Category: FINANCIAL ARTICLES

SIMPLE Plans This Fall?
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SIMPLE Plans This Fall? | Susan Moussi

{2:22 minutes to read} Fall is in the air, and so a reminder about establishing SIMPLE plans, notifying employees, and making elections. SIMPLE plans are easy to set up, have a lower start-up and annual costs, and are simpler to operate in that there is no annual reporting. Employees decide how much to contribute, and the employer can choose one of two matching options. General Information

  • Plan establishment deadline date: October 1;
  • Maximum number of employees: 100; and
  • Election Period: Nov 2- December 31 (at least 60 days prior to the beginning of plan year which begins January 1).

Click here to read Susan Moussi's full article...

Where Are We With Tax Reform? (Business/Entrepreneur)
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Where Are We With Tax Reform? (Business/Entrepreneur) | Nadine Riley

{4:42 minutes to read} Hope you are enjoying the warm sunny days of the season.

I can’t help but wonder, is it just me, or is it becoming a challenge to stay on track with what’s going in Washington with regards to federal tax reform? The uncertainties are evident. The Trump administration released a report on July 28, 2017 regarding the status of all the proposed changes. As it relates to tax reform, the most current report that we are aware of was released on April 26, 2017. If what’s promised is implemented, individuals/families and businesses will be affected.

Click here to read Nadine Riley's full article...

Speculating and Investing are Two Different Things: Beware of Cryptocurrencies
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Speculating and Investing are Two Different Things: Beware of Cryptocurrencies | Jeff Holland

{3 minutes to read} It’s a strange phenomenon that people want to chase an investment after it has gone up—it can be hard to resist jumping on the bandwagon. In general, the global stock markets have gone up nicely in the last few  years—however, cryptocurrencies have exploded in value. Relatively new cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, have gone up in price in the last three to six months resulting in hype and interest from investors.

Click here to read Jeff Holland's full article...

Where Are We With Tax Reform? (Personal)
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Where Are We With Tax Reform? (Personal) | Nadine Riley

{5:12 minutes to read} Hope you are enjoying the warm sunny days of the season. I can’t help but wonder, is it just me, or is it becoming a challenge to stay on track with what’s going in Washington with regards to federal tax reform? The uncertainties are evident. The Trump administration released a report on July 28, 2017 regarding the status of all the proposed changes. As it relates to tax reform, the most current report that we are aware of was released on April 26, 2017. If what’s promised is implemented, individuals/families and businesses will be affected.

Click here to read Nadine Riley's full article...

Organizing Tax Documents? Remember—Statements, Not Screenshots
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Organizing Tax Documents? Remember—Statements, Not Screenshots | Susan Moussi

{1:37 minutes to read} Information seems to be available at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. If one wants to know the balance in an account, in a brief moment, one can quickly pull up the summary on their desktop or smartphone. When several of your accounts are with the same institution, all the accounts can be summarized on a single page. This should make getting information gathered for a divorce matter quick and easy. That is until questions start to dig deep.

Click here to read Susan Moussi's full article...

Insurance Companies Beware of Bad Faith Denials of Claims in the State of Washington
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Insurance Companies Beware of Bad Faith Denials of Claims in the State of Washington | Evan Schwartz

This is an important, recent decision from the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, its highest court, involving a personal injury situation arising from a homeowner’s claim. The name of the case is Xia v. Probuilders Specialty Insurance Company, which was decided in April of this year. The case involved a woman who bought a townhouse. She became gravely ill after moving in: the manner in which the water heater was installed in her home was causing a release of carbon monoxide. 

Click here to read Evan Schwartz's full article...

 

Substantial Changes to the Tax Law: How Do They Affect Your 2017 Returns?
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Substantial Changes to the Tax Law: How Do They Affect Your 2017 Returns? | Susan Moussi

{2:13 minutes to read} As we head into the second half of 2017, it is important to be reminded of the substantial changes to the tax law that will affect this year’s returns. Social Security The amount of time it will take for people to max out on how much of their income is subjected to Social Security has increased. Unlike the previous few years (when the maximum was $118,500), people will no longer pay into Social Security once their income exceeds $127,200—it will just take longer (and cost more) to pay it at the same 6.2% rate.

