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Latest News

Pay Yourself First March 4, 2021

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Preparing For Tax Season February 4, 2021

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How Retirement Spending Changes with Time January 7, 2021

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Year-End Charitable Giving and You December 2, 2020

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The Secret to Moving the Needle on Your Credit November 17, 2020

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Lesser Known Provisions of the Secure Act November 3, 2020

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Caring for Aging Parents October 20, 2020

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Your Emergency Fund: How Much Is Enough? September 10, 2020

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Four Really Good Reasons to Invest August 6, 2020

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Cheat Sheet to Sending your Child to College July 15, 2020

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Pay Yourself First

Mother sitting with daughter showing her a piggy bank

Each month, you settle down to pay bills. You pay your mortgage lender. You pay the electric company. You pay the trash collector. But do you pay yourself? One of the most-basic tenets of sound investing involves the simple habit of “paying yourself first” – in other words, making your first payment of each month a deposit into your savings account.

The saving patterns of Americans vary widely. And too often, short-term economic trends can interrupt long-term savings programs. For example, the U.S. Personal Savings Rate jumped from 3.5% to nearly 8% in May 2008 during the housing and banking crisis. It then rose and fell sporadically as the economic environment appeared to stabilize.1 It peaked in December 2012 at 12%.1 As of 2019, the average rate has ranged between approximately 8% to 9%.1

The Genius of Pay Yourself First

Anyone who’s ever managed their own finances knows that saving can be a challenge. There seems to be an endless stream of expenses that demand a piece of each month’s paycheck. Herein lies the genius of paying yourself first: you get the cream at the top of the bucket, and not the leftovers at the bottom.

The trick is to prioritize. Make it a point to put your future first. At first, saving may mean a small lifestyle change. But most individuals want to see their net worth increase steadily. For them, finding ways to save becomes more of a long-term commitment than a short-term challenge.

Tax time can provide an excellent opportunity. You have a chance to give your household budget a thorough checkup. In taking control of your money, you may find you are able to devote more of it to the pursuit of your financial goals.

Putting Your Money To Work

What will you do with the money you save?

If retirement is your priority, consider taking advantage of tax-advantaged investments. Employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, can be a great way to save because the money comes out of your paycheck before you even see it. Also, as an added incentive, some employers offer to match a percentage of your contributions.2

For money you may want to access before retirement, consider placing the funds in a separate account. When the balance hits your target, you may want to move the money into investments that offer the potential for higher returns. Of course, this may mean exposing your money to more volatility, so you’ll want to choose vehicles that fit your risk tolerance, time horizon, and long-term goals.

In the pursuit of growing wealth, sound habits can be your most valuable asset. Develop the habit of “paying yourself first” today. The sooner you begin, the more potential your savings may have to grow.

Sincerely,

Steve Lindquist


Steve Lindquist

Steve Lindquist
stevelindquist@peakfns.com
Financial Consultant
295 Los Altos Parkway, Suite 105
Sparks, NV 89436
(775) 789-3140

www.gbfinancial.org/


  1. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 2019
  2. Under the SECURE Act, in most circumstances, you must begin taking required minimum distributions from your 401(k) or other defined contribution plan in the year you turn 72. Withdrawals from your 401(k) or other defined contribution plans are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2020 FMG Suite.

Preparing For Tax Season

Tax forms and calculator on table

Every year, about 140 million households file their federal tax returns.1 For many, the process involves digging through shoe boxes or manila folders full of receipts; gathering mortgage, retirement, and investment account statements; and relying on computer software to take advantage of every tax break the code permits.

It seems a shame not to make the most of all that effort.

Tax preparation may be the only time of year many households gather all their financial information in one place. That makes it a perfect time to take a critical look at how much money is coming in and where it’s all going. In other words, this is a great time to give the household budget a checkup.

Six Step Process

A thorough budget checkup involves six steps.

