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Articles

Building a Strong Financial Foundation

Today, many people are concerned about saving for retirement or paying for a large ticket item, such as a child’s college education. If you belong to this group, now may be the time to organize your finances. It is never too early to begin, and the sooner you start, the better.

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Setting a Price for Buying or Selling a Business

In the overall U.S. business landscape, mergers, takeovers, and buyouts are occurring at a steady rate. If you were to place your business on the market, would you know what it is worth? Setting the price is often the most important aspect of the transaction.

Many business owners tend to base their companies’ worth on “sweat equity.” However, that does not have much to do with market value. To learn the true value of your business, you need a more scientific approach, starting with a valuation method.

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Exit Strategies for Business Owners

After years spent launching and growing your business, the day will finally arrive when you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But, just as starting your business involved hard work and planning, the process of exiting your firm can be a long and challenging process.

Many entrepreneurs put off making decisions about the disposition of the business until their departure is imminent. Waiting until the last minute to put together an exit strategy can, however, prove to be an expensive mistake. Unanticipated events—such as a health crisis, a divorce, or the death of a business partner—may force you to dispose of the business quickly, and at a loss. Having a transition plan in place will greatly improve the chances that you will be able to draw income from the business to support your retirement needs, and ensure that the business is passed on as you had intended.

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College Admissions: Making the Grade

College applicants are often faced with apprehension and, to some degree, fear about getting into the college of their choice. Often, attending the right college or university can make the difference between average earnings and great career prospects in the future. While it is common for colleges and universities to look first at a student’s high school academic record and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, beyond that there are many other factors that enter into the equation as possible indicators of a student’s ability and potential for future success.

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Reduce Future Uncertainty with Advance Directives

Estate planning has traditionally focused on how to minimize estate taxes and designate “who gets what” when you die. However, managing your affairs in today’s modern world has become more complicated. Quality of life issues involving personal finances, health care, and how critical decisions are to be made are becoming increasingly more important.

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Financing Options for Homebuyers and Homeowners

For first-time homebuyers and homeowners who are considering refinancing their current mortgages, trying to decide between a fixed or an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) can be a bit puzzling. The future is relatively unpredictable, and it’s nearly impossible to try to guess whether interest rates will rise, stay level, or decrease in the coming years. However, a matter of a few interest rate points can make a big difference in the amount you will pay over the life of your mortgage, depending on the type of mortgage you choose.

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Teaching Kids About Cashless and Online Finances

In an increasingly digital world, your kids will need to know how to handle their finances online and how to responsibly use debit cards.

Start teaching with cash

More and more consumers use cards and mobile devices to conduct everyday financial transactions. Start lessons with real money and work into the online world. By the time kids are five years old, they can have an allowance, and you should open a joint savings account. Kids should learn to make change, so pay allowances in cash.

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Time to Get Real about Family Money

Instead of debating about politics or sports whenever they get together, what if families spent some time having candid discussions about their finances and plans for the future?

We know money is a hard topic for many families to broach. For the older generation, it can bring up the issue of aging and might signal the loss of independence. Younger family members may also have difficulty accepting that their parents may need their help and worry that they’re not up to the task.

Whatever the reason, know this: without a plan for finances, a family could run the risk of giving up control of health care and inheritance.

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Do You Owe Estimated Taxes?

If you are self-employed or have additional sources of income outside of your regular job, you may fall into the category of Americans who are required to file their federal taxes not just once a year in April, but four times annually. While no one likes having to pay estimated taxes to the IRS, you can make the process easier by setting aside money regularly and keeping detailed records.

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Disability Income Insurance: Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset

Have you ever wondered how you would manage financially if you were to sustain an injury or illness that left you unable to work? How long could you maintain your standard of living, pay your bills, and cover your daily expenses? The likelihood of such an event may be greater than you think. According to the Council for Disability Awareness (2013), Americans underestimate their chances of experiencing a long-term disability: 64% of working Americans believe they have a 2% or less chance of being disabled for 3 months or more during their working years; however, the reality is that the odds of experiencing a long-term disability are about 25%.

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Designing an Employee Benefit Plan

When you begin to create an employee benefit plan, you may want to start with a few core benefits, including life insurance, health insurance, and a retirement plan. These benefits form a base from which your company’s benefit plan can grow and evolve in the future. Every year or two, it may be wise to consider the addition of a new benefit to the plan, such as dental insurance or disability income insurance. Rather than bearing the entire burden of cost, you can contribute a portion of the cost, with your employees paying the balance.

