News & Insights

Loopholes for Substantial and Perpetual Property Tax Discounts

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 7/9/2018

This blog was written in conjunction with guest author Matt Brand.

Homeownership is quickly becoming a luxury that fewer can afford in California these days. But it doesn’t have to be – if you know the tax code.  In this column we highlight some lesser known property tax loopholes that can help ease the financial burden for those who qualify.

Tax Loophole That May Apply to You

Most people know about Proposition 13, which applies to all California homeowners. It caps property tax at 1% of home value as determined by purchase price and then it limits annual increases to no more than 2% annually thereafter.

There are a handful of loopholes that apply to people in specific circumstances and these are not well known.

Proposition 60 lets homeowners who are 55 or older sell their home, buy a new one, and transfer their “old” home’s tax assessment basis to the new home (“property tax portability”). Such fortuitous transfers are permitted only once in a lifetime. And this law only applies to moves into a home of equal or lesser value and to moves within the 11 participating counties (including San Diego). But these rules may soon become more flexible.

The Proposition 13 Tax Transfer Initiative , which is on the ballot for November, would allow homebuyers of a certain age to transfer their tax assessment with a possible adjustment from a prior home to a new one.

Proposition 110 extends the same benefits of Prop 60 (and the proposed add-ons of the 2018 Prop 13 Initiative) to disabled Californians of any age.

Proposition 58 allows for property tax portability on primary residence transfers between parents and children. Prop 193 does the same between grandparents and grandchildren.

The Mills Act allows owners of historic structures to receive reduced property taxes in exchange for preserving the property. The process of getting a home historically designated and approved for the Mills Act is not easy, but the pay-off can be a 40-70% property tax reduction. It’s much easier to simply purchase a home which already has the Mills Act in place. This is the route co-columnist Jim has recently taken.

A Word on Timing

For me, I am 48 years old, and as mentioned in our previous article. I feel forced to stay in my home due to the higher property tax and mortgage expense that would result from a move. But I will watch the Proposition 13 Tax Transfer Initiative closely and potentially take advantage of it (or Prop 60 in its current form) when I turn 55. Simultaneously, I’ll keep my eye on the Mills Act homes that come to market.

These are obscure loopholes and only a slice of the North County population fits into them. But in this housing environment we need any advantage we can find. It can’t hurt having them in your toolkit for future planning dialogues with your tax advisor, real estate broker and  financial advisor.

posted in Blog

Financial Questions to Ask Yourself on Your Work Anniversary

by Ellen Li, MSBA, CFP® on 6/26/2018

Perhaps the notifications we get on LinkedIn have led to the popularization of the term “work anniversary. ” The passing of another year isn’t just nominal; it can be an opportunity to evaluate how well your job is meeting your financial needs. As you celebrate another year at your job, here are some questions that you should ask yourself.

Income

The first thing to ask yourself on your work anniversary is if the salary still fits your income requirements. If not, consider putting together a summary of your accomplishments and contributions over the year to make the case for higher compensation.  Always know if your salary is in line with what others are earning. You can check this information on sites such as Payscale.

When looking at your income, try to get an idea of what your future earnings are projected to be if you were to continue on along the same path. At which point do you anticipate a bump in earnings? What action would you need to commit to in order to earn that increase?

It may be a good time to think about what your retirement will look like at your projected earnings. Are you comfortable with where you would be in retirement at this rate or does it signal a possible shortfall?

Key questions to ask yourself:

  • What do I need to do to make more money, and it is worth taking the risk at this point in my life to do that?
  • Am I earning an income that is commensurate with my skills and experience?
  • What is the position I will be in when I retire if I continue to earn the level of income I am projecting?

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

What is the Right Way to Educate the Next Generation About Money?

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 6/22/2018

Here are some tips for successfully imparting the knowledge and wisdom about money that your family needs to educate the next generation about money.

Most families, even the more financially successful ones, don’t talk about money the right way, or even put much attention into discussing money as a family at all. For a variety of reasons this is harmful to a family’s continued wellbeing. Here are some tips for successfully imparting the knowledge and wisdom about money that your family needs to know to educate the next generation about money.

Family Money Conversations are Tough

More often than not, family dialogues about money don’t happen the right way. Everyone wishes they had more money. As a result, conversations can get emotional and often degenerate into:

  • Arguing
  • Complaining
  • Finger pointing
  • Regret
  • Resentment (Mom and Dad paid to send you to med school and didn’t have enough for me)
  • Shame (I loaned my ex-boyfriend some money and he never paid me back)
  • Jealousy (My brother makes more money than me)
  • Fear

If money is even on the agenda at all, it’s normally not a constructive addition to the family meeting. How is that conducive to a system that will educate the next generation about money?

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

Stuck in Paradise

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 6/4/2018

The following is an excerpt from The Financial Alternatives Column in Coast News. In this article, Jim’s co-author Matt discusses his decision to stay in his condominium.

I recently explored upgrading from my current condo into a house, but the resulting property tax and mortgage expense increase would be too great for me to justify a move. This same predicament, which I call the “golden handcuffs” provides disincentives for many homeowners to move, fanning the flames of the affordable housing shortage in North County.

FINISH READING HERE

posted in Blog

What You Need to Know About Preventing Elder Abuse in La Jolla, CA

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 5/18/2018

It is a sad fact of life that often those who are close to us are the ones who have the ability to hurt us the most, even trusted caregivers or family members. Members of the La Jolla community may recall the chilling case of Robert Stella, an elderly man who was tied to his bed, starved, and forced to live in squalor by his ex-wife (NBC, 2014). Elder abuse can happen to any older adult in any community, but the subject of our story today is how our community members in La Jolla, CA may defend themselves and their loved ones from elder abuse.