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Lessons from Hurricane Ike: Texas Revives Statutory Bad Faith
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In the recent decision of USAA Texas Lloyds v. Menchaca, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that homeowners and other insureds can rely on Texas law to seek damages against insurance companies for unfair and deceptive practices in their investigations and payments or non-payments of insurance claims. In this case, a homeowner’s claim resulted from property damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Although the damage was not substantial, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that absence of substantial damages does not limit an insured from seeking recovery under the Texas Insurance Code for violations.

Click here to read Evan Schwartz's full article...

Budgeting Basics: Part I
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Authored by , re: Accounting & Bookkeeping, Asset Management, Business Development, Financial Planning & Insurance, on .

Many small business owners seek resources and information for both business and personal budgets. I am pleased to share guidelines and best practices for both types of budgets. Below, I discuss the development of household/family budgets; in Part II, I will discuss business budgets. Why is it important to have a budget? Here are a few common reasons:

Click here to read Sallie Mullins Thompson's full article

Relax and Enjoy the Summer! There Will Always be Storms to Weather
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Relax and Enjoy the Summer! There Will Always be Storms to Weather | Jeff Holland

The market, like almost everything in life, has cycles and seasons. But unlike weather patterns, the market’s seasons are not predictable. Snow laden terrain and short days can be depressing; but, as long as we know that spring is on the horizon, the winter’s challenges are more easily accepted. The same is true for the market—expecting the market’s cycles and seasons will help you to manage your counterproductive emotions, particularly anxiety.

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Late Notice is Not Always Late!
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Late Notice is Not Always Late! | Evan Schwartz

A case was just decided in January of this year by the highest court in the state of Maryland, which is known as the Maryland Court of Appeals. What the Maryland high court did was require that the insurance company, National Union, cover an animal rights group’s portion of a $16M settlement for a RICO violation against two high-profile circus operators.

Two of the circus operators (including Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus) alleged that the animal rights activists paid off witnesses to testify about their mistreatment of African Elephants in order to shut down the circus performances. These large circus act companies sued multiple animal rights groups alleging Federal Civil RICO violations—allegations that ultimately resulted in an almost 16-million-dollar settlement.

Click here to read Evan Schwartz's full article...

Insurance Company Reservation of Rights Letters—Better be Specific!
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Insurance Company Reservation of Rights Letters—Better be Specific! | Evan Schwartz

A recent case decided by the Supreme Court of South Carolina, Harleysville Group Insurance v. Heritage Communities Inc., exemplifies an important lesson for lawyers on both sides of the insurance recovery spectrum—particularly concerning reservation of rights letters sent by insurance companies.

In the case, two Myrtle Beach condominium complexes were built with major construction defects. A lawsuit was brought against a series of developers, resulting in multi-million dollar verdicts. Harleysville Group Insurance was one of the insurance companies that was going to be partially responsible for paying out these verdicts—indemnifying its insured, Heritage Communities.

Click here to read Evan Schwartz's full article...

“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets Part 3
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“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets Part 3 | Rachel Alexander

{4:00 minutes to read} In Part 2, we discussed marital vs non-marital retirement assets and how some of those assets require an actuary or other expert to figure out the “present value” before the asset can be divided.

We now arrive here: How do folks equitably divide these assets? Particularly because the present value doesn’t actually exist in a divisible form. It’s a theoretical, projected number!

Below are some popular options:

QDRO (NJ QDRO Overview)

A court order goes to the plan administrator, directing it to divide the asset in the way set forth in the order. This method avoids any tax consequences pursuant to this division at the time it is made.

Click here to read Rachel Alexander's full article...

“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets – Part 2
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“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets – Part 2 by Rachel Alexander

{4:00 minutes to read} Just because we determine a value for something does not mean we divide it!Often spouses are concerned that the mere mention of an asset puts it on the auction block and forfeits their exclusive rights to it. Not so!

Getting a comprehensive picture and value of ALL assets is an important part of creating a solid settlement agreement. An agreement should even specify assets whose separate nature is undisputed, with the other party waiving any rights, title or interest thereto.

Click here to read Rachel Alexander's full article...

