Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

Tax Deadline is Fast Approaching

The April 18th deadline to file your tax return is right around the corner. In your rush to meet the deadline we would like to remind you that it’s not too late to contribute to your IRA to receive the tax benefit.  The current funding limit is $5,500 for those under 50 and $6,500 for people 50 and over. Even if you participate in a plan at work you may still contribute, you will not receive the tax deduction but the earnings will grow tax free until you are required to take a distribution – over age 70 1/2. . If you have been thinking about opening an IRA to supplement your retirement there is no better time than the present to get one started. Please contact your advisor to determine which type of IRA would best suit your financial needs.

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Account Security

TD Ameritrade issued an alert today that they have seen an uptick in fraudulent account disbursement requests. So far, Asset Planning clients have not experienced any account fraud as we are diligent in verifying that requests for money come from our actual clients.

One tip that TD Ameritrade suggested was having a code word with our clients to verify the authenticity of a request. Please feel free to reach out to us if you would like to implement this extra precaution. 

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Full Retirement Age

API received an email from Asolute Capital that contained this tidbit of information we wanted to share with you: 

 

NOT IN ANY HURRY - 66 is the "full retirement age" (FRA) to receive unreduced retirement benefits in 2015. 43% of men and 37% of women take their Social Security retirement benefits at their FRA or older (source: Social Security Administration).

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6th Annual Gail Moreno Golf Tournament

On October 10th, we will be hosting our 6th Annual Gail Moreno Golf Tournament. All the proceeds of this tournament will benefit the Breast Cancer Angels.

We will be playing golf at Little Rec Golf Course in Long Beach with a shotgun start at 1pm and celebration, raffle, and food to follow. Asset Planning will pay for clients and 1 guest. All additional players are $60 per person.

We also have a Golf Ball Draw. Participants pay a $10 donation for the chance to win $300.

If you would like to play golf or participate in our Golf Ball Draw please contact Samantha at sjg@assetplanninginc.com. You can make your donation via PayPal by visiting the link below or by sending us a check made out to Breast Cancer Angels.

www.gailmorenomemorial.com

If you would like more information about the Breast Cancer Angels, their website is:

www.breastcancerangels.org

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LA Times Money Makeover

Carol was asked to be the Financial Planner for the latest LA Times Money Makeover. 

Click here to see the article or copy and paste the link below.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-money-makeover-ramsey-garcia-20150814-story.html

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Asset Planning, Inc makes top RIA 2015 Ranking

Asset Planning, Inc. makes Financial Advisor Magazine's top RIA, Registered Investment Advisor, 2015 ranking.

Click here for the link.

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Send Us Your Empty Medicine Bottles

Please join Asset Planning in supporting Malawi Project Inc.  We are collecting empty medicine bottles for "Medicine Bottles for Malawi."  The purpose of this is to supply the pharmacies and hospitals in Malawi with containers for dispensing medicine to their patients.  Currently pharmacies and hospitals don't have anything to wrap medicine in except for torn pieces of paper, which means unclean medicine for patients. 

If you would like to donate your old medicine bottles, please send them to Asset Planning by mail or drop them by our office.  We will forward them on to Malawi Project.

Please remove the labels before donating.

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Cyber Security Tips

As more companies and agencies have switched from using traditional methods of record keeping and doing business to using the Internet/cloud, cybersecurity has become a growing issue. Instead of having to obtain physical copies of information, perpetrators can now access personal information such as credit card and social security numbers or passwords by simply using the Internet. In order to avoid identity theft and data breaching, we have provided the following tips:

