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5 Stupid Ways to Lose Money to Those You Dislike and Simple Solutions to Stop it From Happening
1. NOT TAKING ADVANTAGE OF TAX BREAKS – Taxes are by far the highest expense that any of us has, and the problem is more likely to get worse. Tax laws are complex things that change every year. While most people who are employed and have a few bank statements and/or brokerage accounts can get away with preparing their own taxes with one of the many tax software packages on the market, those who have returns complexes that have to complete the “Letter”. Schedules” (Schedules A, B, C, D, E etc.) in depth, or the articles of depreciation / amortization should almost always use a tax professional.
SOLUTION: Have a tax professional do your return once every few years, even if you don’t need it. If there is something you missed, it could be worth the one-time expense when you capitalize the savings over a period of years. For those who receive property tax assessments on a regular basis, do you appeal when you apply? Here in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, their evaluation method includes taking a photo of the front of the property and going through the area of the land already registered. Recently, the mother of a new client was assessed for a creek crossing her property. When his son (my client) brought this to the attention of the appeals court, the tax was lowered without question.
2. DO NOT HAVE OR CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY INFORMATION ON YOUR LIFE INSURANCE POLICY WHEN APPLICABLE.
John and Mary divorced three years ago. John and Mary can’t stand each other, just the mere mention of each other’s name causes bile to flow down the other party’s esophagus. Last year John married Linda. John and Linda are very much in love. Today, John died in a traffic accident on the highway. Today Maria is now a multi-millionaire thanks to John, and Linda is stuck paying huge final expenses from joint bank and investment accounts? Why did this happen? John never bothered to inform his own insurance agent and his HR person at work of the major change in his life, and fill out the applicable paperwork changing the beneficiary from Mary to Linda.
I know firsthand that this happens, not only from being an insurance professional, but also because I served as Vice-President of my volunteer fire company for a period of 3 years, and the work of ” veep” includes maintaining insurance beneficiary information. During my tenure as VP, a member died in a fire-related death, one of the many things the State of PA did when they came to lead through the line of duty death process. was to order that the drawer with the file of the members. be sealed until further notice. No new information could be added or subtracted from ANYONE’s file in that drawer until I was told otherwise. After access was restored, many members suddenly remembered changes they needed to make. Thank God, nothing else happened in the meantime
SOLUTION: Check the beneficiary information on your life insurance policies on a regular basis, but no less than every two years, or when there is a major life change that includes marriage, divorce, children born etc. Special note: if you leave money to minors, there should be a guardian for the money, as the court system does not usually release hundreds or thousands of dollars for children to use at their own discretion. If you do not appoint someone of your own choosing, the court will appoint a guardian for the money who may or may not be the person you have chosen. It may or may not be the person you have chosen for the day care of your children.
3. DO NOT HAVE OR CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY INFORMATION IN YOUR IRAS
Insurance policies and IRAs have a very important point in common, they are affected by laws other than inheritance law and testamentary processes in most cases. I say most cases, because if you have cash value life insurance (permanent insurance as opposed to term) its value could make you eligible to pay federal estate tax if the your estate is quite large. This is not a good thing to happen to you. IRA money could be subject to estate law if you name your estate as the beneficiary instead of an individual. Even if you die, it will cost you nothing to not name a beneficiary, it could cost your loved ones millions. The reason is that an individual’s inherited IRA can benefit from what is called a “stretch IRA.”
Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of the Stretch. Let’s say that when you pass is the age where you must take Required Minimum Distributions (RMD), which means you are over 70 1/2. Let’s also say you leave your IRA to your 35-year-old son or daughter. After inheriting the IRA your son or daughter, because they are wise, go to Halas Consulting to learn the best way to reduce their new wealth. The good people at Halas Consulting advise your son or daughter to set up a Beneficiary IRA. Basically, what happens is when the property is properly transferred, your son or daughter must still continue to take RMDs, but they do so based on their younger age and not your older age. This means less is distributed to be taxed, if the IRA is a traditional IRA and not a Roth IRA that can never be taxed. If they also ask Halas Consulting to manage the money and it is set up in a proper asset allocation model, that money can potentially grow very large (we’re talking millions here) on a tax-advantaged basis with only smaller amounts of money that are coming out annually, until your kid hits around the half-century mark, to satisfy the RMD. This is a good thing.
