Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 12-31-2018 - Get Financially Organized 101 by Kerrie Beene

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck


Happy New Years Eve!!  I always look forward to this day.  I think it is because there is comfort in knowing so many of us are hitting the “reset” button on or about something in our lives.  Statistics show that most New Year's resolutions don’t make it past January, but what if this year could be different? Our team spent most of December developing a program to do just that around your finances!  In fact, on Monday, January 7th, Kerrie Beene will be launching a new Facebook live program - The 2019 Financial Challenge. We will be posting information on our Facebook page and website later this week, along with registration details.  The cost of the program is only $30 per month and will include monthly video’s, action steps, Q&A sessions, and so much more! We are very excited to offer this “get organized” financial education program to the community!  Wishing you a very Happy New Year!  


By Kerrie Beene

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” - Benjamin Franklin

New years is filled with hopeful resolutions that all lead back to getting on track in some area of our life. Financial goals are always Included in the popular resolution lists. Whether you make a new years resolution or not, getting your financial life organized is one of the most important things you can do for long-term success.  Being unorganized causes a lot of financial stress and even costs us time and money. If we can spend the time now getting things in order, the payoff is the clarity to plan for the future.

Here are 5 tips for getting organized:

  1. Pick your place. Pick a place where all your important documents will be kept.  This doesn’t have to be an office with a fancy file cabinet. I have a crate with file folders in my closet.  You can also create online file storage using this same method.

  2. Organize your Files. Spend a few minutes and create the folders you need to keep important documents.  This includes everything. All mortgage, car loans, insurance, medical, retirement, other benefits, and even a folder for each family member.  Use what you have, no need to go buy a label maker or anything fancy. Just some hanging folders with a crate, an accordion folder, or some type of folder system.  

  3. 2 Minute Rule. We receive a lot of mail and emails on a daily basis.  Follow David Allen’s 2-minute rule - If it will take less than 2 minutes, do it now.  If you received a piece of mail and it just needs to be filed, go do immediately. If you receive an email that needs to be kept, create a folder in your email.  No more wasted brain space.

  4. Summarize. Once you have everything in order, you can create a financial summary.  Start with your assets (everything you own, such as the house, retirement accounts, savings, etc.) minus what you owe (mortgage, car payment, etc.).  This summary is called your net worth and is often needed when applying for mortgages and other types of loans.

  5. Maintain. At a minimum, clean out your folders yearly.  I like to do it more often because less is more with paperwork.  It also will help you keep a running total of your net worth.

Happy New Year and a Toast to Getting your Financial Life Organized!

In 2019, Rooted Planning Group will be hosting a series called the 2019 Financial Organization Challenge - stay tuned for more information!

Visit Past blog articles at

You can also now follow Amy on Twitter

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 12-24-2018 - Market Uncertainty by Amy Irvine


“I have a strange combination of fearlessness and massive insecurity.” - Penny Marshall

I’ve always been a big fan of Penny Marshall’s, not only because she produced great work, but because she was a woman who marched to her own drum, but was respectful in the way she did it.  She was a role model to other women who worked in male-dominated professions, yet she was inclusive. She was a gift on this plant and I wanted to take a moment to recognize her passing on December 17, 2018, and to the disease that took her: Diabetes.  You may be asking why I am pointing this out, and the answer is two-fold:

  1. I’m truly saddened by her passing, as I mentioned, I looked at her as a role model, and

  2. We will be focusing on health a bit more in 2019.  Not just financial health, but physical health as well.  Diabetes is one of the most expensive health-related conditions that exists.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the “total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2017 was $327 Billion.”  These costs are “2.3 times higher than expected costs” of non-diabetes.  Being healthy might be an expensive investment, but the costs of being unhealthy are even greater.

Speaking of healthy living, as I was researching for this blog, I came across a quiz offered by the University of Rochester Medical Center called, “What Do You Know About Stress.”  It showed up in my feed at the very top, could Google be telling me something?   Yes, the end of the year and holiday’s always seem to add some level of stress to my plate as I’m trying to complete some unmovable deadlines, while also trying to enjoy some time off knowing that tax season is just around the corner.   I’ll often ask people, “what keeps you up at night.” The answer depends on what is going on in their lives, and I’m sure if I asked that question right now, it might be the overall stock market performance that has you concerned.

