Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

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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Congratulations Melani!

Registerred Paraplanner Logo

We are pleased to announce that Melani has earned her Registered ParaplannerSM designation. The coursework she completed has given her the financial knowledge necessary to assist our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERSTM in constructing financial plans for our clients. She will work closely with our advisors and is a valuable member of our financial planning team.

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Reasons Why People Put Off Saving for Retirement

Retiring comfortably is a dream for most people. Unfortunately a lot of people are not adequately saving for their retirement or, even scarier; they are not saving at all. What is preventing them from saving? Usually it’s a mind block that gets in the way. Retirement seems too far off to think of or it’s uncomfortable to talk about. Here are a few reasons that most people delay saving and some tips to overcome these excuses.

Paying off debt and paying for current living expenses - With a lot of people burdened with a mound of student debt after college and paying for current living expenses, the idea of putting anything extra towards retirement savings can seem daunting. While it is important to pay off your debt it is also important to save for your future. Even the smallest amount that you can spare is better than nothing at all.

Instant Gratification- Spending money on items or trips that you want to go on now is highly more satisfying then putting money into a retirement account that you can’t touch for a long time. Sure everyone loves a new purse or a shiny new set of golf clubs. But one thing to ask yourself; are these items worth my future financial security?

Unsure of where to start- A big reason people put off saving for retirement is that they do not know how to get started. There are also many online resources that offer retirement calculators and tips to guide you through the process. You can also contact a financial advisor to help you assess your retirement needs and set up a customized plan to get you started on the right track to a successful retirement.

Procrastination- The mindset of “I’ll do it tomorrow” and then never actually doing it can be one of the biggest disadvantages off all to your retirement savings. Most people do not understand the concept of compounding interest when it comes to savings. Basically, the sooner you start saving, your principal will not only earn interest but over time you’ll earn interest on top of previous years interest and therefore the compounding effect can be huge. If you put off starting to save until you are in your 30s instead of starting in your 20s your money will miss a decade of compounding. The end result is you will have to save significantly more money every month to get to your desired retirement goals then if you had started earlier. The easiest way to get started is through your company if they offer a 401k plan or by setting up an IRA account. With both of these options you can have contributions set up to automatically come out of your paycheck or account. The less you have to think about it the more likely it is that you will do it.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of excuses that people make as to why they can’t save for retirement. The sooner you get started, no matter how much you start with, the better. When you get ready to retire you will not regret taking those first steps you made to invest in yourself and your future.

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Reminder: 2016 IRA Contributions

We wanted to send out a reminder that it's not too late to contribute to your IRA accounts for 2016 as long as you are still working and have not yet met your contribution limit. The IRS deadline for contributions is April 18, 2017. Please give us a call if you would like to make a contribution or have any questions.

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Protect Your Information on the Internet

Be wary of a new websites that makes it very easy for literally anyone to get your personal information. There are numerous websites that offer this information but one of the newest and easiest is FamilyTreeNow.com. In a couple of clicks you can find out virtually anything you would like to know about someone including their address, phone number and possible relatives. The amount of information listed on these sites is scary and makes you a perfect target for identity theft. The sad part about it is that it is perfectly legal for these sites to post this information because it is considered public information. There are somethings you can do about it though. Here are some tips we took from the article from Cyber Security experts with the LAPD.

1) Send mail to a box rental service that lets you use a street address over a P.O. box number (since no one will believe you actually live where a P.O. box number is located)

2) Buy property through a blind trust if you can, so your name isn't linked to where you live. The downside is this is very expensive, and it also can make selling your property more challenging.

3) Give out a Google voice number instead of your actual cell phone number.

4) Opt out of information gathering websites.

Here are the opt-out pages for a few of them: 

FamilyTreeNow.com: https://www.familytreenow.com/optout

Intelius.com: https://www.intelius.com/optout.php

LexisNexis.com: https://www.lexisnexis.com/privacy/directmarketingopt-out.aspx

WhitePages.com: https://premium.whitepages.com/help#about

Spokeo.com: http://www.spokeo.com/opt_out/new

411.info: https://411.info/manage/

ZoomInfo.com: http://www.zoominfo.com/lookupEmail

PeopleSmart.com: https://www.peoplesmart.com/optout-go

BeenVerified.com: https://www.beenverified.com/f/optout/search

PeopleFinder.com: http://www.peoplefinder.com/optout.php

If you need assistance with any of these steps, please feel free to call the office to make an appointment and we will be happy to assist you.

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Emergency Information Folder

We talk to clients everyday about how important estate planning is and how they should have a trust in place to ensure that their wishes are met after they pass away or become incapacitated. While having a trust set up is great it doesn’t really provide all of the details necessary for a spouse or loved one to take care of the day to day tasks of wrapping up your affairs. It is a really good idea to create an information folder that provides the pertinent details such as account numbers and passwords. This is also valuable to have in case of an emergency such as a car accident or house fire. You can grab this folder and go. Here is a list of information you should have in the folder.

• Assets: checking and investment accounts, private business interests, location of safety deposit boxes, annuities, individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s, trust agreements, real estate, vehicles, collectibles

• Liabilities: credit cards, mortgages, car payments, cell phone bills, other recurring bills • Social media/online accounts: passwords and login information for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Amazon, PayPal, eBay, Netflix, Hulu, iCloud or other cloud storage accounts, online photo storage accounts

• Miscellaneous subscriptions/memberships: airline rewards programs, Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco memberships, toll tag accounts, magazines, newspapers • Insurance: life insurance, long-term care, disability, home, auto

• Home maintenance: water, gas, electricity, telephone, alarm, lawn care, cable television, Internet service • Medical: medical conditions, medications, emergency contacts

• Personal: burial/cremation preferences, funeral plans, pre-paid funeral expenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, Social Security card

• Key contacts: financial and legal advisors, doctors, family members, close friends

Each person’s folder will require different information but this is a good start and you can customize it as needed. It also may be a good idea to keep a copy of this information in a folder in your email account, that way you only need to have one password to give out and everything is backed up by the cloud.