  1. Creating Some Categories. Start by dividing expenses into useful categories. Some possibilities: home, auto, food, household, debt, clothes, pets, entertainment, and charity. Don’t forget savings and investments. It also may be helpful to create subcategories. Housing, for example, can be divided into mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance.
  2. Following the Money. Go through all the receipts and statements gathered to prepare taxes and get a better understanding of where the money went last year. Track everything. Be as specific as possible, and don’t forget to account for the cost of a latte on the way to the office each day.
  3. Projecting Expenses Forward. Knowing how much was spent per budget category can provide a useful template for projecting future expenses. Go through each category. Are expenses likely to rise in the coming year? If so, by how much? The results of this projection will form the basis of a budget for the coming year.
  4. Determining Expected Income. Add together all sources of income. Make sure to use net income.
  5. Doing the Math. It’s time for the moment of truth. Subtract projected expenses from expected income. If expenses exceed income, it may be necessary to consider changes. Prioritize categories and look to reduce those with the lowest importance until the budget is balanced.
  6. Sticking to It. If it’s not in the budget, don’t spend it. If it’s an emergency, make adjustments elsewhere.

Tax time can provide an excellent opportunity. You have a chance to give your household budget a thorough checkup. In taking control of your money, you may find you are able to devote more of it to the pursuit of your financial goals.

Sincerely,

Steve Lindquist


Steve Lindquist

Steve Lindquist
stevelindquist@peakfns.com
Financial Consultant
295 Los Altos Parkway, Suite 105
Sparks, NV 89436
(775) 789-3140

www.gbfinancial.org/


  1. IRS, 2019

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2020 FMG Suite.

How Retirement Spending Changes with Time

Old couple sitting at a table outside of a restaurant enjoying coffee

New retirees sometimes worry that they are spending too much, too soon. Should they scale back? Are they at risk of outliving their money? This concern may be legitimate. Some households “live it up” and spend more than they anticipate as retirement starts to unfold. In 10 or 20 years, though, they may not spend nearly as much.

By The Numbers

The initial stage of retirement can be expensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show average spending of $60,076 per year for households headed by pre-retirees, Americans age 55-64. That figure drops to $45,221 for households headed by people age 65 and older.1

When retirees are well into their 70s, spending often decreases. The Government Accountability Office data shows that people age 75-79 spend 41% less on average than people in their peak spending years (which usually occur in the late 40s).

Spending Pattern

Some suggest that retirement spending is best depicted by a U-shaped graph — It rises, then falls, then increases quickly due to medical expenses.

But in a 2017 study, the investment firm BlackRock found that retiree spending declined very slightly over time. Also, medical expenses only spiked for a small percentage of retirees in the last two years of their lives.2

What’s the best course for you? Your spending pattern will depend on your personal choices as you enter retirement. A carefully designed strategy can help you be prepared and enjoy your retirement years.

Sincerely,

Steve Lindquist


Steve Lindquist

Steve Lindquist
stevelindquist@peakfns.com
Financial Consultant
295 Los Altos Parkway, Suite 105
Sparks, NV 89436
(775) 789-3140

www.gbfinancial.org/


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019
  2. CBSNews December 26, 2017

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2020 FMG Suite.

Year-End Charitable Giving and You

Person holding up large geometric heart

Are you making charitable donations at year’s end? If so, you should know about some of the financial “fine print” involved, as the right moves could potentially bring more of a benefit to both you and your chosen charity.

Keep in mind, this article is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for real-life advice. Make sure to consult your tax, legal, or accounting professionals before modifying your charitable gifting strategy.

Evaluate the Impact

How can you maximize the impact of your gifts? First, consider giving to a qualified charity with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Also, visit CharityNavigator.org, CharityWatch.org, or GiveWell.org to evaluate a charity and learn about how effectively it utilizes donations. If you are considering a large donation, it is often wise to ask the charity involved how it will use your gift.

If you’re still working, you may want to check with your employer. Some companies match charitable contributions made by their employees, an often-overlooked opportunity to give back.

Itemize to Optimize

To deduct charitable donations, you must itemize them on I.R.S. Schedule A. So, you’ll need to log each donation you make. Ideally, the charity will provide you with a form to document proof of your contribution. If the charity does not have such a form handy (and some do not), a receipt, a credit or debit card statement, a bank statement, or a canceled check can work. The I.R.S. may want to know three things: the name of the charity, the gifted amount, and the date of your gift.1

Remember, itemized deductions may only have tax benefits when they exceed the standard income tax deduction, so be sure to check on the standard deduction amount for your tax filing year.

Show Your Appreciation

Many charities welcome non-cash donations. In fact, donating an appreciated asset can be a tax-savvy move. You may wish to explore a gift of highly appreciated securities. Selling securities can lead to a taxable event. As an alternative, you or a financial professional can write a letter of instruction to a bank or brokerage, which can facilitate authorizing a transfer of shares to a charity.