We have a lot going on here in the US that, in my opinion, is causing enormous volatility.  Remember the markets don’t particularly like uncertainty, which is exactly what is going on.  The S&P 500 is down 9.60% YTD as of Friday, the Dow is down 9.20% YTD as of Friday, and the Aggregate Bond market is down 2.80% as of Friday.  This means even the most conservative (in terms of volatility) portfolios are down YTD. What has caused this? In my opinion, these three things are at the top of the list (although there are many more influences):

  • Rising interest rates do affect current bond positions.  When interest rates rise, bond prices fall, but if you hold the bond to maturity, you get your interest and face value.  So for example, if you are mid-way through holding a 5-year - $10,000 Corporate Bond, you might see the price of that bond be less than $10,000; but if hold that bond until maturity, you will get the $10,000, plus the interest in between.  The current value of the bond is showing you what it would be if you sold it today. Over the weekend Treasury Secretary Mnuchin held calls with the CEO’s of top banks to discuss the “market turmoil.” His conclusion was “The banks all confirmed ample liquidity is available for lending to consumer and business markets.  We continue to see strong economic growth in the US economy with robust activity from consumers and business”

  • Tariffs.  This is not meant to be a political statement.  I don’t believe any country should have tariffs, but they do exist and the uncertainty of where they are going is certainly causing fear on Wall Street.  One of my favorite quotes by Warren Buffett talks about market corrections creating opportunity, “So smile when you read a headline that says ‘Investors lose as market falls.’ Edit it in your mind to ‘Disinvestors lose as market falls—but investors gain.’ Though writers often forget this truism, there is a buyer for every seller and what hurts one necessarily helps the other.”  I bring that up because although we are not officially in market correction territory, it certainly is close and it feels that way.

  • Government confusion.  Yes, I call it confusion.  Again, I’m not trying to create a political statement, but when 400,000 individuals in the United States are wondering when their next paycheck might come (even if they get back pay), that creates enormous fear and uncertainty and it looks like the shutdown will continue until at least Thursday.

We continue to analyze this data and, as I mentioned last week, we are making small adjustments to the portfolio to potentially capture some capital losses.  

We will certainly be talking to you about our 2019 outlook in the first quarter meetings and welcome any questions you might have about how this affects your long-term goals.

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 12-17-2018 A Year in Review by Amy Irvine

Finishing Strong and a Year In Review

By Amy Irvine, CFPⓇ, EA, MPASⓇ

“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” - Lou Holtz

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2019 is only weeks away, I personally cannot believe how quickly this year has flown by.  As I started brainstorming the list of “what happened” at the firm for this year-end recap I was astounded by the fact that it all happened in one year!  

But before I dive into all the exciting changes that packed 2018, I want each of you to take the next 15 - 30 minutes to give yourself a present that will cost you nothing, but potentially save you both financially and emotionally.  I’d like you to go into all of your financial websites and email accounts and change your passwords. Was that a groan I heard? However, it seems like every time we turn around a new breach of information has occurred, so why not set a date with yourself to protect your finances?  Be prepared, we will be asking you this question in the first half of 2019 as we meet with you.

My recommendation is to create a phrase that you will remember but replace numbers with some of the letters and a symbol too!  Feel like you have too many passwords? There are password management systems that exist, but make sure if you use one of them that you change the main password at least every 90-days, if not sooner.  Also, if possible, add multi-factor authentication, where you have to receive a special code when you log in.

We also wanted to let folks know that we will be doing some tax loss harvesting on some of the accounts as the year winds down; both the bond and equity markets have been so volatile this year that we will be looking for some opportunities to switch holdings in order for you to take tax losses this year.

For those of you in the Corning area, we will have someone at the office during the following times this year, weather permitting:

  • Monday - 9 - 4 (Sandy)

  • Tuesday - 9 - 5 (Becky)

  • Wednesday - 12 - 3 (Debbie)

  • Thursday - 9 - 5 (Becky)

Also, so that we all get to enjoy time with our families, the office will be closed December 24 - December 28th.  We will be checking messages several times throughout the day to address any immediate needs.

Now let's reminisce about 2018...

