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Fee only financial planner gives insights on how to save more on what you earn.
Blog Added: August 03, 2017 02:20:10 PM
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Some basic financial literacy everyone should know

Most people don't know this answer. Is interest on your credit card calculated monthly or daily? If you guessed monthly, for the majority of credit cards, you would be wrong. How is interest calculated? Let's say you're working on paying of your credit card, and your annual APR is 20%, which in your credit lender's books, would make your daily interest rate roughly 0.0548% on whatever balance you're carrying after your grace period. After making a bill payment, you've still got $1000 left...

Most people don't know this answer. Is interest on your credit card calculated monthly or daily?
If you guessed monthly, for the majority of credit cards, you would be wrong.
How is interest calculated? Let's say you're working on paying of your credit card, and your annual APR is 20%, which in your credit lender's books, would make your daily interest rate roughly 0.0548% on whatever balance you're carrying after your grace period. After making a bill payment, you've still got $1000 left on your balance. On Day 1, the bank will start tacking that daily interest charge to your balance, bringing it to $1005 in their books – even though you'll still see an even $1000. On Day 2, you'll get charged that same daily interest on your new $1005 balance, not just the $1000. That interest will continue to compound each day until you've paid down your balance. Over the year, it equals 22.13% So just like when you pull up to a gas station, and it shows 2.50 in large letters and that 99 in small letters. What the interest rate amounts to is a teaser rate.
Now get this, the average american has $16,048 in credit card debt. Roughly 38% of all house holds carry a credit card balance, and the average interest rate is 15.99% on travel rewards credit cards. Thisinformation is as of September of 2017. Now lets put it into real numbers. If you kept that balance all year long, you would end up paying 17.33% which in dollars and cents is 2,781.96. Considering the average cost of a vacation for a family of four is 4,300. You are essentially giving 2/3 of a vacation away in just interest. Think about
it like that, and you may not pull out your credit card next time to buy that unneeded item.
Have ever made a budget, or analyzed your cash flow? Every dollar you spend should be accounted for so you can see the flow of your capital. Are you spending too much on your cable bill? Are you spending more money on Starbucks every month, than you should? How would you really know unless you build out a budget and see where your cash actually goes. At the end of this chapter is a simple worksheet for you to build a budget. On it you will make a stat line of how much you want to spend in each area of your life, food, coffee, bills, etc, and then actually track your spending and update the actual part of the budget. This will show you how far apart you are from what you think you spend and what you're actually spending. This will create accountability with your income and expenses. If you want you can take it a step further and bring in an accountability buddy that will make sure you stay on track. This could be a family member or friend. With all that extra cash, you could use it to save for retirement or pay down debt.
When is the last time you checked your credit score? Your credit score is by far the most important “score” in your life. It is how banks, credit cards, and even car insurance companies rate you. According to MyFico the difference between a 620 score and a 760 credit score for mortgages is over 150 basis points. On a 300,000 loan that translate to an extra 290 dollars a month! Oh by the way, most mortgages compound monthly.
Unlike your credit report, credit bureaus are not obligated to tell you what your credit score is once a year. I’d recommend using either Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to find your credit score, otherwise known as your VantageScore. You can also pay for a $1 trial at any of the 3 major credit bureau websites (Equifax, Transunion and Experian) but it only lasts 7 days and they automatically re-bill you between $20-$30 a month after the seven days are up.
At the same time, I’d also suggest getting your credit reports from www.AnnualCreditReport.com. If you’re trying to see on your credit score, I’d suggest drawing all three reports at once since they look different for about 90% of people who have used credit in the past.
Below I have included a budget worksheet from the consumer site of the government.
https://www.consumer.gov/sites/www.consumer.gov/files/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet_form.pdf
This shows how you can build a budget yourself easy and quickly. If you need any help at all filling it out, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at dperrotto@ceteraadvisors.com



Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA

An important question I always get asked is “Which retirement account should I open?” Let’s talk about the differences between a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA first and foremost. The type of individual retirement account (IRA) you choose can significantly affect your long-term savings and retirement plans, so it’s worth understanding the differences between Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs in order to select the best one for you, that will help your family the most in retirement.Income...

