Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

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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Advisors in Transition Speaking Engagement

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Sandy was invited to speak at The Advisors in Transition meeting on September 14, 2016 at the offices of Brown and Streza in Irvine, California. She was asked to tell the story of how her career started and how she has transitioned through different phases to become the successful financial advisor she is today. This speaking engagement allowed Sandy to share her best practices, help, mentor and inspire other members to grow to new heights.

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Privacy Notices

 

We’ve all gotten them, those privacy notices from your financial institutions that you get in the mail or receive electronically. Usually they are mailed out once a year or you receive one when you open a new account. Let’s be honest, most of us do not take the time to actually read them and they end up being filed away and forgotten about. Well we recently came across an article on My Money Blog that pointed out exactly what those companies are sharing about you and why it’s important for you to take the time to opt-out if you do not want your personal information shared with other companies.

Here is an example of a privacy notice:

Privacy Notice

The information that they share includes:

  • Social Security number
  • How much you make (Income)
  • How much money you have (Balances)
  • What you buy (Transaction history)
  • How much you borrow (Credit and payment history)

The amount of sharing varies widely:

  • For our affiliates to market to you = We can share with companies who are under the same ownership or control.
  • For non-affiliates to market to you = We can sell your information to anyone! They don’t even have to be financially-related companies.

Most of us are busy with our everyday lives and won’t take the time to opt-out and this is what the financial institutions are counting on. If you are tired of receiving unsolicited offers for credit cards or other services and are worried about your personal information being shared it only takes a small effort to contact your financial institution and opt-out. Most of these privacy notices can be found online when you log in to your account or you can call the company directly. Just imagine the amount of trees you will be saving when you stop getting 5 unwanted credit card offers in the mail a day. Not to mention the peace of mind you will have knowing that your information is not being sold.

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Notary Public

 

We want to congratulate Melani for receiving her Notary Public. We now have three Notary Publics in the office. As a courtesy we offer notary services free of charge to our clients. If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment please give us a call.

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Labor Day

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Our office will be closed on Monday, September 5th in observance of Labor Day.
We will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, September 6th.
From all of us at API, we wish you a safe and happy holiday!
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Mobile Banking Security Tips

 

Mobile Banking Security Tips     

Whether using your phone or a tablet, mobile banking is a wonderful tool that gives you access to your financial world with a touch of a button. Almost all banks and credit cards now have apps that allow you to access your account information, make deposits, complete transfers and make payments directly from your smartphone. While we love the convenience of mobile banking it can also be a way for a thief to obtain your personal information if you are not careful. Here are a few tips to keep you secure while enjoying all of the convenience that mobile banking offers.

  1. Always download banking apps directly from the banks website or the app store.
  2. Never download banking apps on “jailbroken” phones. Phones that have been “jailbroken” or modified no longer have the operating system’s security in effect and are more likely to be hacked.
  3. Always secure your phone with a strong passcode and enable the auto-lock feature in case your phone is lost or stolen.
  4. Never use public Wi-Fi when logging into the app. That is a common way for hackers to get your personal information.
  5. Never respond to a text or email requesting your banking/login information. A real bank will never send a request for this info.
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The Importance of Choosing the Right Trustee

 

More and more people are realizing the importance of setting up a trust for their estate. Having a trust in place insures that your wishes for your estate are carried out on your terms if you become unable to care for yourself or pass away. It also prevents your assets from going into probate after your death and saves a huge headache for your heirs. While having a trust in place is very important it is also very important who you name as the trustee.

There are a few different options when selecting a trustee. The most common scenario is that a married couple sets up a living trust where they are both listed as trustees and they list a child or family member to become the successor trustee. In the case that one spouse passes before the other the living spouse will become the sole trustee until they are incapable of caring for themselves or they pass away. At that point the successor trustee in charge of handling the estate duties.

The responsibilities of managing an estate are many and can be daunting to someone who lacks experience in these types of situations. When choosing your trustee you should choose someone who is (a) willing to dedicate the time and energy to run the estate (b) responsible and possesses good judgement and (c) someone who can be objective when following the instructions set up in the trust. It may seem like the natural choice to choose your child or a family member to act in this role but it may not be the best choice depending on the complexity of your estate and their abilities.