At the end of 2017, I knew I had to make a decision.  Grow the firm or not. I thought long and hard about this decision; growing the firm was very scary to me but the thought of not being able to help more people saddened me.  Kate Welker and I had reconnected in the fall of 2017 and I felt like that reconnection was a perfectly timed. Both Kate and I took the chance and by mid-year, we knew it had been the right decision! Kate is focusing her time working with small businesses who are too small for a CFO, but need one. She also works with families with young kids - which she happens to have first hand knowledge and experience.  Kate’s big professional success this year was passing the CFP exam!

Becky then joined us in April, as she was finishing out her internship.  We were so thrilled by her motivation and desire to become a great planner that we had to figure out a way to keep her around.  We are honored to have her two days a week as she continues to work at a tax office the other days. In November, Becky sat quietly for the Series 65 and passed.  Becky will be listed as an advisor at the firm in 2019 and would like to begin helping her generation by consulting on one of the biggest problems they have...student loans.  Based on the feedback from our advisory board, Becky will be offering both an hourly consultation as well as a project plan around student loans and debt management. This is a very atypical service offered by financial planners, which is why we love offering it!  It supports one of the major goals I had for the practice, which was to provide financial planning services to anyone who wants it; not just people that have accrued assets to invest, but to people who need some direction on HOW they can accrue assets.

Matt was hot on Becky’s heals with a great eye for operations and paraplanner.  Matt and I actually started talking back in October of 2017, but he didn’t join the firm until May of 2018.  His patience and persistence to join the firm was impressive and he continues to be an enormous help in streamlining our processes. Matt has passed his CFP exam, but is working through the three-year experience requirement, which should be completed this May. Matt will continue to work in the capacity of our COO (Chief Operations Officer), but he would also like to begin working with young, high income earning individuals.  I’m excited that Matt is taking on this focus, as this is another underserved group of individuals!

Kerrie then joined the firm in August of this year.  She and I had met at the Dallas XY Planning Conference in 2016 and we were in a college planning group together.  Kerrie is a busy mom with teenagers, which is exactly the type of person she likes working with. She understands their struggles and challenges.  She and her husband are planning for their kids to go off to college and they know the pain of competing goals; they also know the challenge of keeping a healthy lifestyle and the desire to “get it together.”   She is so committed to this goal that she has co-developed a “Get Financial Healthy and Organized Program” that will be launching in 2019. Stay tuned for more to come on this exciting program! In addition, Kerrie will be finishing up her experience requirement in 2019, having passed the exam in November of 2016.

Kim, our resident CPA, followed very quickly after Kerrie and also joined the team in August.  Kim was also a co-XYPN member and a member of the college planning group that Kerrie and I were part of, but she found that she really enjoys working with those that are pre-retirement age. Could there be a theme here? Kim is of that age group, she “gets” the challenges pre-retirees are being faced with and the big decisions that need to be made! One of her favorite areas to analyze is Social Security and Medicare. In addition to the planning around pre-retirement, she’s launching a consulting service that also provides a narrow focus on the various social security strategies.

Scott, who is a CFP and professor of financial planning at SUNY Alfred State College rounded our planner additions for 2018.  Scott had previously worked in the education system as a financial advisor for TIAA; he knows the SUNY and CUNY system like the back of his hand both as a planner and as someone who is IN the system.  Scott will continue to focus his attention and expertise in that area.

Sandy Rowe joined the firm in October of 2018 in a client support position.  She and Debbie Konopski will continue to provide client care and support to the team through all the many behind the scene actions.

Some strong collaborations formed in 2018!  We began working with First Ascent Asset Management as a sub-advisor and we couldn’t be more thrilled with that relationship.  The offer such wonderful resources and valued experience to the investment portfolios, and this year was a challenge on that front!  

Additional 2019 Programs

Our 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Program rollout was a hit and we are going to continue to grow this program.  There have been numerous studies that show financial stress can affect employee productivity! As many of you know, I’ve been a Fiscal Fitness Coach for a few years, and towards the end of 2018 we decided to expand that service and grow the employee wellness program in conjunction with the Fiscal Fitness Network.  We are VERY excited to announce that ALL of our planners will be offering this service in 2019.

2019 Projects

We have some big projects on our goal list for 2019 too!

We will be looking at all of software and vendors in 2019 to make sure they are still a good fit for our clients and we’d love to get your feedback!  If you are willing to serve on a technology advisory committee, please let me know.

