not be taxed on any matching contributions until you receive a distribution or withdraw amounts from the plan.

Can I join my company's retirement plan if my spouse already contributes to a retirement plan at work?

Yes, your spouse's participation in an employer's retirement plan does not affect your ability to participate in your own employer's plan.

Why do I need an estate plan?

Most of us spend a considerable amount of time and energy in our lives accumulating wealth. As we do this, there also comes a time to preserve wealth for our enjoyment and for future generations. A solid, effective estate plan ensures that your hard-earned wealth will pass intact to those you intend to be your beneficiaries instead of being decided by government processes.

If I don't create an estate plan, won't the government provide one for me?

YES, but your family may not like it. The government's estate plan guarantees government interference in the disposition of your estate. Documents must be filed and approval must be received from a court to pay your bills, pay your spouse an allowance, and account for your property. All of this takes place in the public's view. If you fail to plan your estate, you lose the opportunity to protect your family from an impersonal, complex governmental process that is a burden at best and can be a nightmare.

There are also the federal government's taxes to consider. There is much you can do in planning your estate that will reduce and even eliminate death taxes. While some estate planners favor wills and others prefer a Living Trust as the Estate Plan of Choice, all estate planners agree that dying without an estate plan should be avoided at all costs.

What's the difference between having a Will and a Living Trust?

A will is a legal document that describes how you want your assets distributed at death. The actual distribution, however, is controlled by a legal process called probate (which is Latin for "prove the will”). Upon your death, the will becomes a public document available for inspection by all comers. Once your will enters the probate process it is no longer controlled by your family, but by the court and probate attorneys.

A Living Trust avoids probate because your property is owned by the trust, so technically there's nothing for the probate courts to administer. Whomever you name as "successor trustee" gains control of your assets and is instructed to distribute them per your instructions.

There is one other crucial difference: A will doesn't take effect until you die, and is therefore no help to you with lifetime planning, an increasingly important consideration now that Americans are living longer. A Living Trust can help you preserve and increase your estate while you're alive, and also offers protection should you become mentally disabled.

What would happen if I were mentally disabled and had no estate plan or just a will?

Unfortunately, you would be subject to "living probate," also known as a conservatorship or guardianship proceeding. If you become mentally disabled before you die, the probate court will appoint someone to take control of your assets and personal affairs. These "court-appointed agents" must file a strict accounting of your finances with the court. The process is often expensive and time-consuming.

If I set up a Living Trust, can I be my own trustee?

YES. In fact, most Living Trusts have the people who created them acting as their own trustees. If you are married, you and your spouse can act as co-trustees. You will have absolute and complete control over all of the assets in your trust. In the event of a mentally disabling condition your hand-picked successor trustee assumes control over your affairs- not the court's appointee.

Will a Living Trust avoid income taxes?

NO. The purpose of creating a Living Trust is to avoid living probate, death probate, and reduce or even eliminate federal estate taxes. It's not a vehicle for reducing income taxes. In fact, if you're the trustee of your Living Trust, you will file your income tax returns exactly as you filed them before the trust existed.

Can I transfer real estate into a Living Trust?

YES. In fact, all real estate should be transferred into your Living Trust. Otherwise, upon your death (depending upon how you hold title), there will be a death probate in every state in which you hold real property. When your real property is owned by your Living Trust, there is no probate anywhere.

Is the Living Trust some kind of loophole the government will eventually close down?

NO. The Living Trust has been authorized by the law for centuries. The government really has no interest in making you (or your family) go through a probate that will only further clog up the legal system. A Living Trust avoids probate so that your estate is settled exactly according to your wishes.

Isn't a Living Trust only for the rich?

NO. A Living Trust can help anyone protect his or her family from unnecessary probate fees, attorney's fees, court costs, and federal estate taxes.

Can any attorney create a Living Trust?

NO. You should choose an attorney whose practice is focused on estate planning. Members of the American Academy of Estate Planning attorneys receive continuing legal education on the latest changes in any law affecting estate planning which allows them to provide you with the highest quality estate planning service.

Estate planning can involve a complex web of tax rules and regulations. Tax laws surrounding estate planning concepts are subject to change please consult an estate planning attorney prior to making any financial decisions.The information provided in this article is not intended to provide specific advice and should not be construed as a recommendation for any individual.