Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

Japanese crisis and the markets

In wake of the horrible earthquake and tsunami that has overwhelmed Japan, investors might be fearful of a prolonged market downturn. We are still optimistic on the market for 2011. Prior to the Japanese crisis, the market was experiencing a correction which was quite normal, considering the rapid pace of the upswing. It is our belief that Japan's natural disaster exaggerated this correction and caused panic selling in the last couple days. We do not believe this crisis will result in a prolonged market downturn. History has shown us that the contrary, in fact, happens in these types of situations. Typically, a natural disaster results in large stimulus spending for reconstruction. As ill-fated as the circumstances are, the Japanese economy and its major trade partners, such as the US, China and South Korea, will likely see growth in wake of what has happened. We continue to hope for the best for the people of Japan as we monitor the situation.

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Social Security Tax Break

For the next two years, the social security tax that is withheld from an employee's paycheck is reduced from 6.2% to 4.2%. This concerns me because I keep hearing that social security is not going to be fully funded in the future. I guess the logic is to worry about that problem later. So my purpose today is to give you some recommendations of what to do with your larger paycheck.

I think this is a great opportunity for you to increase your retirement contributions. If you make $100,000, you will have a extra $2,000 for the year. I recommend that you increase your 401K (457 or 403B) or IRA accounts by 2%. This amount is tax deferred and able to grow tax free until you need it in retirement. This will help you increase your retirement savings so that you are not completely dependent on social security.

If you are younger than 50 years old, you can contribute as much as $16,500 to your 401K in 2011, And another $5,500 if you are 50 or older for a total of $22,000.

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Protecting your identity

We recently stumbled along a website that acts like the white pages but instead of the old days when one could just find someone's phone number and address. Now one can find out your income, net worth, names of your family, pictures of you & your home, email addresses, and any other background information the can be dug up on the web.

The website is called Spokeo. To remove yourself from the site follow the below steps:

  1. Search your name
  2. Find your name that matches your address
  3. Copy the URL for your profile
  4. Click on the privacy link at the bottom of the page
  5. Paste the URL & enter your email & the code
  6. You will receive an email to complete the opt out

To find out additional ways to opt out of telemarketing lists visit The Federal Communications Commission Website and to opt out of pre-approved credit card & insurance offers go to OptOutPrescreen.com

 

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Preliminary Proposal for Reforming Social Security

The preliminary proposal to reform Social Security has been release. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is spearheading the effort to restructure Social Security in hopes of saving the program which is expect to become insolvent if left as is. The organization is expected to release their final proposal to Congress Dec 1st.  The main proposed changes are as follows:

  • Increase the amount of income taxed by 2050
  • Reduce benefits for high income earners
  • Reduce COLA's (cost of living adjustments)
  • Increase the full retirement age

To read more about the proposal Click Here

 

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Financial Planning Day is this Saturday Oct 23, 2010

Carol Somoano will be one of the certified financial planners offering advice pro bono this Saturday October 23, 2010 at the Huntington Beach Central Library as part of the FPA's Financial Planning Day.

Financial Planning Day is a free event open to the public. The event runs from 10am-3pm. The library is located at 7111 Talbert Ave Huntington Beach, CA 92648. Registration and event details can be found HERE

This is a good quality event as all volunteers are prohibited from selling products and soliciting business. It is truly for educational purposes and we encourage all that want to learn about personal finance to attend. There will be a variety of 50 minute workshops as well as an opportunity to speak with a planner one on one.

                         

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Guide to Obtaining Credit

Below is a link to a great article in Kiplinger's detailing all the various caveats for obtaining credit these days.

It touches on how self employment, credit scores, debt to income, etc. effects your ability to get a loan.

For those that can qualify, now could be the best time to refinance debt as rates are at their lowest point in history.

To read the article "What it takes to get a loan" in it's entirety CLICK HERE 

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New Mortgage Refinance Program

The government just announced another mortgage refinance program in hopes to aid underwater homeowners. The new program is called The FHA Short Refinance Option and it allows borrowers to refinance up to 97.75% of their home's value. However, a borrower's current lender must be willing to write down at least 10% of the current principal balance and the total mortgage debt on the property can not exceed 115% of the home's value.

A borrower must meet the below criteria to qualify:

  • Be current on payments for their underwater mortgage
  • Refinance their primary residence
  • Have a mortgage debt-to-income ratio of less than 31 percent
  • Have a total debt-to-income ratio of less than 50 percent after the refinance
  • Have a credit score of at least 500

For more information on the program please vist the HUD website.

 

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Correction: California Unclaimed Property

The website to search for your unclaimed property was incorrect in the last post. The correct web site is:
www.sco.ca.gov

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California Unclaimed Property

Yesterday, I attended the Orange County Financial Planning meeting. The California State Controller - John Chiang, spoke to us about being controller of a state that is operating in a deficit.  Once a balanced budget is passed, he is fairly confident that the state can pay its bills for the next 2 years.  He is most concerned about 2012, because that is when the stimulus money is over and the temporary tax hikes expire.  He recently set-up a website that shows what he can and cannot pay without an enacted budget.  Here is the website:
www.sco.ca.gov/august_2010_payments.html

He also talked about the unclaimed property program that is run by his office.  They have a system in which you can type in your name and they list all the money that is sitting unclaimed for you.  There are forms that you have to complete and send in.  I found $27.44 owed to me!  This is from an old refinance I did a long time ago. The web site is www.sco.ca.gov Look under the Featured Links Column and click on "Search for Unclaimed Property" and then click on "Start Your Search" .  Good Luck! 

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Ironman Race Completed!

Just to let everyone know I successfully completed my half Ironman Triathlon race on July 31st. It is also called a 70.3 race, since I traveled 70.3 miles while swimming, biking and running, all back to back.

The race was held in the Santa Rosa or Northern California area. The swim of 1.2 miles was in the Russian River in Guerneville. We began the 56 mile bike portion of the race there, as we exited the water. We rode through the vineyards and extremely beautiful rolling hills, passing dozens of wineries. The course passed through the towns of Heraldsberg and Geyserville, before ending the bike portion in the town of Windsor. There were two significant hills on the course that made all my miles of bike training pay off. I was able to ride up the entire Chalk Hill, passing men and women who were walking their bikes up the steep grade.

From the town of Windsor, the 13.1 run portion began and ended. The run course went through the very hot and dry area where the temperatures were in the high 90's. I had set a goal of finishing within 8 to 9 hours, depending on the heat. I finished the race with one minute to spare, in 8 hours and 59 minutes!

It was an amazing journey to set a fitness goal this big and accomplish it. This took many months of training, sometimes six days a week of workouts. Now I can enjoy my summer!

Dream Big!

Sandy

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