  • Be aware of your digital footprint: Knowing how many websites have your personal information stored can be vital to protecting yourself against fraud. Making a list or spreadsheet with these websites can be useful, as well as deleting accounts from sites that you no longer use can minimize the chance of fraud.
  • Create strong passwords: Having a strong password can make a difference. Make sure to change passwords for important accounts frequently, and to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Also, using common words/phrases or personal information can make it easier for perpetrators, so be sure that the password is unique. We also recommend avoiding AutoSaving usernames and passwords through the internet, and that to keep a copy of account information in a safe place.
  • Be cautious of what you post on social media: Many fraudsters can gain personal information which can be used to answer security questions through websites such as Facebook or Twitter.    
  • Choose to use Two-Factor Authentication when possible: Two-Factor Authentication requires two different components from the user, such as entering a password as well as a verification code from an email or text message. Many websites now give the option to use this method of fraud prevention, and it can be useful in protecting access to personal information.
  • Update your computer’s firewall and protection programs: Most computers come with a basic firewall that protects fraudsters from gaining access to information, but without updates, the firewall can become faulty. By updating your computer regularly, you can help further prevent fraud.
  • Be wary of suspicious emails: Spam and phishing websites can be sent through email. Avoid opening or downloading attachments from emails that may be spam. Also, make sure to encrypt emails containing important or personal information by services such as SafeGmail or investing in encryption software (some programs provide free trials).  
  • Use secure Wi-Fi connections: Make sure to use a personal or secure Wi-Fi connection when making a transaction or sending emails with personal information, as public Wi-Fi connections can allow others to access your information. Identity theft hotspots include Starbucks and other locations that offer free Wi-Fi. Also, secure personal Wi-Fi connections with renaming the SSID and password with a name that will not identify you.
  • Protect your smartphone and tablets: Setting passwords for smart phones and tablets can prevent perpetrators from accessing personal information. We advise against saving passwords or other important information in the phone in case of theft. If your phone or any other smart device is stolen, call your carrier to have the device locked and shut off.

Following these tips can make a difference in preventing fraud. If someone has gained access to your information, they may be able to answer the security questions TD Ameritrade or Schwab asks, so we highly advise our clients to call Asset Planning directly instead of contacting TD Ameritrade or Schwab when verifying transactions. We work hard on keeping close relationships with our clients, and we are more likely to identify fraud by being able to recognize differences in voice and mannerisms.

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Malicious Tagging Scam

The information below was taken from a recent LifeLock article warning of a new scam:

 

The Better Business Bureau is warning about a new scam called "malicious tagging" that is targeting Facebook users. In recent months, several thousand users of the social media site have become victims of this threat.

It all begins when you get tagged in a Facebook post, along with some other Facebook friends. Since you see your friends are also tagged in the post — and in many cases, a friend of yours appears to have shared the post — you assume the link is safe. However, it turns out to be a link to an "adult" video, and when you click it, a pop-up window appears. You're prompted to download a Flash player update before watching the video, which is really malware.

The malware immediately scans your computer for personal and banking information and then perpetuates the scam, taking over your computer and creating another fake post with some of your friends tagged in it.

The BBB outlines a number of steps to take when you suspect or are confronted with malicious tagging on Facebook, and in some case, when using Twitter.

1. Don't Click

The BBB warns against clicking on links that contain descriptions such as, "exclusive," "shocking" or "sensational" footage. If it sounds over-the-top, it's likely a scam.

2. Be Leery of Shortened Links

Scammers often use link-shortening sites to disguise malicious links. Don't fall for it. If you can't tell the destination of the link without clicking, there's a good chance it could lead you down the wrong path.

3. Don't Trust What Your Friends Post

The malicious tagging scam has impacted so many people because people assume that whatever their friends post is safe. However, you unfortunately can't be sure your friends' computer hasn't been hacked. Even when it appears your friend is "liking" or "retweeting" a link, it could also be part of a scam.

4. Report Scams

To help stop the rapid spread of this malicious tagging scam, it's helpful to report an issue promptly. On Facebook, you can do so by following these instructions. If you're on Twitter, visit this site to learn more.

 

http://www.lifelock.com/education/alerts/the-latest-scam/malicious-tagging-on-facebook/?cid=em_member-communications_Q2-Newsletter_-_nooffer_NewsTrends-Facebook_-_Entry49779498

 

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Update

We successfully raised $15,000 with our Annual Gail Moreno Golf Tournament with the proceeds being donated to Breast Cancer Angels!  Thank you to all of our sponsors and everyone who participated in the tournament!  