Via Four, A Trusted Financial Partner
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Via Four, A Trusted Financial Partner | Jeff Holland

When you partner with Via Four, you are not only gaining decades worth of experience from our advisors, you are also getting the security of our national brokerage custodians. According to Wikipedia, a custodian is a specialized financial institution responsible for safeguarding a firm’s or individual’s financial assets and is not engaged in “traditional” commercial or consumer/retail banking, such as mortgage or personal lending, branch banking, personal accounts, or automated teller machines.

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Do Your Current Work Conditions Match Your Expectations?
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Do Your Current Work Conditions Match Your Expectations? | Fabienne Swartz

{3:32 minutes to read} After graduating from college, women approach their emergent careers with vigor and determination—eager to advance, become breadwinners, and pursue their passions. Somewhere along the career trajectory, many women also yearn to start a family.

Career aspirations and the drive to start a family are not mutually exclusive. Yet, corporate America seems to think they are, making it challenging for women to have the best of both worlds. For many women, working leads to inner satisfaction. Without it, a sense of self is lost, which makes the “mommy track” of the corporate world so devastating for women who want to work—and work hard.

Click here to read Fabienne Swartz's full article...

Audits Are Down, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
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Audits Are Down, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up | Nawrocki Smith

For six straight years, the number of audits conducted by the Internal Revenue Service has decreased. In 2016, the rate at which people were audited fell 16% from the previous year, with about 0.7% of all taxpayers facing higher scrutiny of their returns. Digging deeper into the statistics, one can see that the higher the taxpayer’s income, the greater the chance of being audited. For example, taxpayers earning over $200,000 per year were audited at a rate of 5.8%, meaning they were over eight times more likely to be audited than the population as a whole.

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Is Now a Good Time to Invest? Yes!
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Is Now a Good Time to Invest? Yes! | Jeff Holland

{3:00 minutes to read} Everyday, the stock market has an expected rate of return. This means that on the day that you invest, you have the potential to earn an expected rate of return. If you wait for that “perfect” time and hold off, you miss capitalizing on the market’s rates of returns. When it comes to investing, you’re either in or you’re out.

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3 Crucial Estate Planning Documents
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3 Crucial Estate Planning Documents | Peter Gordon

{4:40 minutes to read} Why should you have a living will, healthcare proxy, and power of attorney? People are living longer and enjoying fuller lives. However, it is possible that because of a sudden illness or injury, you may be unable to talk to a doctor to make decisions about your treatment or direct your financial decisions. To plan in advance, it is important to prepare a few simple legal forms.

Click here to read Peter Gordon's full article..

CLE Course: Recent Litigation and Legislation in Insurance Law
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CLE Course: Recent Litigation and Legislation in Insurance Law | Evan Schwartz

In addition to my law practice, I have the honor of serving as a faculty member on LawLine.com, which is the largest online, continuing legal education (CLE) provider in the United States. I have 11 lectures available, some of which I delivered on my own, and some with the help of my partner, Matthew Conroy. Those lectures are available for purchase and viewing on LawLine. Today, I want to talk to you about two lectures that Matthew Conroy and I will be giving on May 1st. The first part of the series is titled, “Recent Litigation and Legislation in Insurance Law.” We will offer an update for the legal profession on the trends in insurance coverage litigation.

Click here to read Evan Schwartz's full article...

Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 3
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 Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 3 | Ada Hasloecher

{4:54 minutes to read} In Part 1 and Part 2 of BJ Mann’s article on retirement plans and divorce, we talked about retirement funds in general and the differences between 401(k)s and IRAs. Now to the topic of dividing the plans. No matter how these plans are divided (equally or some other sharing arrangement), the math must be done first.

Click here to read Ada Hasloecher's full article...

 

The Power of the Purse: Financial Abuse in Marriage
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The Power of the Purse: Financial Abuse in Marriage | Fabienne Swartz

{5:05 minutes to read} In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of knowing what you are signing when filing a joint tax return. While devastating, and potentially life altering, tax fraud is only one facet of financial abuse. In a large context, financial abuse can be found in every demographic, in every socioeconomic stratum.

Put simply, financial abuse is the attempt of the abuser to control the victim by various financial means. Victims can be male or female but trend heavily toward stay-at-home moms who gave up their highest earning years to raise their children.