An important question I always get asked is “Which retirement account should I open?” Let’s talk about the differences between a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA first and foremost. The type of individual retirement account (IRA) you choose can significantly affect your long-term savings and retirement plans, so it’s worth understanding the differences between Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs in order to select the best one for you, that will help your family the most in retirement.
Income Limits. Anyone with earned income who is younger than 70½ can contribute to a Traditional IRA. Whether the contribution is tax deductible depends on your income and whether you or your spouse are covered by a retirement plan through your job, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Roth IRAs don’t have age restrictions, but they do have income-eligibility restrictions: Single tax filers must have modified adjusted gross incomes(AGI) of less than $133,000 in 2017 to contribute to a Roth IRA. Married couples filing jointly must have modified AGIs of less than $196,000 in 2017 in order to contribute to a Roth. So right off that bat, your modified AGI is over 200k, a Roth IRA is out of the question for you, and you would need to find other avenues for tax deferred/free growth, such as a variable annuity.
Tax Incentives. This is the biggest difference between the two. Both Traditional and Roth IRAs provide different tax breaks. What it comes down to, is a matter of timing when you get to claim them. Traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible on both state and federal tax returns for the year you make the contribution which means, if you contribute 5000 in 2017, you take the deduction for 2017; withdrawals in retirement are taxed as ordinary income tax rates. Roth IRAs provide no tax break for contributions, but earnings and withdrawals are generally tax-free. So with Traditional IRAs, you avoid taxes when you put the money in. With Roth IRAs, you avoid taxes when you take it out in retirement. Generally speaking, younger adults are better off opening an Roth IRA while they have time on their side as opposed to later in life, where you will not have the power of compounding interest work for you so long. Lastly, with both types of IRAs, you pay no taxes whatsoever on all of the growth of your contributed funds, as long as they remain in the account.
Withdrawal Rules. One major difference between Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs is when the savings must be withdrawn. With traditional IRAs, you are required to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs). This is a mandatory, taxable withdrawals of a certain percentage of your funds, at age 70½, whether you need the money at that point or not. The government wants their tax revenue, and you are forced to take out the cash. Roth IRAs, on the other hand, don’t require any withdrawals during the owner’s lifetime. If you have enough other income, you can let your Roth IRAs continue to grow tax-free throughout your lifetime, making them ideal wealth-transfer vehicles. The same applies to your heirs. Beneficiaries of Roth IRAs don’t owe income tax on withdrawals and can stretch out distributions over many years. However, beneficiaries may still owe estate taxes. With an inherited IRA, you have to take out RMD’s as well, and spend down the cash in the account over a certain amount of years.
Exceptions to withdrawals. Both Traditional and Roth IRAs allow owners to begin taking penalty-free, “qualified” distributions at age 59½. Any distribution before 59 ½ gets hit with a 10% penalty. However, Roth IRAs require that the first contribution be made at least five years before the first withdrawal, in order to avoid incurring a tax payment. If you meet that benchmark (and you only have to meet it once), you will have only paid taxes on what went into the account, not the sum you eventually take out.
Traditional IRA exceptions. If you are under 59½, you can withdraw up to $10,000 from your account without the normal 10% early-withdrawal penalty to pay for qualified first-time home-buyer expenses and for qualified higher education expenses. Hardships such as disability and certain levels of unreimbursed medical expenses may also be exempt from the penalty. Just remember you will still pay taxes on any distribution.
Roth IRA exceptions. Contributions, but not earnings, can be withdrawn penalty and tax-free at any time, even before age 59½. If you are under 59½, you can withdraw up to $10,000 of Roth earnings penalty-free to pay for qualified first-time home-buyer expenses, provided at least 5 tax years have passed since your initial contribution. Roth IRAs can be invested in literally anything you want: index funds, life cycle funds, individual stocks, or even alternative investments. In contrast, there are some limits to the types of assets a Traditional IRA can hold.
You are going to have to ask yourself some questions about your current and future work situation: Which federal tax bracket are you in today? Do you expect to be in a higher or lower one after you retire? Will your annual income increase or decrease through retirement? Although common sense suggests that gross income declines in retirement, taxable income sometimes does not. Think of it like this, you’ll be collecting and paying taxes on Social Security payments. You might opt to work part time. And once the kids are grown and you stop adding to the retirement nest egg, you lose some valuable tax deductions and tax credits. All this could leave you with higher taxable income, even after you stop working full-time.
It’s important to sit down with your financial advisor and accountant to see which situation works best for you.