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Creating a Long-Term Financial Plan

To help manage your personal finances, you can now purchase computer software that will balance your checkbook, figure out your budget, track your investments, and even help take the sting out of filing your income tax return. Even with the best apps available, you still have to take the initiative to create a strategy that will meet your needs while reducing the stress that goes along with financial planning.

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Estate Planning: A Team Effort

Estate planning often involves a team consisting of an attorney, a financial professional, an insurance professional, and yourself. However, whether you are establishing a new estate plan or revising an existing one, only you can provide the guidance, direction, and information your estate planning team needs to develop an effective plan.

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ESOPs: Rewarding and Motivating Employees

Profit-sharing plans have long been popular with employees because of the opportunity they provide to share in the profitability of a growing firm. Many business owners look beyond shared profitability to shared ownership through employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).

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Economic Policy and the Fed

While consumers affect the economy by spending according to their own situation and financial pressures, Federal policy decisions also influence the economy. Fiscal policy, enacted by Congress, uses taxation and legislation to boost employment, stabilize prices, and stimulate economic growth. In contrast, monetary policy, which is controlled by the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed), manipulates short-term interest rates in an effort to spur growth or control inflation.

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Get SMART: Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Regardless of which phase of the business life-cycle you’re in, you can get SMART about setting goals to motivate yourself, move forward to grow your business, and track your success.

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Free Tax Preparation

Did you know that a free, Federal income tax preparation and electronic filing program called Free File is available to U. S. taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of $73,000 or less in 2022?

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Financial Recordkeeping for Tax Purpose

Keeping thorough and accurate financial records is one of the less exciting tasks that business owners face, but it is a necessary one. In addition to enabling you to monitor the progress of your business and make informed decisions on a daily basis, keeping good accounting records is essential when it comes time to prepare your tax returns. While the smallest businesses may be able to get by with the “shoebox method,” having in place a reliable and comprehensive financial recordkeeping system is crucial if you want your business to grow.

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Filing the FAFSA for Higher Education Costs

Even if you expect to cover your child’s college costs through sources other than Federal aid, it usually worthwhile to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition to determining your family’s eligibility for Federal assistance, the FAFSA is the primary qualifying form used by many college, state, local, and private financial assistance programs.

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Your Family Business and Estate Planning

If you are like most entrepreneurs, you don’t expect the business you worked so hard to establish to falter when you are no longer here to run it. But sometimes, when business owners die without leaving wills or estate plans, the business must be liquidated to pay the tax liability, or the company collapses because family members have not been sufficiently prepared to take over operations. If you own a family business, you may want to consider taking steps now to help ensure this valuable asset will remain intact for your children, grandchildren, and others.

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Important Steps in Preserving Your Estate

If you are like most people, wills, trusts, life insurance, disability income insurance, and advance directives are topics you would just as soon avoid. Yet, timely planning is necessary to preserve the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate and to protect your loved ones. Here are some important steps you can take now to help ease your family’s emotional and financial burden in the event of your death:

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Assigning Your Life Insurance Policy

Getting approval for a loan can sometimes depend on, for example, a lender asking a borrower, “How will this loan be repaid in the event of your death?” Your answer may be to assign your life insurance policy, a useful feature that can help provide necessary security for a lender.

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Analyzing Investment Styles: Growth vs. Value

Growth or value—what’s your style? Growth investors look for stocks that will grow at a high rate for a relatively short period of time or mutual funds that focus on growth stock. Value investors look for stocks that are currently undervalued and are expected to increase to their true value over a longer time horizon or mutual funds that focus on value stock.

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An Introduction to Split-Dollar Life Insurance

Contrary to what you may think, split-dollar life insurance is not an insurance policy, at least not in the classic sense. It is a type of arrangement that allows two parties, typically an employer and an employee, to split life insurance protection costs and benefits. The premium payments, rights of ownership, and proceeds payable on the death of the insured are often split between the company and a key employee. In many situations, however, the employer pays all or a greater part of the premiums in exchange for an interest in the policy’s cash value and death benefit. Cash values accumulate, providing repayment security for the employer, who is paying the majority of the premium. In this scenario, business owners have the opportunity to provide an executive with life insurance benefits at a low cost. Another option for companies to consider is to use split-dollar policies in place of insurance-funded nonqualified deferred compensation plans.

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A Financial Review Can Pay Off at Year End

Today, many people find themselves bombarded by a constant stream of financial news from television, radio, and the Internet. Yet, does all this “information age” data really help you manage your finances any better now than in the past? Often, what are considered old-fashioned practices, such as performing periodic financial reviews, can lead to greater success in the long run. Why not spend a few hours reviewing your finances? The changes you make today could result in increased savings. Consider the following seven important items.