In late January, Sandy flew to Florida to attend the ETF Conference and Carol attended the annual TD Ameritrade Conference in San Diego.  These conferences help us to stay on top of the latest trends and connect with other advisors and professionals.


One more piece of news: Asset Planning will not send out money with an email request.  Please call the office to request funds.  If you do send an email, our office will call you to confirm the request.  This is due to hackers sending email requests for funds using client information.  Phone verification allows us to protect you and your funds. 

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Special Needs Trust Workshop

 
 
Below is a link to a 3 part workshop on Special Needs Trusts held at St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, Ca. The event is being organized by a parent that went through the process of setting up a special needs trust and now runs a conservator support group in Orange County.  
 
In short, special needs trusts are used for beneficiaries who are disabled, either physically or mentally.
 
I will be attending the Nov. 8th event for my own knowledge
 
 
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Increases to Retirement Contributions Beginning in 2015

The IRS recently announced that taxpayers can put more away for retirement in 2015. These changes are taking place because the cost-of-living index met specific thresholds that triggered the adjustments. The changes are outlined below:

401(k), 403(b), most 457 & Thrift Savings Plans

  • The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees is being increased from $17,500 to $18,000.
  • Catch-up contributions for those 50 and older has been increased from $5,500 to $6,000.

IRAs

  • The annual contribution limit is remaining unchanged at $5,500.
  • Catch up contributions for those 50 and older also remains unchanged at $1,000.

Roth IRAs

  • The adjusted gross income phase out for taxpayers making contributions is:
    • Singles & Heads of Household: $116,000 to $131,000
    • Married couples filing jointly: $183,000 to $193,000
    • Married filing separate: $0 to $10,000

Tax Deductions

  • The modified adjusted gross income phase out limits are:
    • Singles & heads of household who are covered by workplace retirement plan: $61,000 to $71,000
    • Married filing jointly where the contributing spouse is covered by workplace retirement plan: $98,000 to $118,000
    • Married filing jointly where the contributing spouse is not covered by workplace retirement plan, but is married to someone who is covered: $183,000 to $193,000
    • Married individual filing separate who is covered by workplace retirement plan: $0 to $10,000
  • The adjusted gross income limits for the saver’s credit for low and moderate-income workers:
    • Singles and married filing separately: $30,500
    • Heads of households: $45,750
    • Married filing jointly: $61,000
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5th Annual Gail Moreno Golf Tournament

October 11th, we will be hosting our 5th Annual Gail Moreno Golf Tournament.  All the proceeds of this tournament will benefit the Breast Cancer Angels.  We would like to thank everyone for their support by playing, sending in checks for sponsorship, and/or buying golf balls for the Golf Ball Draw.

If you would like to participate in our Golf Ball Draw, a $10 donation will buy you a chance to win $300 and help us raise funds for the Breast Cancer Angels.  You can make your donation via PayPal by visiting the link below or by sending us a check made out to Breast Cancer Angels.

www.gailmorenomemorial.com

 If you would like more information about the Breast Cancer Angels, their website is:

www.breastcancerangels.org

 

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Identity Theft and Fraud: How can I protect myself?

Last week, Home Depot became one of a growing number of retailers to have their systems hacked and customer data stolen. This has become a widespread problem for a growing number of retailers. Unfortunately, this is probably not the last retailer to have their system hacked to gain access to customer information. The real question is how do you protect yourself?  

There are a number of protection services that will alert you when there is possible fraud or when there are changes to your credit reports. Each provider offers multiple levels of protection from basic alerts to more in depth monitoring. Below is a link to a comparison of the highest rated identity theft protection services. Please note that this is just one review site and other sites may have different rankings.

http://www.reviews.com/identity-theft-protection-services/compare/

If you feel an identity theft protection service is not right for you, there are things you can do to protect your identity on your own. It is important to check your credit card and checking accounts on a regular basis to verify there is no fraudulent activity. It is also important to check your credit report at least once a year.   AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to get a copy of your credit reports for free. There are some websites available that will allow you to check your credit score and monitor your credit activity. Some of them include:

www.creditkarma.com

www.quizzle.com

www.creditsesame.com

If you find that you have been a victim of identity theft, you will need to take some steps to protect yourself, your assets, and your credit score. The first thing you will need to do is contact your bank and credit card companies so that they can monitor your accounts more closely for fraudulent activity. They may also give you a new account number if your account has been compromised. The next person to call if your financial advisor or brokerage firm to let them know. They can be extra eyes looking for transfer requests or suspicious activity. You will also need to check and monitor your credit report to watch for any new accounts being opened or any other unusual activity.

