News & Insights

Embracing Retirement by Making the Right Housing Decisions

by Ellen Li, MSBA, CFP® on 9/22/2017

As a busy financial advisor and  mother, I like to balance myself with the practice of yoga. To me, yoga is more than just the practice of body movement, it’s  also an exercise of mental discipline.  Recently one of my favorite instructors used “embrace change” as our mantra and it really resonated  with me both  professionally and personally.

At Financial Alternatives, we recently helped two clients make new housing choices in their retirement years — one client remodeled their house and redesigned the living space on the first floor to make living there safer and more comfortable. The second client decided to move to an assisted living facility. In both cases, it was a transition, a new change that our clients embraced with courage and wisdom.  Stories such as these show the importance of making the right housing decisions  during your retirement years. These decisions could  have a tremendous effect on you  both financially and emotionally.

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posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

5 Steps to Take After the Equifax Breach

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 9/14/2017

Background

Now that some of the dust has settled on one of the worst cyber security breaches in history, we think everyone should go through the 5 steps listed below.  Why everyone?  Because there is no way to be certain if you have been affected by the Equifax breach or not.  I entered false info to test Equifax’s verification site including a last name of “test” and a SSN of “123456” only to find that it positively identified me as a person impacted by the breach.  [9/16/17 Update: Equifax’s Chief Information Officer and Chief Security Officer are “retiring” and their internal investigation continues.]

Also, please make sure everyone in your family has taken these steps including your spouse, kids in college, domestic partner, and perhaps even minor children.

Step 1: Review Your Credit Report

Use the Annual Credit Report site to review your credit report from at least one of the three listed credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”).  By law, you are allowed one copy every 12 months, so we suggest you request a report from one of the three CRAs every 4 months.  Check for rogue activity or inaccuracies, and contact the CRAs to address the issue.

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posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

New Medi-Cal Recovery Laws; another Reason Why Proper Estate Planning is Needed

by Ellen Li, MSBA, CFP® on 5/24/2017

Long –term care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home care can be very expensive. If you don’t have substantial assets or a good long term care insurance policy, the cost of care may deplete your assets over time.

What happens then?

If you qualify for Medi-Cal, (California’s version of Medicaid), it will pay for the cost of care, subject to recovery (repayment) from the estate when the recipient dies. In the past, the aggressive recovery program  put an inordinate burden on the heirs and survivors who were sometimes  forced to sell the family home to pay the estate claim or forced to sign a “voluntary lien” which accrued at 7% annual interest.

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posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

5 Tips on when to file your tax return (and when to expect the information you need)

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 2/28/2017

Depending on your sources of income and the types of investments you have, it may be a good idea to wait to submit your tax return until close to the April filing deadline.  Based on our experience, here are some thoughts on the timing of your preparation and when you can expect to get all the information you need.

1. Potentially File Early

If you have a relatively simple tax return and only have wage (W-2), contract work/rent (1099-MISC), or social security (SSA-1099) income, you should have everything you need to file your taxes by mid-February.  Basic 1099-INT or 1099-DIV forms should be available by early February.  Also note that the IRS does not require banks or investment custodians to send some 1099s if the amount to be reported is less than $10.00, so you don’t need to hold out for “de minimus” information like this.

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

Scam Watch: Protect Yourself From Phishing Schemes

by Thao Truong on 11/4/2016

It has recently come to our attention that the clients of some of our colleagues have reported a jump in the number of phishing attempts on their investment accounts. Although we haven’t heard this from any of our clients recently, we understand that becoming a cyber-security victim can be very painful and costly.

We continually upgrade our systems and procedures to help prevent and detect unauthorized access, but hackers are getting smarter and bolder. Because security is a shared responsibility, we think our clients and others need to know what a phishing attack looks like and what steps they can take to defend themselves.

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posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

Cancel your Covered California Plan When You Turn 65

by Ellen Li, MSBA, CFP® on 9/27/2016

If you have a Covered California plan, chances are that you also receive tax credits that reduce your monthly insurance premiums. When you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare, you become ineligible for those tax credits, which can amount to hundreds of dollars a month. As a result, you will not only lose your tax credit but you will also need to start budgeting for the premiums on Medicare Part B & a supplemental plan.

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

Become a Better Health Care Consumer

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 9/6/2016

Health CareHow do you become an empowered health care consumer?  A recent blog post on the Forbes magazine website, authored by financial planner/doctor Carolyn McClanahan, suggests that the relationship between doctors and patients is entering a third phase of its long-term evolution.  Phase one was paternalistic, where the doctor told the patient what to do and the patient was expected to do it.  With the rise of the Internet, the relationship has become more informational—the doctor provides the patient with a number of choices, and the patient chooses one of them.

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

Create a Social Security Account before a Hacker Does it for You

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 8/15/2016

Social Security Log InTighter Security

The Social Security Administration now requires a cell phone number for people who want to access their benefit information at SSA.gov.

When you log into your Social Security Administration account, you give your user name and password but then you receive a one-time security code sent by text message – and must type in that code to complete your login procedure.  In the cybersecurity trade, this is known as multi-factor authentication.

While this has tightened security, it does not prevent identity thieves from fraudulently creating online accounts for people that haven’t already done so – potentially siphoning their benefits.

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

Planning for Special Needs Children in Your Estate Plan

by Ellen Li, MSBA, CFP® on 7/22/2016

If you have children or grandchildren with special needs, whether they were born with congenital defects or develop disabilities through accident or disease, you should consult with your estate planner and financial advisor to protect the future of these children.

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posted in BlogPersonal Finance

Beware the Rollover Offer: 5 Important Questions to Ask

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 5/28/2016

Last week, one of my aunts asked me about rolling over an old 401(k) plan.  She had been getting calls from a friend saying she can get up to $8,000 in bonuses/incentives if she does the rollover now.  Wow, I thought, this is way beyond the usual $100 or $200 cash offers I’ve seen.

New Law Not in Full Effect

My remark to her was – Beware!  I told her of the new law I wrote about last month, and that we recently learned that the protections actually don’t come into full effect until April 2017.

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posted in BlogInvestmentsPersonal 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.