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A Budget May Help Boost Your Savings

Whether you have substantial resources or live close to your means, a budget may be an effective foundation for a savings program. It can help you monitor your personal and household expenditures, potentially freeing up income that can be redirected toward savings. Consider the following:

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Budget Basics for College Students

One extracurricular activity that every student can master while in college is personal money management. Typically, a student’s daily spending is done on an improvised basis, meaning that overspending is often the norm rather than the exception.

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Countdown to Retirement: Strategies for Saving in Your 50s

The Baby Boom generation is about to enter another era: retirement. Never known for accepting the status quo, Baby Boomers are ready to redefine the “golden years.” Forget about endless days of leisure. This generation seeks adventure, travel, and new business pursuits. While these changes may redefine retirement, will Boomers be able to finance their plans? Today, many people age 50 and older have not begun to save for retirement or have yet to accumulate sufficient funds.

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Control Your Runaway Expenses

For most of us, the prices of many things seem to have risen ahead of our income. Inflation has certainly taken its toll. In some cases, it may be more than costs that have risen; it may be our consumption. If you are looking for ways to control both rising expenses and increasing consumption, while managing a tighter, two-person budget, here are some timely suggestions.

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Choosing the Right Retirement Plan for Your Business

You’re an entrepreneur and you’re not looking back. You’ve opened your own business, whether alone or with partners, and you’ve achieved success. Now you’re thinking about retirement, not just for you, but also for your employees. Offering a retirement plan can help your business attract and retain employees, while making it easier for you to save for your own retirement. Here are some of the options available to business owners:

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Charitable Giving: Good for the Heart and Your 1040!

It may be better to give than to receive, but it may be even better to give and see your generosity rewarded. Charitable giving can play a valuable role in your financial and tax strategies. A well-planned gift to charity could provide an income tax deduction and a reduction of estate taxes. Your donation could also help you maintain financial security, exercise control over assets both during your lifetime and after death, as well as provide for your heirs in the manner you choose.

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Life Insurance: Adapting to Changing Needs

When Jennifer purchased her life insurance policy 10 years ago, she assumed that her life insurance planning was complete. She thought that if she just paid her premiums on time, she could sit back and not worry about life insurance any more. Jennifer’s policy has provided protection for herself and her family over the years. But letting her insurance program run on autopilot may not be the best route to take in the long run.

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Inflation and Your Retirement

Even if your retirement is years away, it’s important to understand how inflation can affect your retirement savings. You probably know that inflation can depreciate your savings over time.

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Mapping the Road to Retirement

It makes sense to periodically review your financial strategy along the road to retirement to make sure you are taking advantage of all available tools and resources that may help build your retirement income. Your ability to save more now, before retirement, will provide you with a nest egg that will help support a comfortable retirement. You may want to consider five steps to stay on track toward reaching your retirement goals.

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Working with a Financial Advisor: Six Steps to Help You Get the Most Out of the Relationship

Would you trust your medical diagnosis to a casual acquaintance? Do you cut your own hair or dry clean your own clothes? For some services, it makes more sense to pay a professional who has the expertise to deliver the appropriate results. A professional financial advisor can help you build a sound estate plan, designed to help you toward your long-term financial planning goals. These six steps can help you locate and get the most out of this important relationship.

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Think Twice About Your 401(k)

Does your 401(k) account include shares of your employer’s stock that have grown a lot since you acquired them? If so, you may be able to make use of a “net unrealized appreciation” (NUA) strategy when you retire or otherwise leave your employer.

To better understand it, NUA is the difference between the market value of your company’s shares on the date they are distributed to you and the date they were originally added to your plan account. In general, to use the NUA strategy, you have to: Leave your company, receive a lump-sum distribution of your account’s entire balance in a single year, and choose to take all or some of your company stock “in kind.” That means you take the actual shares instead of a distribution check for their value, rolling them into another employee plan, or rolling them over into an individual retirement account (IRA). This requires a transfer of shares received to a taxable brokerage account and not a roll over into an individual retirement account or qualified plan.

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Keep Your Estate Plan on Track

For today's business owner, death can mark the beginning of a significant tax problem. The investment and sweat that went into building your business year after year could add up to a whopping federal estate tax bill for your heirs – up to 40% in 2018 of the combined value of your company and other assets.

With careful estate planning however, there are still ways to reduce the estate tax burden on your loved ones, while keeping the business intact. The following gives an overview of some available estate planning options.

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