Financial Planning

The struggle to save for retirement is real with most families failing to save much, if any, for their golden years. To incentivize citizens, Congress has written several retirement plans into place that offer varying levels of tax benefits. The most common are 401(k) plans and IRAs. These give the saver an immediate tax deduction for saving, the earnings are not currently taxed, and everything is then taxed at distribution in retirement. The Roth plans (named after Senator William Roth) started in the 1990s with the advent of the Roth IRA, which expanded a decade later to include Roth 401(k) plans, Roth 403(b), and Roth 457 plans. These plans offer no tax benefit up front but earnings grow tax deferred and qualifying distributions in retirement are tax free.
The retirement savings problem in America rarely hinges upon having access to a savings vehicle; it is largely grounded in a refusal to begin saving – whether we blame the government, our employers, inflation, or some other scapegoat. I think Larry Fink, head of Blackrock, hit the nail on the head in a recent interview he had with Bloomberg:

The term ‘hedge fund’ denotes images of wealthy, sophisticated investors who have discovered the secret to unlocking vast returns.  However, the definition has changed over time.  Initially, the idea was that it 'hedged' or reduced the risk of investing in a particular market.

If you have made it this far, I must congratulate you for your persistence!  For many, one of the most dreaded topics for anyone to read and research is compliance with government regulations.  Many regulations are highly dreaded as they increase the cost of doing business, cause more paperwork, and create new chances for getting into trouble.  With that said, not all regulations are bad; some would even argue regulations are necessary to keep those in places of power or control from taking advantage of others.

There are many market analysts, economists, newsletter and book writers, chartists, quants, and traders who believe they know what the market will do next.  One of the more prominent book writers is a fellow by the name of Harry Dent.  I first heard about Mr. Dent in 2010 by a firm that sold annuities.  They were utilizing Dent’s published research to prove why the market was about to crash and the only safe place to be was in annuities.

It is that time of year again when we load up on gifts, candy, cookies, and all things family.  One of my most hated gifts is the mixed chocolates with random stuff inside.  Short of poking holes in all of them to see what’s in there, I tend to refrain from even eating them.  I’ll stick to what I know I like, thank you very much! On the other hand, many people love the diversity of those boxes and being able to try multiple chocolates rather than being stuck with just one.

Way back in 2008, I wrote this piece and was surprised at the positive responses that I received from clients. Keeping with tradition, I have added some new items near the end, especially focusing on couples, but have kept the fundamental framework the same because the basics really never change. So here we go again for our 10th straight year!

As the cost of college education continues to rise, more and more students utilize financing to fund their education. In fact, student loan debt has increased from $0.2 trillion in 2003 to more than $1.2 trillion in 2015. The financing options available can be very overwhelming for students and parents alike.
The Georgia General Assembly in 2008 passed into law the Georgia QEE Credit Program to allow Georgians more control over how their education dollars are spent. The law created Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs) , which permit Georgians the ability to direct their state income tax dollars to a general scholarship fund at a school of their choice. The SSOs then use these contributions to award scholarships for students in grades K-12, allowing them to attend private schools.
Roth IRAs have been very popular since their debut in 1998. Unlike Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not provide an immediate tax deduction for contributions, but earnings grow tax deferred and qualified distributions are tax free. Which plan is better to fund is heavily dependent on individual circumstances, but many investors have jumped on the Roth train regardless of the mathematics to lock in tax-free income at retirement.

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