Our website will be on the updating block later this year as well!  One of the major reasons this is on the project list is because we are working on some rebranding for the Firm.  With the growth in the number of planners, we wanted a DBA that would reflect the diversity of the team, and how it impacts our clients lives. After a great deal of discussion and again bouncing the ideas of the client advisory group, we’ve registered Rooted Planning Group as a DBA for Irvine Wealth Planning Strategies.   You will continue to see the Irvine Wealth Planning Strategies brand, but you will also start to see the Rooted Planning Group brand in 2019. We will be rolling out more communication about this new brand very soon!

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 12-10-2018 Saving for the Holidays by Becky Partridge

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With the holidays quickly approaching you may find that you’re one of many Americans who haven’t completed their shopping. The stress is kicking in, and the bank accounts are depleting themselves. Year after year people tell themselves they aren’t going to spend as much the following year. Chances are you’ll end up spending as much, or even more. Often times your list of who to buy for seems to grow instead of shrink.

How can you save money this holiday season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday already here and gone? The good news is that so many people still have their shopping to do that stores are participating in other various sales. Amazon, Costco, and Microsoft are having “12 days of deals” where every day for 12 days they are offering a sale on a particular item. Another way to save money this holiday season is to celebrate the holidays after Christmas. On December 26th many retailers offer 50% off Christmas items. These sales usually include gift baskets and other items deemed “Christmas gifts” even though they could easily be used and sold any time of the year. You could take advantage of these sales even if you have already finished your shopping for this year, or already celebrated for the year. Many of the items you can purchase could be stored for next year. Not only would you be saving money but you could also make next year less stressful by getting a head start on your shopping.

Also keep in mind that many people you are buying for don’t actually want any gifts. I know of many people who actually dread gift swapping because they then have to figure out even more gift ideas and spend more money. So why add that additional stress and cost if it doesn’t make both sides happier in the end anyways.

If you have extended family that you’re buying for you could switch to a gift swap where every one only buys one gift and you can make a game out of it. You can “steal” others gifts and if your gift gets stolen you can open a new present or “steal” someone else’s.

Remember, the holidays are a time for family, friends and joy. It’s not about the gifts, but instead about the memories you are making in the presence of others.

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck - Savvy Medicare Planning 11-26-2018 by Kim Anderson, CPA

It’s amazing how quickly Medicare Open Enrollment season comes and goes.  We have two weeks left, with December 7th being the last day you can make changes to your current plan(s).

Even if you personally are not eligible for Medicare, you may have a family member that is, so please take a moment to read this article written by Financial Planner Kim Anderson.  Kim specializes in working with both Social Security and Medicare planning, so I think you will find her “Savvy Medicare Planning” article very interesting.

If you are a New York State Resident, please make sure you check out this program: Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) Program

If you need last minute help with your Medicare Plan Analysis, contact Kim at

Savvy Medicare Planning

By Kim Anderson, CPA

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It's that time of year again - Medicare open enrollment is quickly coming to a close. Those not yet eligible for Medicare think that they can sign up for Medicare only during open enrollment but those who are eligible (or just shy of eligibility) know that open enrollment is the time to consider changing plans, not necessarily time for initial enrollment (unless, of course, they become eligible during the open enrollment time-frame).

Enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B is automatic for anyone receiving Social Security at age 65. However, if someone is 65 and is still working, they may want to delay signing up for both parts. They should contact their employer's benefits administrator to see how their employer's plan works with Medicare.  If they decide to keep their employer's coverage and delay signing up for Medicare, they need to know whether they will face a late penalty.


Part A.  Since there is typically no cost to a retiree for Part A, I will not discuss it further at this time.

Part B.  Part B covers physician's services, diagnostic X-rays, lab tests, and certain preventative services, is available to everyone who is eligible for Medicare.  The late enrollment penalty for failing to sign up during the initial enrollment period, if required, or the special enrollment period, if eligible for one, is 10% of the Part B premium for every 12-month period you should have been enrolled in Part B but weren't.  This is a permanent penalty and is paid every year for as long as you have Part B.

Part C.  Part C is Medicare Advantage.  Anyone who signs up for Medicare Parts A and B during their initial enrollment period (and pays the Part B monthly premium to Medicare) may also enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at the same time.  Retirees who qualify for a special enrollment period because they were covered by an employer group health plan past age 65 have just two months after their group coverage ends to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. NOTE: that is a shorter time than the special enrollment period for Parts A and B, which extends for a total of eight months. Medicare Advantage plans are all-inclusive plans that provide health care under Parts A and B, and most also offer prescription drug coverage under Part D.   Geographic location is a key element of Medicare Advantage plans. Because services are delivered through the plan's network of local providers, clients must live in the area where those services are provided. If a retiree spends lengthy periods of time away from their primary residence, a Medicare Advantage plan may not be appropriate for them.

