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5 Stupid Ways to Lose Money to Those You Dislike and Simple Solutions to Stop it From Happening
1. DON’T USE TAX DREAMS – Taxes are by far the highest expense any of us have, and the problem is more than likely going to get worse. Tax laws are complex things that change every year. While most employees with a few bank statements and/or brokerage accounts can get by with preparing their own taxes using one of the many tax software packages on the market, those with complex returns who need to complete “letter” Schedules” (Schedules A, B, C, D, E, etc.) thoroughly or tax professionals should almost always be used for depreciation.
SOLUTION: Have a tax professional do your return once every so many years, even if you don’t need to. If you’re missing something, it may be worth the one-time expense when you capitalize on the savings over the years. Do you file complaints for those who receive property tax assessments on a regular basis? Here in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, their appraisal method involves taking a picture of the front of the property and going over the land already recorded. Recently, the mother of a new client had a creek that ran through her property appraised. When his son (my client) brought this to the attention of the appeals board, the tax was undoubtedly reduced.
2. NOT TO BE OR NOT TO CHANGE THE BENEFICIARIES OF LIFE INSURANCE POLICY WHEN APPLICABLE.
John and Mary divorced three years ago. John and Mary can’t stand each other, the mere mention of the other’s name causes bile to flow down the other party’s esophagus. Last year, John remarried Linda. John and Linda are very much in love. Today John died in a traffic accident on the highway. Today, Mary is now a multi-millionaire thanks to John, and Linda is stuck paying huge closing costs from joint bank and investment accounts? Why did this happen? John never bothered to notify his own insurance agent and HR person at work of his big life change and fill out the appropriate paperwork to change the beneficiary from Mary to Linda.
I know firsthand that this happens, not only as an insurance professional, but also because I volunteered as vice president of my fire company for 3 years, and the “veep’s” job included maintaining policy beneficiary information. During my term as vice-president, a member died in a fire-fighting-related death. One of the many things the State of PA did when they came to guide us through the Line of Duty Death process was to order the members into a filing box. sealed for now. No new information could be added to or subtracted from anyone’s file until I was told otherwise. After re-allowing access, several members suddenly remembered the changes that needed to be made. Thank God nothing else happened in the meantime
SOLUTION: Check the beneficiary information on your life insurance policies regularly, but at least every two years or when there is a major life change, including marriage, divorce, birth of children, etc. Special note: if you leave money to minors, there must be a guardian of the money because the court system usually does not release hundreds or thousands of dollars for use by children at their own discretion. If you do not appoint a person of your choice, the court will appoint a guardian for the money, who may or may not be a person of your choice. It could be the person you chose to take care of your offspring on a daily basis.
3. NOT TO BE OR NOT TO CHANGE IRAS INFORMATION
Insurance contracts and IRAs share a very important common feature, as in most cases they are affected by laws outside of probate and probate processes. I say most cases because if you have a cash value life insurance policy (permanent policy as opposed to term policy), that value may qualify you to pay federal estate taxes if your estate is large enough. This is NOT a good thing to happen to you. Estate law may apply to IRA money if you name your property as the beneficiary instead of a person. Even if it costs you nothing if you die, if you don’t name a beneficiary, it could potentially cost your loved ones millions. The reason is that IRAs inherited by an individual can benefit from what is known as an “IRA stretch.”
Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of Stretch. Let’s say you’re at the age at which you must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) when you die, which means you’re over age 70 1/2. Also, let’s say you leave your IRA to your 35-year-old son or daughter. After inheriting an IRA from your son or daughter, because they are wise, go to Halas Consulting to learn the best way to take possession of your new wealth. The good folks at Halas Consulting advise your son or daughter on setting up a beneficiary IRA. Basically what happens is when ownership is properly transferred, your son or daughter still has to continue taking RMDs, but they do so based on their younger age and not your older age. This means that less is distributed for taxation if the IRA is a traditional IRA rather than a Roth IRA, which may never be taxed. If they also get Halas Consulting to manage the money and it’s set up in the right asset allocation model, that money can potentially grow very large (we’re talking millions here) with a tax advantage, so the money only comes in smaller amounts. released annually until your child reaches about the half-century mark to meet the RMD. This is a good thing.
