Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

Summer is Here!

The weather is getting warmer, it’s staying lighter later and there are tons of graduations happening. This can only mean one thing, summer is here. With the official start of summer being next week and this being the time that most people leave for vacation we thought it would be a great time to send a reminder about increasing your home security while you’re away. Unfortunately petty theft and home break-ins have been running rampant lately. Doing a little to protect yourself now can help you avoid this happening to you. Here are some reminders for when you’re away. (These tips can even help if you aren’t planning on taking a vacation)

  • If possible, have someone stay in your home while away. This is the best option and gives you the peace of mind that your home and pets will be well taken care of.
  • Make sure that the outside of your home is well lit, especially your porch and side yard/gate areas. Criminals are getting braver but most do not like to be conspicuous and bright lights may deter them.
  • Put a stop on your mail and newspaper deliveries. Leaving these things to pile up is a sure sign that no one is home.
  • Tell a trusted neighbor about your vacation and ask them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.
  • Don’t post about your trip on social media. While it’s fun to share with your friends you never really know who is seeing the posts and it may alert the wrong people that you are away from your home.
  • Install a security system. An alarm system or cameras are a great option to help deter criminals. A few of us in the office use the Ring doorbell that has a camera and is connected to Wi-Fi. It also has an intercom so if you are home and you receive a knock from an unwanted solicitor you can politely tell them no safely from inside your home.

With the BBQs, beach days, bike rides and bon fires, summer is one of my favorite seasons. Hope you all enjoy yours as much as I do!

Melani

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Fake Check Scams

I came across an article about fake check scams and what to look out for if you receive an unexpected check in the mail. Unfortunately, these types of scams are happening more and more frequently. The following are some really good tips on what to do and what not do if you find yourself in this situation.

To avoid fake check scams, follow these tips:

Don’t “keep the change”- No legitimate company will overpay you and ask that you wire the difference back to the company or to some third party. Be extremely wary of any offer-in any context- to accept a check or money order in an amount greater than you are owed.

Don’t cash the “unexpected” check- Companies rarely if ever send checks that don’t include some explanation of why the check was issued. Unless you are expecting the check- and you are absolutely certain it is meant for you- do not cash it.

Call the company directly to verify the check- Remember that some fake checks will have a legitimate company’s actual account number with the correct bank routing number. Call the company directly to verify the check, using a telephone number you obtain on your own from directory assistance. Do not use any telephone number that appears on the check or any instructions you receive.

Know the hallmarks of fraud- Fake check scams typically have a number of red flags, such as:

-Typos: Watch out for online postings or emails that are riddled with typos and poor grammar.

-Mismatched names: Compare the name of the person or company posting the opportunity with the name on the check you receive- and beware if they don’t match.

Pressure to act quickly- Be aware that it can take 10 days or even more for your bank to determine that a check is a counterfeit. Don’t wire or transfer funds until you have verified with your bank that the check has cleared- even if the bank allows you to withdraw the money sooner.

If you do receive a suspicious check, contact one or more of the following organizations right away: local police, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center), or the U.S. Postal Inspections Service (if the check arrived by U.S. mail).

Source: Compliance E-News, May 31, 2017, Published by The Consortium®

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Identity Protection Update

In February I posted blog about websites that exposed your personal information and how to opt-out of them. I have recently been alerted to a few new ones I wanted to make you aware of so you can make sure your sensitive information isn't out there for identity thieves to grab. I have listed the webisites below. As I mentioned in my previous blog these websites do have an opt-out option. It only takes a couple minutes to visit these sites to protect yourself.

Truepeoplesearch.com

Stalkscan.com

Aboutthedata.com

If you missed my original blog on this subject you can read it here https://www.assetplanninginc.com/new-blog/entry/protect-your-information-on-the-internet

Have a great weekend!

Melani             

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Looking for Ways to Donate and Get a Tax Break?

Many times we are asked by our clients about ways they can give back through planned gifting. In our last quarterly newsletter, Carol explained how you can donate part or all of your mandatory IRA distributions (RMD) to a charity of your choice which also reduces your taxable income for the year. Another way of doing this is by setting up a charitable annuity. The way it works is the donor gives a gift to the charity (amounts vary), the donor receives fixed payments for life and the donor is entitled to a federal income tax deduction the year the gift is made. I have included a link to one that is offered through the ASPCA to use as an example but there are many more out there to suit everyone’s unique philanthropic wishes.

https://www.aspca.org/ways-to-give/planned-giving

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Budgeting Apps

One thing we’re always telling our clients is how important it is to create a budget and to track their spending. Understanding how busy life is and how different things come up we realize this may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, technology is on our side these days and there are a ton of new budgeting apps that help you keep track of all of this. I scoured the internet looking for recommendations on the best budget apps. These are the ones I found to be on many of the top lists; Mint, You Need A Budget, Level Money and Albert Budget App. Over the next couple weeks I am going to personally try each of them out and review them based on user friendliness, effectiveness and overall experience. In the meantime, I have included the links to each website below where you can find additional information on how each one works.