Emails are hacked as well, and in order to protect you Asset Planning, Inc. will no longer send out money requested by email. If you do send us an email, we will call you or request to see you in person to verify that you are the one actually requesting the funds.

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Traveling Abroad with Credit Cards

More and more people have been using credit cards when they travel abroad, and although there are many benefits to using them, they sometimes come with hidden disadvantages. The key to using a credit card abroad is being smart. Knowing which card to use and when to use it can save money and trouble. More and more people are experiencing problems with their cards, so in order to save you the hassle, we have provided you with the following tips to use while traveling abroad with your credit card.

Call your credit card company: Credit card companies sometimes freeze accounts if they see transactions taking place in a foreign country, so before you go on vacation, make sure to call to inform them of your trip. Giving them this information also serves as extra fraud prevention, as they can see if any transactions have been made from places not included in your itinerary.

Check for foreign transaction fees: Credit cards can be much easier to use than cash when traveling, especially if your destination uses a different currency. Before using your credit cards, check to see if the company has a foreign transaction fee. It’s important to find out about these fees before using your card because they can be as high as 3%. Some credit cards that do not have foreign transaction fees include the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, and the BankAmericard Travel Credit Card. Also, be aware that some companies charge this fee even when you visit countries that use the U.S. dollar.

Look into getting an EMV: EMV’s (Smart Cards) are credit cards that provide extra fraud prevention. These cards have a chip, special magnetic strips, and a pin that make it almost impossible to hack. These types of credit cards are highly used in Europe, and some ATM’s and kiosks only accept EMV’s. Some companies that provide smart cards to the U.S. are Bank of America, Chase, Citi, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo.

Call for local customs: Before going on a trip, it is a smart idea to call a hotel to ask what the customs of the region are. For example, there are some countries in which the taxi drivers and guided tours only accept cash. Calling ahead of time allows you to plan how much cash to bring.

Be Prepared: It is smart to bring other forms of payment as back up. Bringing other credit and debit cards, and bringing extra cash are never a bad idea. Also, write down the credit card company’s information so that you can contact them as soon as possible if something occurs.

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Tips for Traveling Abroad

Traveling abroad should be a fun and enjoyable experience, but before leaving on a trip, remember that it is important to be safe and smart. Here are a few quick tips that can help keep you informed and aware when traveling.

Check Security Advisories: Safety should be the top priority, especially when traveling abroad. Before leaving the country, you should check the security advisories regarding any countries that you may be visiting. These advisories, which you can find on various government websites such as http://www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/english.html, are a great way to get informed about any possible threats that you might encounter.

Add Google Alerts: One easy way to stay up-to-date with all the latest news is google alerts. Google alerts give you the latest information on industries, locations, and people through email. Getting access to these alerts is fast and simple. Once you log into your google account, search “alerts”. This page will provide you with the latest trends and the option to search and sign up for the alerts that you choose.

Use Social Media: Social media is one of the best ways to stay informed with the latest information. Before you travel, it is a good idea to follow the Twitter accounts of organizations and groups that belong to the country or countries you will be visiting.

Carry your Passport: When you travel abroad, it is wise to carry your passport with you at all times because it provides others proof of your identity. Although it is smart to always travel with your passport, it is important to remember to keep it in a safe place. To avoid having it stolen, make sure you keep it close to your body. Putting it in a pocket or purse is not recommended, as those locations can be easy targets for thieves. Also, know where the nearest embassy is located in case of an emergency.