BUT (YOU just KNEW it was coming) if the IRA is set up or rolled over incorrectly, the stretch is lost FOREVER. What happens if this is due to bad advice? In most cases the IRS says “hard beans”, there are many Private Letter Rulings (PLRs) from people who have claimed just this and have lost in the Lending Agreement. You can sue the person who gave the bad advice, but you may still lose, losing the case as well as the court costs. If you want more detailed information on this, I recommend reading the books written by IRA expert Ed Slott. These can be found in bookstores or possibly your local library (yeah, the place with all the books that most people haven’t been to since they had to write their thesis or worse, their senior year of high school)
SOLUTION: IRAs and 401ks always have a named beneficiary. Again, if you want to make the most of Stretch and name a minor. Also name an adult whom you trust with the money to act as guardian of the money until the minor reaches the age you believe to be responsible.
4. TRANSFER OF HIGHLY VALUED COMPANY SHARES FROM YOUR PENSION PLAN TO IRA.
While this may seem like a good idea on the surface, it really isn’t. The reason is a little-known rule called “Net Unrealized Valuation,” or NUA. Here’s a quick summary of how NUA works. Let’s say you had 500 shares of a company that you accumulated over the years of work. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you had the opportunity to buy this stock at $3 a share when the stock was 10 in the heyday of the late 1990s. Now in retirement, those shares are worth $20. If you roll these stocks into a self-directed IRA when you retire, you’ll owe income tax on those stocks whenever they’re distributed from your IRA. Your income tax can be quite high if you have a lot of pension income.
SOLUTION: If you’re taking advantage of NUA properly, sell the stock and transfer the money to a qualified (non-IRA) brokerage account. When you do this, you pay income tax of $7 per share, which is the difference between what you paid for the stock ($3) and the value of the call option on the stock ($10). The difference between the purchase price of the stock ($10) and its current value ($20), or $10 per share, is taxed at a capital gains rate of up to 15% currently (the highest income tax rate could be more than double). Once the stocks are sold and removed from the IRA, roll the rest into an IRA for maximum flexibility and options. The cash from the shares you just sold is no longer taxable, only this cost-based interest and capital gains are taxed if you invest the money in a non-qualified brokerage account. To manage your taxes effectively and avoid large expenses, a well-researched growth stock ETF would be a good choice here. Just make sure it fits your asset allocation model.
5. DON’T DISREGARD YOUR TRUST
With the recent financial collapse still fresh in people’s minds, credit and debt have become four-letter words. But while credit CAN be bad if misused, it can also save a life and allow you to buy many things you need that can’t be paid for in advance with cash because of their cost. Those who are aware of their credit scores and research what makes a score look better and what different credit bureaus are looking for will pay less interest on cars, houses, home repairs and credit cards. Not to brag, but several months ago, when it seemed like the doom and gloom would last forever, I was sitting in my kitchen opening mail and some of the offers were willing to loan me over $50,000 in unsecured cash. for good credit and here were people on TV getting foreclosed on houses where they owed less.
Another area where good credit will help you with lower payments is insurance. ALL insurance companies use “insurance points” to determine your insurance score. For example, when buying car insurance, it makes sense for insurance companies to look at your driving and moving violation record, but what on earth does my credit score have to do with what kind of driver I am? Can’t I be wise with money but a model citizen on the road? According to a study by insurance companies, you can’t. Your insurance score is basically a combination of how you live your life, and those who live a responsible life get to save money. One of them is money and how responsible you are with it. Likewise, if you have a DUI on your driving record, it can also affect your home, health and life insurance premiums, as well as auto insurance.
SOLUTION – Get a free credit report every year at Annualcreditreport.com take advantage of it. I recommend that every year or every other year you spend about $40 and get a consolidated credit report or a “tri-merger” of all three companies. This consolidated report gives you much more detail than the free quote and is what banks and mortgage brokers use to decide who gets a loan (at least they did until the government stepped in and told them they had to lend to deadbeats and then the whole economy crashed. But I digress) . Go through this report with a fine-toothed comb. One year I found a credit card account that I closed years ago and the bank didn’t report it to the credit bureaus as closed. This is your “face” and reputation on the line, DON’T be ignorant of what it says.
Here are five things to get you started. If I think of other ways, I will write a sequel to this article. In the meantime, take care of your money and it will take care of you.
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