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Happy Thanksgiving from Sharkey, Howes & Javer

By | Holidays, SH&J Blog | No Comments

Thanksgiving is upon us again! As we all take time to reflect on the things we appreciate, we would like to extend a very special thank you to each and every one of you: our wonderful clients.

Whether you’re staying close to home or leaving town for the holiday, we hope that you have a very happy Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and friends with lots of smiles, laughter, and great food to go around.

In honor of the holiday, our office will be closed on Thursday, November 22nd, and Friday, November 23rd. We’ll be hard at work for you again on Monday the 26th.

Keeping with tradition, here are some fun facts about Thanksgiving that you can share around the table this year:

  • About 46 million turkeys are cooked for Thanksgiving every year (source)
  • Thanksgiving was originally meant to be a fast, not a feast (source)
  • Only male turkeys gobble. The sound that a female turkey makes is called a cackle (source)
  • A single can of jellied cranberries contains around 200 cranberries (source)
  • If you have any last minute questions about your turkey, Butterball has your back with their Turkey Talk Line (source)
  • Thanksgiving Day football games are almost as old as Thanksgiving itself (source)

It’s Almost Open Enrollment, Should You Open an HSA?

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

This year, Federal open enrollment runs from Monday, November 12, 2018 – Monday, December 10, 2018 and it may be a good time for individuals and families to review and make changes to their health insurance coverage. Even if you have been covered under an employer-sponsored plan for many years and are not planning to make any changes, this year it might be time to consider opening a health savings account, also known as an HSA. To be eligible for an HSA you cannot be enrolled in Medicare and must have a high deductible health plan. For 2018 that means you have a deductible of at least $1,350 for individuals and $2,700 for families where the maximum out of pocket cannot exceed $6,650 for single coverage and $13,300 for family coverage.

HSAs are triple tax advantaged accounts offered through employers and some banks and financial institutions as a way for individuals and families to save for health care expenses as they would save for their retirement. Contributions made to the account are tax deductible regardless of income level. If you invest the funds, any growth is tax deferred and distributions are tax-free when withdrawn for qualified health expenses. Unlike a Flexible Spending Account, you do not have to use the funds you contribute by the end of each year. The balance rolls over year by year and if you are able to cover your current medical expenses through cash flow, the funds can be maintained in the account for future needs.

The IRS adjusts contribution limits to an HSA each year and for 2018 they are set to $3,450 for individuals and $6,900 for families, with a $1,000 catch up contribution if you are 55 or older during the year. While you cannot use HSA funds to pay your health insurance premiums, you can use the funds to pay Medicare premiums once enrolled. If funds are withdrawn for non-medical expenses, there is a 20% penalty until age 65. After age 65, funds can be used for any expense but are subject to taxes if not medically related.

If you miss the November 12th to December 10th window, there is good news. HSAs are not restricted to the open enrollment period and an account can be opened at any time as long as you maintain eligible coverage. Call Sharkey, Howes & Javer at 303-639-5100 to speak with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and determine if it makes sense for you to open your own health savings account.

Inside the Economy: Stock Buybacks & Kentucky Jobs

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, SH&J Blog | No Comments

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we discuss where the trend in stock buybacks is headed. Are we on pace to set a new record for stock repurchases in 2018? Kentucky ranks as the highest U.S. state for auto manufacturing output per capita, and trends in the Kentucky jobless claims report aid in signaling where U.S. auto sales are headed. Does the recent jobs report signal a slowdown in the auto industry? Also, how have mortgage rates affected housing affordability? Tune in to find out!

Protecting the Recently Deceased from Identity Theft

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

When a loved one passes away, there are so many things to do in the midst of grief. The last thing on a grieving mind is the risk of identity theft of the person who has recently passed away. Sadly, hackers have reached a new low by taking advantage of such a sorrowful time.

Identity theft hackers have been using information from hospitals and obituaries to steal a deceased person’s identity and file a fraudulent tax return. According to an AARP article, “With a name, address and birth date in hand, they can illicitly purchase the person’s Social Security number on the Internet for as little as $10.”