Part D.  Part D is Medicare's prescription drug benefit.  If you go longer than 63 days without "creditable" prescription drug coverage, there will be a late enrollment penalty of 1% of the national base beneficiary premium ($35.02 in 2018) multiplied by the number of months the person could have had Part D but didn't.  This is a permanent penalty and must be paid for as long as you have Part D.

What's Not Covered

Notably absent from Medicare coverage is long-term care, the type of custodial care many people need as they age.  Also not covered is care delivered outside of the United States (with certain exceptions). Routine dental care, vision care, and hearing aids are not covered.  Neither is chiropractic care, cosmetic surgery or alternative medicine such as acupuncture.

The Cost of Medicare for the Average Retiree

I have been studying the costs of Medicare for quite some time and I keep arriving at the same number:  the average retiree will pay about $500 per month (this includes Parts B & D or Part C and out-of-pocket health care related expenses not covered by insurance).  Annualizing $500 per month is $6,000 per year per retiree, not per couple.  If you need more of an "authoritative" calculation, Fidelity, through its annual survey, says that retirees pay about $500 per month for Medicare and related health care costs and the average 65 year old couple will need $280,000 (after tax) to pay for health insurance and health care costs throughout their retirement.

How does this fit into a retiree's overall retirement plan?  According to the Social Security Administration, the average retired worker's social security check (as of September 2018) was $1,417 (annualized $17,004).  If you subtract $6,000 for Medicare insurance and related health care costs, you have $11,004 left over to pay rent, eat, etc. This fact makes a great case for retirement savings beyond Social Security.

Signing up for Medicare and choosing the best plan for the retiree's situation is serious business.  So is evaluating their plan every year to ensure their doctor is still in network and the prescription drugs they take are covered.  If they lack adequate coverage they could end up with thousands of dollars per year in uncovered medical expenses; if their coverage is too robust, they end up paying for services they don't need.   Like Goldilocks, retirees need to find a plan that is "just right".

If you need help analyzing your current Medicare plan - or will be turning 65 soon and need assistance about when to sign up and whether Medicare+Medigap or Medicare Advantage is the best choice for you, give the fee-only financial planning professionals at Irvine Wealth Planning Strategies a call.  We will help you through the process of finding a plan that is "just right" for you.

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck - Investing is Like Baking 11-26-2018

Happy Holiday Season!  We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I love Thanksgiving, it is the time of year where the house is cold and baking is fun (which is a funny statement coming from a non-baker).  But as Financial Planner Scott DuMond states below, baking is a lot like investing. We hope you enjoy the first of this week's Monday Morning Quarter-Buck (a second one will be coming later today)!

Investing is Like Baking

By Scott DuMond, CFP®

Photo by  Aldyth Moyla  on  Unsplash

Over the years, I have developed many stories, analogies and examples to teach financial concepts to my clients and students. For some reason almost all of the analogies are about food, and many of them about baking. This is one of my favorites that still helps me to keep my focus, even when the investment environment seems concerning. I hope you enjoy it too.

Making a chocolate cake is a lot like putting an investment portfolio together. First, you start with a list of ingredients that on their own, do not taste very good. Think about the ingredients in a chocolate cake.

  • Flour – I often get a bit peckish, but have never considered a few spoonfuls of flour as a desirable snack.

  • Sugar- Probably the only ingredient in the cake that taste good on its own.

  • Salt – Great on French fries, but again not so much by the spoonful.

  • Eggs- Short of Rocky Balboa and Napoleon Dynamite, I don’t know too many people that enjoy raw eggs.

  • Vegetable oil – No comment necessary

  • Baker’s chocolate – For those of us who actually have taken big bites of this, we know it is one of the nastiest, bitterest substances on the planet.

  • Vanilla Extract – Not something I would enjoy sipping on.

  • Baking soda/Baking Powder – One of my mother’s remedies for an upset stomach was baking soda in lukewarm water. Not a pleasant taste or experience.