Credit reporting myths and how being misinformed can hurt your credit score

As with most American’s, we use our credit daily, by using our credit cards to build reward points, having a mortgage on the way to home ownership, to having a small business loan to achieve entrepreneurship. Credit scores are constantly on the top of our minds,but for many, poor financial literacy can hurt you for years. A few months ago Transunion did their annual credit literacy survey, The online survey includes responses from 1,002 U.S. consumers age 18 and older, and the results...

As with most American’s, we use our credit daily, by using our credit cards to build reward points, having a mortgage on the way to home ownership, to having a small business loan to achieve entrepreneurship. Credit scores are constantly on the top of our minds,
but for many, poor financial literacy can hurt you for years. A few months ago Transunion did their annual credit literacy survey, The online survey includes responses from 1,002 U.S. consumers age 18 and older, and the results were shocking. I am going to break down a few of the biggest myths, and see if I can help improve your financial literacy while we are at it.
How does closing a credit account effect your credit score? This is a big one. I know one person who has a Dell credit card for 8 years, and pays a crazy annual fee because if he closes it, it will “hurt his credit.” 35% of respondents said closing your credit card hurts your credit score, another 20% have no clue if it does or not. The main two things that will affect your credit score when closing an account is If the card represents a small amount of available credit or has a short credit history, the closing may have minimal or even no impact on a credit score. If your oldest credit card also has the most available credit, this can hurt your credit. If you opened a credit card for a promotion, and close it out after that promotion, most likely it will have a minimal effect on your credit profile.
If I check my credit a lot to make sure there isn’t any fraud, won’t that hurt my credit score? A hair under 45% of people think that checking their credit score hurts their credit score. Let’s break down the two types of credit pulls. First is a soft pull, this comes from the consumer, and it does not affect the credit score, the second is what we call a hard pull, and this is for when you are applying for credit, and this does affect the credit report. Most reporting companies want to see only 2 or less hard pulls in a two-year period. But for soft pulls, you should be checking weekly. It is crucial to check your credit to make sure no fraud or identity theft has happened. AT best consumers should use a company like ID Shield (insert my link) to proactively watch over their full credit profile for fraud.
If I activate a credit freeze or credit lock will it prevent lenders from accessing my credit report? There are three major U.S. credit reporting agencies in America. They are Transunion, Equifax, and Experian, and each has a credit report for every consumer who applied for any type of credit in the country. Many experts as well as the agencies themselves encourage consumers to freeze their credit when not in use, to protect themselves against fraud. When asked, almost half of all respondents said they believe it’s possible to protect all of their credit reports at once, even though there is no tool to actually do this.
Included below is how to actually freeze your credit with the different agencies.
Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742
Trans Union — 1-888-909-8872
You'll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live, but commonly range from $5 to $10.
Does being married affect my credit score? Almost 45% of consumers think marital status is on a credit report. Even more telling, more than half of consumers ages 55 and up believe marital status is factored into credit reports. No, marital status does not appear on a credit report, but what does show on a married couples credit is joint purchases like a house or car. Also what happens is that both spouses add each other as authorized users to each other’s accounts, but you do not need to be a spouse to do any of these things. A parent can cosign for a child. A business partner can cosign for another. Couples shopping together should keep in mind that the individual with the lower credit score can dictate lending terms or even loan approval rate, if they are applying jointly, most of the time, the person with the lower credit score is who the bank/loan company will use, so it’s incredibly important that both spouses monitor each other’s credit worthiness.
If my credit is low, does it stop me from traveling internationally? Almost one third of adults surveyed thought having a low credit score dictates if they are allowed to leave the country. This is large myth. Having a good credit score allows you to have credit cards that offer certain perks such as travel insurance, and car rental insurance, and no foreign transaction fees, but credit in no way dictates your ability to travel from one country to another.
If I am late on my utility bill, will that be reported on my credit report? Half of all respondents said that late utility bills are reported on their credit reports. This is a tricky one. Some utility companies report on time payments as well as late payments, some only report if you are late, and most report if you slip into collections. Remember credit is the ability to pay one’s financial obligations, and is the cornerstone of our society, which is why it’s so crucial to ensure the payment of all accounts on time and if possible, in full amount each month. Even small utility bills, if not paid, can damage a credit score.
So as you can see, there are many misconceptions about credit reporting, credit scoring, and what your credit report actually gets used for. I hope I cleared some of this up for you. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to give me call at 718-551-7131 or shoot me an email at dperrotto@ceteraadvisors.com