Click here to read Fabienne Swartz's full article...

Mental and Nervous Limitations in Long-Term Disability Policies
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Mental and Nervous Limitations in Long-Term Disability Policies | Evan Schwartz

Many, if not all, group long-term disability policies contain a mental and nervous limitation, as do some individual disability insurance policies. Typically, the limitation stipulates that the policy will only pay the insured for disabling psychiatric conditions for a finite period of time. Usually, the period is 24 months, but it can be shorter or longer depending on how the policy is written. It is important that disabled individuals fully understand the limitation including:  •What it states; •What it applies to; and •What it does not apply to.

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Fraud and Employee Theft 101
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Fraud and Employee Theft 101 | Nawrocki Smith

What is fraud? In criminal law, fraud is intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. Fraud is a crime, but it is also a civil tort under common law. There are two main types of fraud:

1. Occupational Fraud - The use of one’s occupation for personal enrichment through the deliberate misuse or misapplication of the organization’s resources or assets.

2. Consumer Fraud - Schemes devised to defraud individuals, like identity theft, Ponzi schemes, phishing schemes, and advanced-fee schemes.

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Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 2
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Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 2 | Ada Hasloecher

{3:54 minutes to read} In Part 1 of this series, BJ Mann reviewed the three main types of retirement funding. In Part 2, we move on to the important details for the mainstay of the typical retirement plans: 401(k)s (and their sisters) and IRAs in all their permutations. These do not address pensions, which will be discussed in a future post. Of particular interest is the difference between qualified and non-qualified plans, which require different sets of instructions for dividing.

Click here to read Ada Hasloecher's full article...

Insurance Policies Part 1: Personal
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Insurance Policies Part 1: Personal | Nadine Riley

{4:54 minutes to read} Oftentimes, the demands of everyday living make us forget about protecting our most valuable asset, ourselves. We protect our identity, our homes, vehicles, phones, appliances, etc. without thinking twice about it. Our day is filled with the to-dos of today, the plans for tomorrow and the regrets of yesterday, but when was the last time we slowed down to think about life’s what-ifs?

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Before You Sign a Joint Tax Return, Be Aware of What You’re Signing!
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Before You Sign a Joint Tax Return, Be Aware of What You’re Signing! | Fabienne Swartz

{3:55 minutes to read} Tax time is a great prompt—for some people the only prompt—to think about finances. I have found that many of my clients actually know very little about the marital finances, trusting instead that their spouse will make appropriate decisions. Unfortunately, women who do that are putting themselves at risk for a variety of reasons:

  • If your spouse were to die: The consequences of your spouse dying without a will are grave. It could result in a lengthy probate process while you are forced to make due without any money from the estate. That is why it is essential that you know…

Click here to read Fabienne Swartz's full article...

Divorce and 401Ks and IRAs
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 Divorce and 401Ks and IRAs | Ada Hasloecher

{3:18 minutes to read} My colleague and fellow mediator, BJ Mann, who practices in Rochester, NY, has written as comprehensive, cogent and concise a primer on the basics of retirement plans for divorcing couples as I have ever read. She graciously allowed me to post it on my site for you, dear reader. After all, why reinvent the wheel? I’ve broken it down into 4 posts for easier digestion.

Click here to read Ada Hasloecher's full article...

Act Now & Save on Your 2016 Tax Return
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Act Now & Save on Your 2016 Tax Return | Susan Moussi

Tax filing season provides an opportunity to make decisions that can affect the previous year’s tax bill. There is still time to act on the beneficial options outlined below. Fund Your Retirement  Now is the perfect time to examine your retirement contributions. According to an article on CNBC.com, “To be financially ready to retire by age 67, you should aim to have 10 times your final salary in savings.” Before April 15th, you may still have the option to:

  • Fund a Traditional IRA (which may lower taxes for the previous year);
  • Fund a Roth IRA (which would not lower last year’s taxes but provides a tax shelter for the future); or
  • Fund a self-employed pension plan (SEP) if you are self-employed. Note: Funding an SEP may lower taxes for the previous year and, by filing an extension on the federal income tax return, you can extend the investment deadline to October 15th. 

Click here to read Susan Moussi's full article...