As you review the above list, you may come to the same conclusion that I do. On their own, all of these ingredients have issues and none is enjoyable when taken individually. Quite frankly, if I were the baker none of these ingredients would end up in the mixing bowl! However, when mixed together properly and in the right proportions, something magic happens. We end up with some fantastic chocolate cake.

Now let’s review our ingredients in an investment portfolio:

  • Stocks – On their own, they are too volatile. The ups and downs of the stock market can make most of us nuts!

  • Bonds – They don’t make a whole lot of interest. Also, don’t bonds decrease when interest rates are going up? Aren’t interest rates starting to go up already?

  • Cash equivalents – Short-term investments like Money Markets and CD’s make almost no return. They certainly have no place in an investment portfolio.

  • Foreign securities – Don’t even get me started! Aren’t these the most risk of them all?

As we review the above list, we may come to the same conclusion as we did above. On their own, all of these investments have issues and none makes a whole lot of sense when looking at them individually. These investments on their own are also too bitter, too volatile too… Quite frankly, if I were the baker none of these ingredients would end up in the portfolio. However, when mixed together properly and in the right proportions, something magic happens. We end up with some fantastic portfolios.

This is the concept of “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” or one of my favorite D words, diversification. The fact that when we mix these investments together with the right amount of stocks including large companies, small companies, midsize companies, international companies and bonds including corporate, government, long-term, short-term, international, we end up with a fantastic portfolio.


  1. Every ingredient in a chocolate cake has its own issues and if I focused only on their negative attributes, I could never bake a proper cake.

  2. Every investment in a portfolio has its own issues and if I focused only on their negative attributes, I could not invest in a proper investment mix or portfolio.

  3. I may not be a baker or even understand why the ingredients mixed together give me such a good outcome, but I can still reap the benefits if I follow the recipe.

  4. Even if someone is not an investment professional, they can reap the benefits of a properly diversified portfolio whether they choose to design it themselves after a model or get help from an investment professional. It is a fact that an expert investor and beginner will get the same returns if they have the same portfolio or mixture of investments and follow the plan.

  5. Lastly, just like mixing and baking a cake takes time to get the proper result, it also takes time to let a proper investment mix achieve the expected returns. We cannot start removing ingredients or investments from our portfolio when they seem to taste bad. That would cause us to ruin our cake and ruin our investment portfolio. Instead of focusing too hard on any one ingredient or investment, we need to keep our focus on the big picture and give it time to work.

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 11/19/2018: Income Tax Check Up by Kate Welker

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. - Oprah Winfrey


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  All of us at Irvine Wealth Planning Strategies wish you and your family the best of the holiday season!  For us, it is also the time of year we consider last minute tax strategies! Below, planner Kate Welker shares her thoughts about doing an Income Tax Check Up.  

Oh, and if you missed it, be sure to listen to last week's Wine and Dime!  There are some good nuggets in there and perhaps it will give you some suggestions on some wine to serve at your Thanksgiving gathering.

Income Tax Check Up

By Kate Welker

Fall is by far my favorite season. Sweater weather, crunchy leaves, and the thought of the holidays approaching. This is the time when we are thinking of making Thanksgiving plans and getting the Christmas shopping started, and it can be a very busy time. I can’t help but also think that right after the holidays we will be in the midst of the income tax filing season. Before the holiday schedule gets to busy I’d like to discuss the importance of scheduling in some time to do an income tax check in.

While I think reviewing your information every year is important, in light The Tax Cut and Jobs Act this year it is even more essential. The tax rate for many taxpayers will be lower, but there are many moving pieces to each individual situation that should be reviewed. By November you should have a fairly good record of your income for the year and your possible deductions. Looking at your information now will give you a window of time to make some changes before the year end if you need adjustments. Reach out to your tax professional, they would rather look at your projected return now than the last week of the year or run into a messy tax situation when it is too late to make changes. Following are some particular situations I would pay extra attention to.

