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SH&J Blog

What to Do With Your Bonus or Tax Refund

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There’s not a single person who doesn’t appreciate receiving a large sum of money, whether it is a bonus from work or a refund of taxes that have been over-paid throughout the year. However, it’s easy to have spent this large sum of money before it’s in your pocket. Most of us have felt the disappointment of not receiving expected funds. In the event you haven’t already spent the money, what do you do with it once it does actually hit your bank account?

We suggest giving yourself permission to spend a small amount, possibly 10%, on something fun or frivolous. Maybe that’s a ski pass, a vacation, new technology, or a wardrobe boost. We suggest putting the rest toward a goal that will help advance your financial picture. The first priority is likely paying down credit card debt. After this is paid off, then consider paying down a car loan, student loan, home equity line of credit, or mortgage.

Another consideration is boosting savings. Once you have 3-6 months of emergency savings in the bank, you could fund retirement with a Roth IRA contribution. If you are on track for your retirement goals, you could fund a brokerage account for mid-term goals such as buying a house or vacation home, or an HSA for future health care expenses. If you are receiving a bonus, check with your HR team to see if you can invest the funds in your company 401(k) plan to defer the taxes.

A couple secondary options to consider include:

  • Funding an account for health insurance premiums if you are planning to retire before Medicare age 65.
  • Investing in a home renovation to boost the value of your home for a future home resale.
  • You could also consider investing in residential or commercial rental real estate.
  • Pursue further education or a designation that will help you advance your career.
  • Your favorite charity or non-profit would be more than happy to receive a donation.
  • Consider an impact investing opportunity.

There are endless ways to use a large sum of money. If you have received a tax refund, talk with your CPA about adjusting your tax withholding on your W-4 to better align your tax payments throughout the year so you are not giving the IRS a tax-free loan of your hard earned income.

Please call Sharkey, Howes & Javer at 303-639-5100 to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your financial picture.

Custom Insurance

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Most people understand the concept of insurance. People pay a premium to an insurance company for the protection against a potentially catastrophic financial loss. Insurance companies are able to make money by pooling policyholders’ risks and charging a premium based on actuarial estimates.

The most common types of insurance policies are life insurance, disability insurance, and homeowners and auto insurance. But what happens when you want to insure something outside of the norm, say a personal item such as a laptop or expensive piece of jewelry? More and more, technology is starting to act as a disruptive force in the insurance industry that makes obtaining custom insurance more efficient for consumers.

There is a host of startup insurance firms that now allow you to quickly and easily insure single items, for varying periods of time. According to KPMG, this budding industry, nicknamed “Insurtech”, gathered over $1.7 billion from Venture Capital firms in 2016. One of the most popular companies, called Trov, is entirely app based. It got its start in Australia and the U.K., and recently made its way to the States. It can be very convenient if you want to insure an item for a specific period of time. For example, if you are going on a cross-country road trip with the family and you were worried about losing or damaging an expensive camera, all you’d have to do is send a picture of the camera to the app, tell them how long you want it insured, and you will receive a quote instantly.

Another on-demand insurance company is called Sure. It’s very similar to Trov, but you can also purchase baggage protection when traveling, rental car insurance, and insurance on your pet. As these on-demand and custom insurance companies start to mature, it will be interesting to see what other technological advancements will develop that will aim to make our lives easier as consumers.

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

Inside the Economy: Rising Interest Rates & U.S. Housing

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On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we discuss the effects of rising interest rates. The Fed is expected to announce another interest rate hike in mid-December. How does this effect the U.S. housing market? With market unpredictability being a media focus, we compare stock market volatility in 2018 versus historical averages. How is Europe’s economy holding up with news of Brexit and China slowing? Tune in to find out!

Happy Thanksgiving from Sharkey, Howes & Javer

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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!