4 Questions Expecting Parents Have About Life Insurance

If you are expecting a child and are considering life insurance, the first thing you should realize is this is a smart move! But if this is your first time looking for coverage, you may have questions. Here are some of the typical ones you most likely are wondering about:The number one question always asked, what type of life insurance coverage is best for new parents, term or permanent? Before figuring out what kind of coverage you need, you first have to understand how much death benefit...

If you are expecting a child and are considering life insurance, the first thing you should realize is this is a smart move! But if this is your first time looking for coverage, you may have questions. Here are some of the typical ones you most likely are wondering about:
The number one question always asked, what type of life insurance coverage is best for new parents, term or permanent? Before figuring out what kind of coverage you need, you first have to understand how much death benefit you need to protect your family. You can do an easy calculation online to get a working idea of how much you may need with thisLife Happens Life Insurance Needs Calculator.
Then you can move on to what kind of coverage makes the most sense, term or permanent, and which one meets your needs. An advantage of term life insurance is that it costs less than permanent, at least initially. This makes it affordable for young families that may not have a lot of disposable income, but have a large need for coverage. Permanent insurance provides both lifelong coverage and a cash accumulation feature, which can be a valuable source of money that you can tap in the future. Often, the best solution can be a combination of term and permanent life insurance. The term policy can give you extra coverage during the beginning years when the children are at home, and when coverage is cheap, and with the permanent policy offering lifelong coverage that you can tap into in the future.
Should you consider different types of coverage if one spouse is a working parent versus a stay-at-home parent? Both working and stay-at-home parents need protection because what they do for their families is so valuable. While a stay-at-home parent isn’t compensated for their work, if something were to happen to them, it would be expensive to replace all those things they do—from childcare to home care to ensuring the family gets where they need to go when they have to be there. The difference between the two is that a working parent also contributes an income, which may be critical to the family financially. That means they needs to think about replacing that income when considering how much life insurance coverage he or she may need.
The company where you work offers life insurance, is that enough? Group insurance is a great benefit to have, but it’s limited in a number of ways. First, the coverage is often a lump sum, such as $50,000, or it may be one to two times your salary. That may sound like a lot of money, but the main question to ask yourself is: Honestly, how long would that money last? And what would happen to your family financially after that was gone? Second, when you leave that job, you generally lose that coverage. If you don’t have an individual policy that you own, you’ll be leaving your family at risk. Think of how many times people change jobs, and you’ll quickly realize that group coverage, which is limited in scope and amount, is not a proper life insurance plan.
What can I expect to pay for life insurance? How much you pay for life insurance is based on a number of things but most importantly age and health. So, it depends on how old and how healthy you are! But here’s an example: A healthy 30-year-old woman could get $250,000 in term life insurance coverage (for a 20-year level term policy for a nonsmoker) for around 41 cents a day. That’s offers a certain level of peace of mind for 12 dollars a month. While a permanent life insurance policy is roughly a few hundred a month for the same coverage, it offers cash value, potential for dividends, as well as the ability for life long coverage.
These are the main questions asked in my experience with new or expecting parents in regards to life insurance. It’s worth it to either have that peace of mind with term life insurance while the kids are growing up, or build a potential nest egg with permanent life insurance, that gives your family life long coverage. It’s also important to not wait. Waiting only drives the cost up with life insurance. A 55-year-old whose health is in decline is going to pay much more than a 45-year-old in great health. Either way it makes sense to talk to a financial professional about getting coverage for your future family.