Federal withholding

When the tax rates changed, so did the corresponding tax tables. If you have one job and filled out your W-4 correctly the withholding on your income should be sufficient. The situation I am most concerned about is a taxpayer who works more than one job at a time or married taxpayers. The W-4 gives your employer general information about your tax return, but that payroll is looking at your tax situation only in relation to that particular company. For example, if you make $60,000 a year as a married taxpayer your company’s payroll software is going to look at that as your total income for the year and internally figure you into the 12% tax bracket. If your spouse were also to make $60,000 you would (without significant deductions) actually be in the 22% tax bracket. If you are a single taxpayer and work two jobs, the same situation could apply. That is a 10% jump and could result in a balance due of several thousand dollars. To do a simple check in for this look at the combined year to date pay stubs of your household, estimate where you will be for year end, and review the tax withheld. If you are comfortable reading a tax table chart this will give you a good starting point. If not please reach out to an income tax professional who can give you more insight.

Unreimbursed Employee Expenses

This category of expenses was eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These expenses are those that are incurred while working for an employer, generally if you receive a W-2 and have expenses you have deducted in the past will be impacted. Examples of expenses you may have been deducting include mileage, travel and lodging expenses, union dues, uniform, or tool expenses. Careers I see this impacting include construction, pipeline, truck drivers, police officers, and teachers. If these deductions were significant on your 2017 return you may need to make adjustments.

Itemized Deductions

The standard deduction for 2018 increases to $12,000 for a single taxpayer and $24,000 for married taxpayers from $6350/$12,700 in 2017. On a tax return you can choose to take a standard deduction or add up a list of itemized items and if that number is higher use that as your deduction. With the standard deduction higher and the tax deduction limited to $10,000 there will be less taxpayers itemizing in 2018.

Business Owners

There are unique opportunities for tax planning and savings for small businesses in 2018. There is a tax credit for qualified small businesses that could be a deduction of up to 20% of net income. Additionally as regulations on the expensing of repairs and maintenance change with bonus depreciation and Section 179 there are planning opportunities within your business to reduce your income tax.

The new tax law is complex and will change the way the tax return looks on many levels. There is no easy answer on how the Tax Cuts and Job Act will impact you, some taxpayers will pay reduced taxes and others will see an increase compared to previous years.

I don’t know know how your situation will look, but I’d rather you ask the questions now. Have you thought about your tax situation lately? I challenge you to take the time to check in.

Monday Morning Quarter Buck 11/12/2018: Financial Planning Habits by Kerrie Beene


“Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.” ―Sean Covey

This past Friday we released a podcast with Joe Messinger.  Joe works with other financial planners to “train” them on a college planning process.  Joe has worked with several of our planners on the “pre-approval” college planning process and the habits that planning for college require.  As financial planner Kerrie Beene states below, habits are a formula that require choice and not memory. We hope you enjoy last weeks Wine and Dime Podcast as well as Kerrie’s Blog.


By Kerrie Beene

I recently read a book by Charles Duhigg called, The Power of Habit, that I consider life-changing. The book is a must read. Duhigg explains that 40% of our actions performed each day are not decisions, but habits. A habit is a formula that automatically follows: when I see a cue, I will do a routine in order to get a reward. A case study explained in detail in the book, tells the story of a 71 year-old male who lost his medial temporal lobe, which causes short-term memory loss. Once home, he started going for a walk everyday with his wife, and as long as she was with him he was fine and no one was concerned. One day he disappeared and everyone was preparing for a man hunt. However, within about 20 minutes he returned home. That is when scientists discovered that habits are formed and operate entirely separately from the part of the brain responsible for memory. He had found his way home, even without his short term memory. He had created a habit that didn't need his memory. So, a habit is originated as a choice that you made once and then again and then again.

The book was helpful in identifying some of my habits, good and bad. Think of the habits you have and consider replacing one bad habit, slowly over time. My bad habit is not exercising consistently. I am all about it one day and then fall off the wagon easily. So, this is my one habit to focus on until I do not have to think about it anymore.

One good habit that I have created is creating and sticking to a budget. This is something that scares a lot of people because it is too hard or too restricting... or maybe for nerds. We recently went on vacation and let my habit of budgeting go for a few weeks, thinking I needed to give myself a break. Things didn't go as well as I thought. Before we left, I didn't update my spreadsheet where I keep my budget and do the check off of the monthly bills. Therefore, I completely forgot a bill. It happens. I let my habit go, and then I paid the consequences. Not that it was a life-changing mistake; but, it showed me that I have better control of things when I stick to my good habits! Another thing about the budget is it actually gives you some freedom to do the things you want when you put it in the budget, and you don't have to feel guilty about it. Going on vacation was something we had saved for, and we took cash and never used our debit cards..... a great feeling too because we came back with some of that cash!!