(This list was compiled from an article on wealthmanagement.com)

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2017 TD Ameritrade National LINC Conference

TD Conference 2016

Carol, Sandy and Samantha attended the 2017 TD Ameritrade National LINC Conference in San Diego last week. This conference is a great opportunity to stay up to date on the latest industry trends as well as network with their peers, industry experts and technology partners. The information that they take away from the conference helps them continue to expand their knowledge and better service their clients needs.

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New Client Portal

We are excited to announce that we now have a secure portal to transmit sensitive information to and from our clients. We will use this portal to send reports and documents electronically with sensitive information including full account numbers, social security numbers, etc. Each client portal is individual and you will be required to set up a log in to receive and send documents. In order to set up the portal and receive your documents, you will be sent an email with a link to your portal site. You will need to click on the link or copy and paste the web address in to your browser. If you are interested in receiving your quarterly statements electronically through the portal please contact me at sjg@assetplanninginc.com or Melani at melani@assetplanninginc.com and we will be glad to set you up on the portal.

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Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

Our offices will be closed on Monday, December 26th. We will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, December 27th.

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Staff Update

Last month Melani began working on coursework to become a Registered Paraplanner. She is scheduled to finish the program in early 2017 and will enable her to be more involved in assisting the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ in constructing plans for our clients. We are excited for her to earn this certification as it will help better assist our client needs.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

 

Our offices will be closed Thursday, 11/24 and Friday, 11/25. Normal business hours will resume on Monday, 11/28.

 

From all of us at API, we would like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Congratulations Samantha

We are elated to announce that Samantha has passed her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ exam! We would like to congratulate her on this huge accomplishment as well as acknowledge all of the hard work she has put into studying for this exam and just know that she is going to do well. Once she receives her official certification we will have 4 CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ in the office to help with your financial planning needs.

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Happy Veterans Day

 

Happy Veterans Day!

 

“We don’t know them all but we owe them all.” — Anonymous

Veterans Day

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Asset Planning, Inc. Reserved Parking

Asset Planning, Inc. now has reserved parking spots for our clients. They are located near the building's back entrance and have "Reserved for API/H+B" painted on them.

Please feel free to use them next time you come see us!

 

Reserved Parking with Label

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Social Security Announces Benefit Increase for 2017

The Social Security Administration announced this week that there will be a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 65 million Americans. The increase will be 0.3 percent and will start in January 2017. The intention of the increase is to help offset the rising cost of living for seniors.

Medicare premiums for 2017 have still not been announced. We will keep you posted as soon as they are.

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Medicare Premiums

 

The law requires an increase to your monthly Medicare Part B & D premiums if you have “higher Income”. The higher your income, the more you pay. Most people do not pay the higher premium but we want you to be aware that this might happen if you sell a home or stocks with large capital gains or take large distributions from your IRA accounts because it will increase your AGI. Your 2017 Medicare premium will be based on your Adjustable Gross Income (AGI) from your 2015 tax return. Each year the premium is re-evaluated based on your taxes. If you have a large windfall in one year you will only have to pay the increase for one year and then the premium will go back down.

The following is a table that shows the income amounts that were used in 2016:

Medicare Premiums Income Limits

The Social Security cost of living increase and Medicare premium increase have not been announced yet but is expected to be less than 1%. The open enrollment period to change your Medicare plan is from October 15-December 7.

It is also that time of year for Open Enrollment if you are employed with benefits. Make sure you review all the benefit options you have and choose what is right for you. Take advantage of Flexible Savings accounts for healthcare or childcare. Has your income increased – did you also increase your 401K contributions?

Note: You can dispute the increase if your income has decreased substantially. The number one reason is due to death of spouse or divorce. The Medicare website has a list of what reasons are acceptable and what you need to do to dispute the increase.

 

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Steps Wells Fargo Customers Should Take to Protect Themselves

 

The shocking news that Wells Fargo employees opened 1.5 million unauthorized accounts and 565,000 credit cards has caused concern for Wells Fargo customers everywhere. Wells Fargo has said that they will be contacting customers who they feel may have had accounts wrongfully opened and invite their customers to come into a branch to do a review with a banker. We feel however that it is good to be proactive and instead of waiting for a call, do a little research on your own to protect yourself. Here are some steps you should take if you are worried that you may be a victim of fraudulent activity.

Check your accounts- Look at your Wells Fargo online account, call Wells Fargo or go into a branch to review any accounts in your name. Make sure that you authorized any accounts that were opened in your name. Also, look through each account for any unusual fees or unauthorized money transfers. Wells Fargo has been accused of charging illegal fees on student loans as well as making unauthorized money transfers between accounts that may have caused insufficient funds charges.

Check your credit report- If you haven’t checked your credit report recently you should check it now. You can get a free credit report every year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ Look for any unauthorized accounts opened in your name or any unauthorized credit inquiries made by Wells Fargo. If a credit card was opened without your knowledge and there were fees that you were unaware of and were unpaid those may also have been reported to the credit agencies. If you find any discrepancies contact Wells Fargo immediately as well as the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax) to dispute the fraudulent activity and have it removed from your report.

If you are unable to have the issue resolved through the bank or credit agencies you can also submit a claim with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau by calling 855-411-2372 or online @ http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ .

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