Elder Abuse: The Silent Perpetrator

Elder abuse takes many forms. In some cases the crime is overt and violent, but most of the time the unsuspecting victim is silently preyed upon for a period of time by a familiar person.

  • It can be as surreptitious as the plumber who “cases” the house on routine visits, only to return back through an unsecured window at a time when he knows that the victim is asleep or habitually out of the house. He pillages as much money and jewelry as he can from the places where he knows the victim keeps her valuables, and then leaves.
  • Elder abuse can happen over the phone. Let’s say an older adult suffering from dementia receives a solicitation from someone pretending to be a relative, saying that they have an immediate need to wire over some money to get them out of a pinch.
  • We’ve even heard of Medicaid facilities partaking of the monies awarded to the facilities’ patients to use for themselves while the patients starve or go malnourished.
  • Sadly, elder abuse even happens within families. Ex-spouses, children, siblings, cousins, etc., acting out of desperation, can act as perpetrators of this crime to their own family members.

Americans who are financially abused lose an average of $140,500, according to a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards study (CFP Board, 2012).

Finally, the Industry Reacts

Over the past few years, several states have enacted regulations to protect vulnerable adults from exploitation and abuse and now the financial services industry is catching up – enacting the first uniform, national standard to protect vulnerable adults.

Read more

posted in BlogPersonal Finance

What Your Investment Advisor Should Be Doing to Protect Your Confidentiality

by Financial Alternatives on 4/2/2018

Here are some things your investment advisor should be doing to protect your client confidentiality.

Silence and privacy are the most undervalued assets in a client’s portfolio. We say this to acknowledge an often overlooked facet of investment management and financial planning: client confidentiality. This is something that many financial advisors and even their clients don’t pay enough attention to until it is too late. Is your advisor doing what your advisor should be doing to protect your confidentiality? Read on to figure it out. 

The Affluent Person’s #1 Fear is Being Discovered 

Anyone who has been taken advantage of financially knows too well that wealth can sometimes attract unsavory types and bring out the greed in people. Most affluent people live in fear (and in fact it is their #1 fear) of having others in their lives –including some of their friends and relatives – know how much money they have. They could end up being judged or criticized and the awkwardness it creates may be harmful to relationships. 

Aside from the social fears, there are real risks to having the public know how much money you have. You face a higher risk of being kidnapped or robbed. And that leads to the affluent person’s second biggest fear – losing it all.  

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posted in BlogGeneral

Beware the Ides of March: Are You Your Own Retirement’s Worst Enemy?

by Financial Alternatives on 3/7/2018

The Ides of March commemorate Julius Caesar, the Emperor who significantly expanded the Roman Empire — only to meet his demise by a conspiracy carried out by his own people.  Just as Caesar’s fate turned to misfortune as a result of his tragic flaw, we see people who are their wealth’s worst enemy. If you’re making these retirement planning mistakes, it’s best to seek counsel before the bright day brings forth the adder.

Making Emotional Decisions

In our decades of experience, we’ve seen examples of perfectly rational, logical people who make emotional decisions that lead to their finances becoming compromised. Unfortunately, being called in to be the independent voice of reason after the fact is a step too late.

A common emotional trap that people run into when managing their own money includes holding on to company stock or an inherited position for nostalgia reasons. This can lead to dangerously undiversified portfolios.

Timing the Market

Very few people get this right. Most of the time, trying to sell at the top of the market and buy when the market has dipped creates more trouble than it prevents. Even professional money managers can’t successfully time the market.

Choose an advisor who will balance your needs for principle protection, income, and growth against market conditions. This approach, rather than one of reactive trading, is the best way to create long term growth.

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posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

How Are Your Financial Institutions and Advisor Compensated? It’s Important.

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 1/19/2018

Wells Fargo is the latest example of a financial institution harming its clients by creating a compensation structure that incentivized employees to act contrary to their clients’ best interest.

Regulators found over 3.5 million fake credit card and bank accounts created by Wells Fargo employees who were pressured by managers to meet unrealistic sales goals. Wells Fargo was also caught selling nearly 1,500 renters and term life insurance policies to clients without their knowledge.

How in the world could this ever happen?

Some Wells Fargo customers said bank employees lied to them saying they were giving them a quote when in fact they were unknowingly being signed up for a policy.

When these issues were initially uncovered, Wells Fargo fired thousands and tried to lay the blame on these rouge employees. But as the truth came out, it was obvious that the problem lay with management’s incentive compensation structure. In reality it was the leadership who had put extreme pressure on employees to sell products in an effort in increase profits and thereby increase bonuses.

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

What High Earners Should Know About the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

by Ellen Li, MSBA, CFP® on 1/5/2018

Understanding the implications of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is important for any high earner, or high earning family, who wants to maintain its financial success.

As illustrated below, the recent tax reform will modify the tax rate for high income earners. But that’s just where it begins. High earners should also be aware of how the tax code will significantly impact the decisions you are making about your healthcare, business, and gifting decisions.

Table Source: “Highlights of the Final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, “ by Tim Steffen, 2017 (http://www.investmentnews.com/assets/docs/CI1136191218.PDF)
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posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

5 Year-End Tax Planning Tips for 2017

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 12/1/2017

Here are a some tax-planning techniques and strategies you can still consider in the last few weeks of the year:

1. Watch out for large mutual fund distributions this year

Many mutual funds have realized large gains and typically distribute those gains in November and December.  Don’t buy a mutual fund in your brokerage account right before it makes a 10%, 20%, or 30% (of NAV) distribution – it just turns part of your purchase into a taxable event!  Look for widely published estimates, and if expected to be large, make sure you buy shares after a fund’s ex-dividend date.

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

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Disclaimer

Posts are general in nature and do not constitute the rendering of legal, investment, accounting or other professional advice.