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Backup Contacts for your Accounts

As clients age, there is an increased risk of serious illness, diminished mental capacity and potential elder abuse. In order to protect our clients, we will be asking them to fill out a Backup Contact Information Form. This will allow our clients to direct us to who we should speak with and how to get in contact with them if we are unable to contact them for 60 days, if there is serious illness, fear of diminished mental capacity or elder abuse. This information allows for the continued protection of our clients and their finances if one of these instances occur. Due to the current privacy rules, backup contact information is needed in writing.

This information is especially essential for those who are single, as there is no co-owner of the assets and accounts. For those with co-owners/spouses, it is still important to make the designation early in order to protect yourselves. There may be things that can be done in order to protect the client and their beneficiaries. It may also be beneficial to send backup contact information to your CPAs, estate attorneys, insurance agents, etc.

Please be aware that this will not allow the backup contact to make any changes to your account or withdraw any funds.

If you would like a copy of our form, please contact us at (714) 827-5794 or sjg@assetplanninginc.com.

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Medicare Premiums Update and Medicare Surtax

 

Medicare Part B premiums are remaining unchanged for 2014 ($104.90 per month).  Those seniors who had an adjusted gross income of over $170,000 for married couples or $85,00 for all others, there will be an increase in rates for Part B and Part D premiums.  The adjusted gross income will be taken from the 2012 tax returns that were filed.  Total surcharges are phased in by adjusted gross income levels but will not be greater than $300.10 a month.  If you would like more information on the rate breakdown or how this might affect you, please follow the link below to the document provided by the Social Security Administration.

http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10536.pdf

As part of the Affordable Care Act there is a new Medicare surtax that is being imposed on singles earning over $200,000 or couples earning over $250,000 for 2013.  This new surtax only applies to the earnings over the thresholds listed above.  This new surtax is only paid by the employee and does not change the employer portion of the Medicare tax.  This adds 0.9% to the amount of Medicare tax that is being paid and employers have been instructed to withhold the extra 0.9% of Medicare tax on any employee whose earnings exceed $200,000 regardless of filing status.

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Retirement Contribution Limits for 2014

The Kiplinger Letter published a great summary of the changes to Retirement Contribution Limits and it is below:

 

“Several dollar ceilings on retirement plans are heading up this year:

  • The pay in limitation for defined contribution plans increases to $52,000.  That’s a $1,000 hike for Keogh plans, profit sharing plans, and similar arrangements.
  • Retirement plan contributions can be based on up to $260,000 of salary. 
  • And the benefit limit for pension plans is rising to $210,000 in 2014.
  • The income ceilings on Roth IRA pay ins go up.  Contributions phase out at AGIs of $181,000 to $191,000 for couples and $114,000 to $129,000 for singles. 
  • The deduction phase outs for pay ins to regular IRAs start at higher levels, from AGIs of $96,000 to $116,000 for couples and $60,000 to $70,000 for singles.  If only one spouse is covered by a plan, the phase out zone for deducting a contribution for the uncovered spouse begins at $181,000 of AGI and finishes at $191,000.
  • And the partial credit for retirement plan pay ins phases out at higher levels.  For marrieds…at over $60,000.  Household heads…$45,000.  Singles…$30,000.

Several key items won’t change.  The 401(k) pay in limit remains $17,500.  Folks born before 1965 can put in an extra $5,500.  Ditto for 403(b) and 457 plans.  The ceiling on SIMPLEs stays $12,000…$14,500 for folks age 50 or older this year.  Pay in caps for IRAs and Roths remain $5,500 plus $1,000 for anyone 50 and up this year.”

 

The Kiplinger Letter January 3, 2014

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How to Collect Social Security on an Ex-Spouse’s Record

 As long as the former ex-spouse is eligible to receive benefits, you can collect a spousal benefit if you meet the following conditions:

 

                -You have not remarried

                -Your marriage lasted at least 10 years

                -You are 62 or older

 

If your ex-spouse has not yet applied for his benefit, you have to hold off until you have been divorced for two years. As long as you are full retirement age, your spousal benefit will be equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit. The benefit will be less than one-half if you’re younger than full retirement age when you start collecting. Your spousal benefit will not include any delayed retirement credits that your ex-spouse may receive. If you remarry, you generally cannot collect spousal benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends in death or divorce.  

 

 

 

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