Mint- https://www.mint.com

You Need A Budget- https://www.youneedabudget.com

Albert- https://meetalbert.com

Level Money- https://www.levelmoney.com

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Melani

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Sandy was Quoted in Financial Planning Magazine

Financial Planning Magazine reached out to Sandy to get her reaction to President Trump's proposed tax cuts for businesses and the elimination of certain deductions. This is what she had to say. You can read the full article here: http://www.financial-planning.com/list/rias-support-trump-tax-cuts-for-businesses

Sandys quote on Trumps tax cut in Financial Planning Magazine

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My Social Security Account

In an effort to go green, the Social Security Administration is now only mailing Social Security statements to workers 60 years old and over who are not receiving Social Security benefits. They do however offer a convenient online service that allows you to access your benefit information, earnings records and statements as well as complete a number of other services with the Social Security Administration. You will need to create a My Social Security Account to do so. I have included some instructions taken directly from their site to set up your account along with some detailed information on the benefits of using their online services.

Go to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount

Click on Sign In or Create Account

My Social Security Account 2

What does a my Social Security account let me do?

If you do not receive benefits, you can:

  • new Request a replacement Social Security card if you meet certain requirements;
  • new Check the status of your application or appeal.
  • Get your Social Security Statement, to review:
    • Estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits;
    • Your earnings once a year to verify the amounts that we posted are correct; and
    • The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.
  • Get a benefit verification letter stating that:
    • You never received Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare; or
    • You received benefits in the past, but do not currently receive them. (The letter will include the date your benefits stopped and how much you received that year.); or
    • You applied for benefits but haven’t received an answer yet.

If you receive benefits or have Medicare, you can:

Thank you for Going Green!

 

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Expect the Unexpected

Recently, a family tragedy threw my much anticipated, soon-to-be empty nester plans into disarray. I was reminded of a remarkably astute and humorous line from a John Lennon song: "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans". In May my daughter is graduating from high school and will be moving off to college in the fall. She is majoring in Entrpreneurship and will be attending Chapman University. My son is graduating from trade school this year as well. My husband and I could see the finish line on the horizon and we were very much looking forward to both the financial and personal freedon afforded once our children ventured out on their own in the near future. Overnight, our lives went the complete opposite direction. In February we welcomed our nephews, ages 8 and 11, into our home. They are the sweetest children and bring us much joy but we are saddened they have come to live with us as the result of the sudden death of their father, my husband's brother. I hope my story serves as a reminder that good financial and life planning expects the unexpected. But more importantly, the best planning strikes a balance between seizing the day and saving for the days we hope are ahead of us. Like Sandy said YOLO and remember to savor every bit of fun and joy you can.

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YOLO

Sandy in the Amazon

During my 30 year career I have encouraged  clients to carefully save and prepare for retirement. Now I want you to reach beyond your comfort zone and embrace something new, something exciting, possibly scary. I was recently in the Galapagos and loved that portion of the trip but I also signed up for an Amazon rainforest extension that pushed my boundaries. This self-declared "prissy girl" was going to a very remote part of the world, completely off the grid. No cell, wifi, satellite, news or electricity- which was great for my daughter to be unconnected. We had dim light by solar, hunidity, heat, lots of bugs, birds, snakes, caimans and creatures. I was in a swamp with the Shaman, a medicine man, a healer of the community. To appreciate what we have, go to where they have not. View the world as exciting and try a new hobby, volunteer, give back, get involved. YOLO means "you only live once" and I have lived by that attitude for years. Take the road less traveled. Take a leap.

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A Recent Survey Suggests You Can Save Money by Making One Simple Call

Most people assume that things such as, annual fees, interest rates and late fees are non-negotiable when it comes to credit cards. A new survey from creditcards.com is showing us that this is not the case. In most circumstances all you have to do is call your credit card company and ask. The survey asked 952 American cardholders and the majority received what they asked for. The problem is that hardly anyone asks.

Here are the results from cardholders who asked:

  • 87 percent received a late payment fee waiver.
  • 69 percent got a lower interest rate.
  • 89 percent received a higher credit limit.
  • 82 percent had their annual fee waived or reduced.

If you are looking for ways to reduce or eliminate fees on your credit card it doesn’t hurt to call and ask. The worst they can say is no. This can save you lots of money in the long run, if you carry balances on your cards, so it’s definitely worth a call.

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