HOWEVER (just know it was coming), if the IRA is set up or transferred incorrectly, the stretch is FOREVER lost. What if the reason for this is the cause of bad advice? In most cases, the IRS says “hard beans”, there are many Private Letter Rulings (PLRs) from people who have claimed this thing and lost in the PLR. You can sue the person who gave you the bad advice, but you might still lose and then you will lose your legal rights in addition to losing your case. For more in-depth information on this, I recommend reading books written by IRA expert Ed Slott. These can be found in bookstores or possibly in your local library (yes, that place with all the books that most of them haven’t been to since they had to write their university thesis or even worse, their senior year secondary school)
THE SOLUTION: Always have a beneficiary named on your IRAs and 401ks. Again, if you want to take maximum advantage of the Stretch and name a minor. Please also appoint an adult whom you trust with money to act as guardian of the money until the minor reaches the age you think they will be responsible.
4. TRANSFER HIGHLY APPRECIATED COMPANY STOCK FROM YOUR RETIREMENT PLAN TO AN IRA.
While on the surface this may seem like a good idea, in reality it is not. The reason is a little-known rule called “Net Unrealized Appreciation” or NUA. Here is a brief synopsis of how NUA works. Let’s say you had 500 shares of the company’s stock that you accumulated during your working years. For simplicity, let’s say you had the option to buy this stock for $3 per share when the price was 10 in the late 1990s. Now at retirement these shares are worth $20. If you transfer these shares to a self-directed IRA upon retirement, you will owe income tax on those shares each time they are distributed from your IRA. Your income taxes could be quite high if you have a lot of retirement income.
THE SOLUTION: If you are taking good advantage of the NUA, you will sell the stock and move the money to a non-qualified brokerage account (non-IRA). After doing this, you will pay income tax on $7 per share, which is the amount of the difference between what you paid for the stock ($3) and what the stock was worth at the time you got it. exercise your option to buy ($10). The difference between the stock price at purchase ($10), and what it is currently worth ($20), or $10 per share, will be taxed at the capital gains rate which is currently 15% max ( the top level of income tax could be more than double). After the shares are sold and removed from the IRA, transfer the remainder to an IRA for maximum flexibility and options. The cash proceeds of the shares you just sold are no longer subject to tax, only the interest and capital gains on this cost basis will be taxed if you invest the money held in the brokerage account not qualified To manage your taxes efficiently and not get hammered with high expenses, a well-studied growth ETF would be a good choice here. Just make sure it fits your asset allocation model.
5. NOT MINDING YOUR CREDIT
With the recent financial collapse still fresh in people’s minds, credit and debt have become four-letter words. But while credit can be bad if it is used improperly, it can also be a life saver and allow you to buy many necessary things that cannot be paid in advance in cash because of their cost. Those who are careful about their credit score and research what makes one’s score look better and what the different credit agencies are looking for pay less money in interest on cars, houses, home refis and credit cards credit Not to be a braggart, but several months ago when it seemed like the doom and gloom would last forever, I was sitting in my kitchen opening the mail and some of the solicitors were ready to lend me over $50k in cash without insurance. because of my good credit, and there were people on TV who had been foreclosed on houses where they owed less than that.
Another area where good credit will help you with lower payments is insurance. ALL insurance companies use something called an “insurance score” when figuring out your insurance score. For example, when buying car insurance, it makes sense that insurance companies look at your driving and driving record, but what the heck does my credit score have to do with what kind of driver I am? I may not be wise with money, but a model citizen on the road? Well, according to research done by insurance companies, you can’t. Your insurance score is basically a composite of how you live your life, and those who live a responsible life can save some money. One of those components is money and how responsible you are with it. Likewise, having a DUI on your driving record could also affect your premiums on your home, health and life insurance, as well as your auto insurance.
THE SOLUTION – Get a free credit report every year from annualcreditreport.com take advantage of it. I would recommend that every year or every year you spend about $ 40 and get a consolidated credit report, or a “tri-merger” of the three companies. This consolidated report will give you much more detail than the freebie, and is what banks and mortgage brokers use to decide who gets a loan (at least they did until the government stepped in and told them they had from lending to deadbeats and then. The whole economy went down. But I digress). Go through this report with a fine-toothed comb. A year on mine I found a credit card account that I closed years ago and the bank did not give up to the credit agencies as closed. This is your “face” and reputation at stake, don’t be clueless about what it says.
Well here are five things you can do to get started, if I think of more ways I will write a sequel to this article. Meanwhile, take care of your money, and it will take care of you.
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