Claiming Social Security Benefits

One of the biggest decisions retirees have to make is, deciding when and how to claim Social Security benefits. Despite changes to two rules that took effect in 2016, there are still opportunities abound to maximize lifetime benefits for married couples, divorced spouses, survivors and dependents. First, let’s go over what changed in 2016. Individuals who were at least 66 years old and who filed and suspended their benefits by the deadline, April 29, 2016, are grandfathered under the old...

One of the biggest decisions retirees have to make is, deciding when and how to claim Social Security benefits. Despite changes to two rules that took effect in 2016, there are still opportunities abound to maximize lifetime benefits for married couples, divorced spouses, survivors and dependents.
First, let’s go over what changed in 2016. Individuals who were at least 66 years old and who filed and suspended their benefits by the deadline, April 29, 2016, are grandfathered under the old rules. The one date you need to know about the new rules for married couples and divorced spouses: Jan. 1, 1954. Eligible individuals who were born on or before that date can still claim only spousal benefits when they turn 66 and collect half of their mate or ex-mate’s full retirement age benefit while their own retirement benefit grows by 8% per year. At 70, when the delayed retirement credits end, they can switch to their own maximum benefit. Also, the action triggered benefits for a spouse or dependent child, even if the family members become eligible for benefits after the deadline. Meanwhile, the worker’s own retirement benefit continues to grow by 8% per year up to age 70.
People born after Jan. 1, 1954 will never get the chance to choose to claim only spousal benefits. Whenever they claim Social Security, they will be “deemed” to file for all available benefits and be paid the highest amount to which they are entitled based on their age at time of claim, whether on their own earnings record or as a spouse. Even with the demise of the spousal-benefit-only strategy for future retirees, it is still important for married couples to coordinate their Social Security benefits. The spouse with the higher benefit should delay claiming up to age 70 to create the largest possible retirement benefit, which will translate into the largest possible survivor benefits for the spouse that remains.
Deeming rules do not apply to widows and widowers. Surviving spouses who are entitled to their own retirement benefits can claim one type of benefit first and switch to the other later, in either order, if it would result in a bigger benefit. Survivor benefits are worth up to 100% of the deceased worker’s benefits, but they do not earn delayed retirement credits. They are worth the maximum amount if claimed at full retirement age.
Ex-spouses who were married at least 10 years, divorced and currently single can collect on their ex’s Social Security record as if they were still married. Divorced spouses born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, can claim only spousal benefits — even if their ex has not yet claimed benefits — if both former spouses are at least 62 years old and they have been divorced at least two years. Ex-spouses born after that date must file for their highest benefits based on their age at time Normally, survivor benefits end when a widow or widower remarries. However, if a surviving spouse or surviving divorced spouse waits until age 60 or later to remarry, they can continue to collect survivor benefits on their late spouse or late ex-spouse even while married to someone else.
If a worker receives Social Security disability benefits, the worker’s spouse — or ex-spouse — may be entitled to spousal benefits worth up to half of the disabled worker’s benefit amount. Disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits at full retirement age, but the amount remains the same.
Minor children under age 18 or permanently disabled adult children may be entitled to dependent benefits worth up to 50% of the parent’s retirement or disability benefits and survivor benefits after the death of the parent worth up to 75% of the parent’s benefit amount. Each dependent’s benefits can be reduced if combined family benefits exceed maximum limits that range from 150% to 180% of a worker’s basic benefit amount.
Anyone who collects a Social Security benefit — as a retired worker, spouse, dependent or survivor — before full retirement age and continues to work is subject to earnings restrictions. In 2017, they would forfeit $1 in benefits for every $2 earned over $16,920 if they are under full retirement age for the entire year. Earnings limits do not apply to investments or pensions and disappear at full retirement age.
Social Security beneficiaries can change their mind and withdraw their application for benefits within the first 12 months of claiming them. But there’s a catch. They must repay all the benefits they have received and any family benefits collected on their earnings record. Later, they can restart their benefits at a higher amount based on their new claiming age.
If they miss that 12-month window, they can voluntarily suspend benefits — but not repay — to earn delayed retirement credits of 8% per year up to age 70. They cannot collect any benefits during the suspension period nor can anyone collect benefits on their record during that period