This transfer can accomplish three things:

  • You can manage paying the tax you would normally pay upon selling the shares.
  • You may be able to take a current-year tax deduction for the full fair market value of the shares.
  • The charity gets the full value of the shares, not their after-tax net value. This can be a winning strategy all around.2

A Policy of Giving Back

Do you have a life insurance policy? If you make an irrevocable gift of that policy to a qualified charity, you can get a current-year income tax deduction. If you keep paying the policy premiums, each payment may become a deductible charitable donation. (Deduction limits can apply.) If you pay premiums for at least three years after the gift, that could reduce the size of your taxable estate. The death benefit may be transferred out of your taxable estate, in any case.3

You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments. Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. If a policy is surrendered prematurely, the policyholder also may pay surrender charges and have income tax implications.

Whatever your situation, getting advice from a tax or financial professional can help you give wisely as the year comes to a close. We’re here to help find a strategy that works for your situation.

 

Sincerely,

Steve Lindquist


Steve Lindquist

Steve Lindquist
stevelindquist@peakfns.com
Financial Consultant
295 Los Altos Parkway, Suite 105
Sparks, NV 89436
(775) 789-3140

www.gbfinancial.org/


  1. IRS.gov, 2018
  2. IRS.gov, 2019
  3. IRS.gov, 2018

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2020 FMG Suite.

The Secret to Moving the Needle on Your Credit

Person sitting down in chair with hand holding phone with credit score on screen

Do these things to begin improving your credit score:

With millions suffering job losses during the COVID-19 global pandemic and perhaps falling behind on some bills, it’s a good time to discuss how to build up and maintain a solid credit score. A good credit score, after all, provides you with the best chance of applying for and receiving low-interest mortgages, car loans, and lower rates on credit cards.

Why does that matter? Someone who qualifies for low-interest rates can end up paying thousands less on everything from automobiles to college tuition to a new home. Which is why it’s important to begin building your credit back up if it has started to slip.

First of all, don’t panic. With historically low-interest rates in the U.S. expected to stay that way for a while, now is the perfect time to get to work moving the needle northward on your credit score so you can eventually reap the rewards.

Create a budget

It’s vital to have a solid foundation in place as you begin to rebuild or strengthen your credit score.

You need to have a budget and a way to track your spending. When you are trying to rebuild your credit score you need to be aware of your debt and stay below your credit limits. Really focus on sticking to your budget.

With so many economic changes in 2020, it makes sense to adjust your budget now to account for less money, or more if that’s the case, coming in each month. Living within your means, and not spending more than you earn, will help put you on the road to a better credit score.

Pay bills on time every time

Understanding how credit scores are calculated also can help move your score up. Credit scores take into account several factors including your payment history and credit utilization ratio, which compares the amount of credit being used to the amount of total credit that’s available to you. A low utilization ratio is great for your credit score. It means that you have a lot of available credit but not much debt. While it’s acceptable to carry a 30% utilization when trying to build up better credit try to keep it as low as you can, below 10% is even better. For example, if you have a $500 limit, try not to have more than $50 on the card. The simplest rule to follow is to pay all of your bills on time every time and keep low balances on credit cards. To help with this, consider setting up auto-pay with your bank or credit union or set yourself an electronic calendar reminder the day before or on the day a payment is due.

Use credit cards at least once a month

This might seem counter-intuitive, but these days you have to use your credit cards or risk losing them. If you don’t use your credit card at all during a six-month period, it may be considered inactive and your card issuer may cancel your account.

Unfortunately, having an account closed will also impact your credit score. To keep your cards active, be sure to use each card once a month or so, even if it’s for something you might typically pay cash for, such as coffee or lunch.

Consider a secured card

Another option for those with very limited credit, or those trying to rebuild credit is to get a secured card from a bank or credit union. A secured credit card uses the money you place in a security deposit account as collateral. A security deposit gives a lender the confidence you will pay them back, even if you have damaged credit or no credit history.

Bottom line it for me

So, how long does it typically take to see your credit improve? By keeping low balances and making timely payments for six months, you should start to see an improvement in your credit score. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Credit: Jean Chatzky via SavvyMoney.com