So, everyday is about choices. Just make those good choices a habit! If you have never done a budget and it seems intimidating or nerdy, I promise it is worth the effort to make the commitment and just do it. If you would like help figuring out the best way for you to budget (spreadsheets, pen and paper, fancy online software), I would be happy to help! I love that stuff, and I know---something is wrong with me!

Honoring the "Old Cook" - How Your Family Roots May Guide Your Money Philosophy


The Edmund Fitzgerald Special Edition
By Matt Fizell

“We’re holding our own”

Have you ever felt like no matter what you have done to prepare, you find yourself in unfamiliar territory and not a clue of how you are going to make your way through a situation…. Have you ever felt like the ship pictured above… in a stormy sea of life? Our financial lives are no different than a ship out on the lake. We can be the best, the fastest, have all the successes in the world, and have an unforeseen event change everything. 

For those of you who reside near the Great Lakes, you likely have seen this picture or have at least heard the story of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” which is arguably the most famous shipwreck in Great Lakes history.  The Fitzgerald was one of the greatest ships of its time, shattering records for the amount of cargo carried on the Great Lakes year after year, being one of the largest and fastest ships in operation, earning nicknames such as “The Big Fitz” and “The Pride of the American Side”.

But on November 10th, 1975 the Fitzgerald found itself in one of the worst storms of Great Lakes history, with wind gusting up to 86 mph, generating waves of 30 feet and larger which proved too great for even the mightiest of ships. The title of today’s blog post, “We’re holding our own”, was the last transmission to ever come from the ship’s captain, who knew there was no possibility of help due to the severity of the storm.

43 years ago today, 29 men suddenly disappeared and found their final resting place when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank into 530 feet of icy, Lake Superior water. One of those men, “the old cook” as referenced in Gordon Lightfoot’s tribute “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, wasmygrandfather Allen who left behind my grandmother and her five children. As you can probably imagine, when the first news reports hit the local television channel, my family found themselves lost in the stormy sea of life, with my uncle recalling his thoughts of “How do you lose a ship?” as the news came through that night, a question that for the Fitzgerald will likely never be answered with closure.

While this chapter of my families’ history is nothing short of tragic, I find it incredibly interesting to see how it has shaped the mindset my family carries surrounding the topic of money. I have heard a lot of the same thing from each of them, “you can plan the best you can now and for the future to an extent, but that doesn’t guarantee anything” and “it taught me to be hardworking, independent and not to rely on other people for money”. Living in the now is much more important to my family members versus looking towards the future and I am confident much of those habits stem from watching the unthinkable happen right before their eyes.  There is that old saying “you can’t take it with you when you’re gone”, and undoubtedly my grandfather’s passing engraved those feelings into my families’ views of personal finance.

While today will bring up a lot of emotion and reflection about the events of November 10th, 1975 for my family, I hope you can use this article to reflect on how your own life events have shaped your views of money and better understand how to use your money in a manner that is truly reflective to your values.  Unlike the Fitzgerald, there is no need to be in a “Holding our own” situation, and I am sure a member of our team would be happy to help you chart your course through stormy waters.

Last but not least, Rest in Peace Grandpa Allen. Even though I never had the chance to meet you, your picture is on my desk as a daily reminder you’ll always be watching over me wherever I go in life.

Articles and References:

If you are interested in the history of the Edmund Fitzgerald, I highly recommend reading the following articles. If dark beer is your thing, the “Edmund Fitzgerald Porter” by Great Lakes Brewing is a great choice… but I may be slightly biased.

Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 10/08/2018: Chasing Returns vs. Changing Habits, by Matt Fizell

I’m simply in awe of how quickly this year is passing by.  I remember as a child that my great-grandmother (also an Amy) told me the years go much quicker the older you get.  I now understand what she was talking about!

 In this week's Monday Morning Quarter-Buck, our Financial Planner and Chief Operating Officer Matt Fizell writes about chasing returns versus chasing habits.  His article made me think about a quote that I recently read that said “a good diversified portfolio means you will always have to be apologizing for something.”  That quote is so true, this year US bonds are reacting the way they historically do when interest rates are on the rise (negative performance), when our economy slows, it will be the stocks that react negatively - so we will always be apologizing for something.  However, since we don’t have a crystal ball, diversity is our best defense.