How does interest work?

One of the most common questions I get asked in my profession is “How does interest work”? To understand how they work, we’re going to break down each area of loans.First let’s go over quick how normal people go about getting debt. Our easiest form of debt is going to come from credit cards. Credit cards have no collateral if we default on them, so the bank has to take into consideration, if anything negatively happens to us, that would be the first debt we wouldn’t pay. The average...

One of the most common questions I get asked in my profession is “How does interest work”? To understand how they work, we’re going to break down each area of loans.
First let’s go over quick how normal people go about getting debt. Our easiest form of debt is going to come from credit cards. Credit cards have no collateral if we default on them, so the bank has to take into consideration, if anything negatively happens to us, that would be the first debt we wouldn’t pay. The average interest rate ticks in about 15%. Next, we have auto loans. Auto loans use the car you buy as collateral. Now that you have something that can be taken back if you don’t pay, the interest rate is much lower. The average rate comes in at 4.21%. Lastly, the largest loan most people ever take, is of course, their home. Even though that loan is very large, you have a large asset that creates the collateral for your loan, the average 15-year mortgage as of September 2017 was 3.39%.
So what does this mean? Let’s use your credit card as an example. With a 15% interest rate, and 1000 dollars of debt, if you were to pay 25 dollars a month, it would take you 63 months to pay off the debt, and you would have paid the bank an extra $538.62 dollars. So let’s break down the payment, since you are giving them 25 dollars a month, why isn’t it going down more. Because of the balance, 150 of that 1000 dollars is being charged as “interest”, which is the money the bank is charging you to use their money. So in reality your 25-dollar payment you made on your 1000 dollars of debt really breaks down to 15.00 in interest and 10 dollars in principal. So next month you would see a balance of 990 dollars. The next month you make a payment of 25 dollars, you would pay 14.85 in interest and 10.15 in principal. Now let’s put this all together for the average American family.
The average American family has $5,700 of debt. If we assigned paying 300 a month to this debt, roughly 70 dollars would be going to interest a month, and it would take 22 months to pay the debt off in full. The average car loan this family has is 30,000. This family pays 500 a month for their car, and their term is 68 months. Remember this is all the average American family. Of their 500 dollars, roughly 99 is going to interest. So as you can see, things start to add up, just on your credit card debt and auto debt, the average American family is spending almost 200 extra a month on literally nothing. 200 dollars a month into a retirement account would do incredible things to your retirement chances.
One of the most important things you can do to financially get ahead, before investing, before saving, is paying down high interest debt. If you need help budgeting, don’t hesitate to give your advisor a call.



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