In the case where a person is unsure of who to name as a trustee an estate attorney will usually suggest that a bank be set up as the trustee to carry out the responsibilities of the trust. This is called a corporate trustee. This seems like a good idea because a bank has experience with handling trusts and wealth management. But this is not always the best choice either. When the duties of a trustee are needed the bank will take over the trust, move your assets from whatever accounts you have them set up in now to investments of their choosing and will take over the estate. They will follow the instructions in the estate as wished but it may leave your family without the feeling of a personal connection since they may not have worked with that bank before or know the person handling the assets.

Did you know that you have another option that will help ease the burden on your loved ones by running the estate themselves? There is something called an administrative trustee. In a lot of cases we see a child take over the duties of the estate and get overwhelmed with the process. They may be doing it free of charge but in the long run trying to take care of everything on their own ends up costing more financially and emotionally. An administrative trustee is a company that is set up to handle all of the time consuming paperwork and filing responsibilities of the estate. They do not make any decisions as far as wealth management is concerned. That is still the responsibility of the trustee and their financial advisor. Yes, there is a fee to have an administrative trustee but it can outweigh the stress and headaches that come along with trying to do everything yourself.

The best thing to do is have an open discussion with your family, estate attorney and financial advisor. Make your goals and wishes for the estate clear and set up the trustee that you think will be the best fit for your personal situation. By doing this you will have the peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be followed and that your family will be taken care of in the way that you want.

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Top Reasons to Set Up a Living Trust

 

Even if you are not super wealthy there are many benefits to setting up a living trust. A living trust is a document set up by an estate attorney to help you manage your assets, including property while you are alive and names a trustee to act on your behalf to carry out your instructions, if you become incapable of caring for yourself or pass away. Here are a few of the top reasons why you should set up a trust.

Avoids Probate- A trust allows your heirs to bypass probate which can be a lengthy process and your estate can be charged up to 5% in probate fees. This can mean a substantial savings in time, legal fees and paperwork.

Protection Against Disputes- Unfortunately there may be someone who is unhappy with the way you have instructed to have your assets distributed. A trust is harder to contest than a will is because they have to be able to prove that you were under undue pressure or influence in setting up the trust which is nearly impossible.

Flexibility- Trusts offer more flexibility in how you can distribute the funds. In the case where you may have minor children you can specify how the money is spent and when they would have full rights to the funds.

Avoids Estate Taxes- A trust can provide a way to avoid or reduce estate taxes because assets and property placed into a trust are not subject to these taxes.

Minimizes Family Conflicts- You can specifically detail exact items and monetary distributions to be given to each beneficiary. This helps to curtail any of the “who gets what” problems that may arise with family members.

Privacy- Trusts, unlike wills, are private because they do not go through probate. This means your assets and who you leave them to are kept private.

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Tips to Avoiding Credit Card Fraud While Traveling Abroad

 

We came across an article this morning on Marketwatch.com by Maria Lamagna that had some great tips on preventing credit card fraud while you are traveling abroad. We thought we would pass them on to you…

Bring some cash with you on your trip. Make a visit to your local bank before your trip to convert your cash into the foreign currency or you can convert it at the airport upon your arrival.

If you must use an ATM, it is better to use one at a bank than on the street or another non-financial institution. Examine the ATM before using it for any abnormalities. If the card reader appears not to fit, has glue on it or it is chipped it may be a “skimmer”.

Use credit cards instead of debit cards. Credit cards usually have built in protection for fraud and the credit card company can dispute the charges for you. With a debit card, cash is immediately withdrawn from your account and it can take longer for the funds to be returned to you.

Use mobile payments when you can. Transactions with services like Apple Pay use a tokenization method when making payments. This means that a new token is issued for each transaction instead of transmitting the actual credit card number making the payment more secure.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi as much as possible. Although it may be tempting to log in at the local café to save on data use it is very dangerous and an easy way for hackers to get your personal information. You should also change your password before and after traveling.

Check your account activity often. Look out for any transactions that look out of the norm so you can catch any fraudulent activity quickly. Many banks and credit cards now offer monitoring alerts that you can customize and be notified when an unusual transaction occurs.

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