The term for this ugly practice is commonly referred to as “ghosting” because it can take six months for financial institutions, credit-reporting bureaus, and the Social Security Administration to register death records. This gives the “ghosting” hackers plenty of time to cause a lot of damage. Thankfully, the surviving family members are not necessarily responsible for the financial destruction.

To make it even worse, an article from ABC News warns of a “disturbing pattern of identity theft of financial information belonging to people who were dying. It’s easy to see how that could happen, since people who are gravely ill can easily lose track of the details of their finances.” Therefore, it is always important to help protect the identity of a loved one, especially one who is ill as well as the recently deceased.

The AARP article lists suggested steps to take after a loved one’s death, such as not including a date of birth or any personal identifiers in an obituary and mailing a death certificate copy to the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Consumer Action provides a more extensive list of steps to take to protect the identity of a deceased person.

If you would like to discuss identity theft protection with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, please call Sharkey, Howes & Javer at 303-639-5100 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Inside the Economy: Chinese Stocks & The Fed

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, SH&J Blog | No Comments

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we discuss the Fed’s recent rate increase. Is there an end in sight for these rate hikes? We review manufacturing indexes both domestically and globally. The U.S. remains in a slow growth mode, but what about the rest of the world? Over a billion dollars left the Hong Kong stock market recently, is recent performance to blame? Tune in to find out!

What to Do Now: Financial Advice for Your 40s and 50s

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

For many people, their 40s and 50s are still a period of financial transition. Some people are opening their own businesses while others are considering retirement. No matter where you are at this point in your life, it is likely that you still have some financial goals to work toward. These tips may help you work towards a brighter and more financially secure future.

Pay into Retirement

If you have an employer sponsored 401(k) plan, we suggest creating a goal to contribute the maximum amount allowed based on the IRS limits ($18,500 in 2018). Alternatively, if you own a business and don’t have a 401(k) through an employer, you can may be able to set up your own retirement plan to contribute with tax-deferred funds.

While you are adding money to your savings regularly, also make sure to project your savings, ensuring you are on the right track. If you feel like you’re off track and you’re over the age of 50, you can contribute an additional $1,000 to your IRA and $6,000 to your 401(k) to help catch up.

Monitor Stocks and Bonds

It is important to keep your stock/bond allocation near it target design and may require periodic rebalancing of the account. This is something you should discuss with your Financial Advisor.

Consider Life & Long Term Care Insurance

Life insurance policies can be important if you have children or any other dependents. If you were to pass away suddenly, your dependents may rely on life insurance proceeds to maintain their standard of living.

You might also consider long-term care coverage, especially if you are in your mid-50s. If you are ever in a position later in life, with illness or injury where you need assistance with daily tasks, this type of insurance plan may pay for these expenses.

Pay Down High-Interest Debts

Credit cards, student loans, and some car loans are all high-interest debts. You can use one of several techniques to fight debt. You should always start with a budget so you can determine what exactly you can afford.

Then, you need a battle plan. Will you use the snowball method to start with the lowest balance and work your way up? Will you use the avalanche method and start with the debt that has the highest interest rate? You can discuss strategies with your financial advisor to establish the right plan.

Consider Social Security Benefits

When was the last time you estimated your Social Security benefits? This is a good time to assess whether you have the ability to delay until age 70 to collect the highest monthly payment in the future. Knowing which benefits will be available to you in the future can help you with this decision.

Create a Retirement Plan

A retirement fund is great, but you also need a retirement plan. Will you be moving into a smaller home? Are you considering buying a home in an area with a lower cost of living? Will you be refinancing your home to lower your debt?

Your retirement plan should take into account your current budget, current savings, and future savings but also consider what it is you want to do in retirement with your time. Are you setting aside enough right now to meet your goals in 10 years? 20 years?

Update Your Estate Planning

Review your estate planning documents and make necessary updates. If you have been divorced, remarried, or added new children to your family, you may want to change your beneficiaries. Also If you have accumulated new assets, your estate plan should be reviewed. Furthermore, changes in tax law might also impact your estate plan.

Connect with a Financial Advisor

Building a relationship with a financial advisor you trust can be beneficial for planning your financial future. An advisor can create a customized plan tailored to suit your needs. Sharkey, Howes & Javer can help you plan for retirement. Get in touch today to learn more about your options.

What to Do Now: Financial Advice for Your 20s and 30s

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

Becoming financially savvy can take decades. Each stage of life poses different challenges, some of which can make smart financial choices seemingly impossible. While it’s inevitable that there will be financial slip-ups throughout your life, following these tips in your 20s and 30s can help build a solid foundation for healthy finances.

Create a Monthly Budget

It is very difficult to save responsibly if you don’t first learn how to spend responsibly. Establish a budget, even a simple one, so you can track where your money is going. Remember: no budget is set in stone. You can always revisit your budget in a few weeks, months, or years to reassess your income and needs.

One popular and simple technique for budgeting is the 50/30/20 method. First, use 50 percent of your after-tax income on necessities like rent, groceries, insurances, and auto payments. Next, 30 percent of your income goes to your wants like shopping, travel, and entertainment. The remaining 20 percent of income goes right into savings.

Avoid Credit Card Debt

Credit cards can be a powerful tool, but to avoid losing money on interest payments, you need to pay off your balance in full each month. Spending only as much as you can pay off by the end of the month limits your credit card spending and can prevent you from falling into a pit of debt.

If you are already in debt, set up a repayment plan now and no matter what, avoid paying your credit card bills late. Playing catch-up puts a heavy strain your budget.

Create a Retirement Fund

Many employers offer a matching program for 401(k) retirement accounts. If available, your employer will match your annual contribution to your retirement account, typically up to a certain percentage of your salary or up to a dollar for dollar limit. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of this program. With a traditional 401(k), your contributions will not yet be taxed, allowing additional savings to accumulate.

If your company does not offer such a program, consider setting up a Roth IRA. The benefit of a Roth IRA is the funds can grow tax free.

Diversify Investments

Investing in stocks while you’re in your 20s and 30s gives you plenty of time to let your money grow, but you should be careful not to put all of your eggs in one basket. The stock market is unpredictable and an undiversified portfolio carries a greater amount of risk. Consider multiple assets classes and products like mutual funds and ETF’s which spread your investment across a wider range of different companies.

Monitor Your Credit Reports

Even if you do not plan on making major purchases in the next few months, routinely check out your credit reports. Each reporting bureau must offer one free report per year, but you can stagger your reports from each agency to receive one every few months.

A higher credit score helps you receive better rates on loans and may help you avoid hefty deposits on rentals, utilities, and more as you work to establish yourself financially. When you check your reports, be sure to verify you have not been a victim of identity theft and no one else has taken out credit in your name. Consider placing a credit freeze at each of the three credit bureaus if you do not have a need to access credit soon.

Maintain Health Insurance Annually

Even if you are healthy, you don’t want to skimp on health insurance. Whether you get a plan through your parents, at work, or from the marketplace, you are potentially saving thousands of dollars on a trip to the emergency room.

Medical care is expensive, so any coverage allowing you to pay less for in-network health care is beneficial. Preventative care, like vaccines and check-ups, are often covered and not subject to your deductible. After you meet your deductible, your healthcare costs are reduced while individuals without healthcare coverage risk paying for serious medical care.

Build an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund should cover at least three to six months worth of expenses in case you were to lose your job or become unable to work. This fund also prevents you from going into debt because of unforeseen circumstances, such as your car or air conditioning unit breaking down. Statistics show that most millennials could not pay for a surprise $1,000 expense.

Consider Financial Planning

Having questions about your financial future is natural. Financial planners understand the challenges young people face when they begin setting themselves up for success. If you are ready to set up a complimentary consultation with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, contact Sharkey, Howes & Javer today.

Inside the Economy: Trade, China, & Corporate Profits

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, SH&J Blog | No Comments

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we turn our focus to the Guangdong province in China. Guangdong is used as a barometer for how global trade is doing. With the talk of U.S. tariffs over the past few months, how has this affected manufacturing and exporting in Guangdong and what does it mean for global trade? The U.S. stock market is continuing to flirt with all-time highs, are corporate profits growing to sustain the stock valuations? Tune in to find out!