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Fee only financial planner gives insights on how to save more on what you earn.
Blog Added: August 03, 2017 08:20:10 PM
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Life Insurance Q and A

As an advisor, I get asked a lot of questions about life insurance, and polices that already are in force, so I put together a few Questions and Answers that I get asked the most about, and how each one effects the insured/owner. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to give me a call. Q: I currently have a life insurance policy; could I get a better price elsewhere? A: Short answer, most likely. The long answer is that it depends on quite a few factors, and there’s no guarantee...

As an advisor, I get asked a lot of questions about life insurance, and polices that already are in force, so I put together a few Questions and Answers that I get asked the most about, and how each one effects the insured/owner. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to give me a call.
Q: I currently have a life insurance policy; could I get a better price elsewhere? A: Short answer, most likely. The long answer is that it depends on quite a few factors, and there’s no guarantee that your price will drop with a second application. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is your age. The older you are, the higher your chances of dying, which will increase the baseline price of a policy. Also, as you get older, the chances of something being wrong with you increases as well. Applying for a policy at 50 will be more expensive than applying at 40, all other things being equal.
Q: Guess what! My health has improved since I got my last policy, should I reapply for a better price? Depending on how much your health has improved and the amount of time that has passed since your previous application, you could see significant price drops. One of the biggest ways to drop the price of your insurance is smoking. It’s one of the priciest things that you can do with regard to a life insurance application, and typically, you need to have kicked the habit at least one year before life insurance carriers are willing to look past your tobacco history. A smoker in his 40s can expect to pay three to four times as much.
Q. My last agent sold me a policy from the company he worked for. Can I get a better price if I shop around? A. This means that the agent that sold you the policy was what we call, captive. This means he only represented one insurance company. There are dozens of life insurance companies, and all offer different prices, benefits, and riders. The first thing you should do is work with an independent agent who isn’t forced to only work with one company. It’s very possible you will find a better policy with a better price. To give you a comparison, it’s like going to the store to buy a car, but they only have one car in one color for one price. To make sure you are getting the best price, ask for multiple quotes.
Q: How long does it take my beneficiaries to get my life insurance death benefit? A: Once the death benefit claim form and a copy of the death certificate have been received by the carrier, beneficiaries typically receive the death benefit check within 14 calendar days. Just remember, if the insured dies within two years of the policy, the insurance company has the right to investigate the death, so it may take a little while longer.
Q: How do I know my beneficiaries will get paid the death benefit? A:Life insurance companies have been around a long time, and have gone through many trials and tribulations. They are not in the business of ripping beneficiaries off. As long as your policy is in force at the time of your death, meaning it was paid up and in good standing, your beneficiaries will receive the death benefit payout. There are only a few exceptions to this, such as fraud.
Q: Are there any situations in which my life insurance policy won’t pay out? A: There are three instances in which a life insurance company can choose to deny or reduce a term life insurance policy’s death benefit. Let’s look at each one in detail;
Contest-ability Period Life insurance companies include a provision called an “Incontestability Clause”. This clause basically says the Life insurance company has a specific period of time (In a majority of cases, it’s 2 years) to contest the validity of any statements made on the insurance application. So if something happens to the insured within the “incontestability” period, the company has the right to investigate. One really easy example of this is, if you said you do not smoke cigarettes, so that you could pay less for insurance, when in fact you actually do, the insurance company would check your medical records, and may out right deny your beneficiaries claim.
Suicide Clause Another situation where a life insurance company would most likely deny your beneficiaries claim would be if the insured commits suicide within a certain period of time (again, most likely two years). They would deny the request, and return all premiums paid to the family, as opposed to outright denying the claim.
Homicide The last reason an insurance company may not pay a death benefit is over if the insured was murdered. The Insurance company would in this cases ask for a police report to make sure the beneficiary of the policy isn’t a suspect. If the beneficiary is a suspect, they would hold payment until the charges are dropped or the beneficiary is declared not guilty.
Q: Will my life insurance death benefit payout be taxed? A: In most cases, your beneficiaries will not have to pay federal or state income taxes on the death benefit they receive. Premiums are paid using after-tax dollars, so they have been already taxed. There could be two exceptions to this rule, either through Estate taxes, or Gift taxes. If you own your own policy, the death benefit proceeds become part of your taxable estate. If your estate exceeds the exclusion amount, which as of 2017 is $5.49 million, it can get taxed. For most people, this isn’t an issue. The second exception can happen If the policy owner, insured, and beneficiary are three different people, the death benefit could count as a taxable gift to the beneficiary. One option to remedy both exceptions is to use an irrevocable life insurance trust. <~~ Link this to blog
Q: How can I be sure my policy’s life insurance company will still be around when I die? A: All major life insurance companies have financial strength ratings. There are multiple agencies each with their own rating scales and standards that assess the long-term financial stability. These ratings follow an A through F scale. The higher the rating, the more stable the company is and the more likely the company will be able to pay future claims. When you are looking to purchase life insurance, whoever you are using to buy it through, should tell you their rating. Any company with an A rating or better I’d consider financially stable.
Q: How often should I review my policy? A: I suggest reviewing your life insurance policy once per year to make sure you have enough coverage. I’d also suggest getting a quote to make sure you are paying the least amount for the most amount of coverage and features. Most importantly, if any life and circumstances change, such as getting married, having a child, buying a home happen, you should upgrade your coverage.
Q: What should I look for during my policy review? A: When reviewing your policy, you should look for anything that may need updating. Examples include your name, address, phone number, billing information, and beneficiary. You should review also your financials. You should ask yourself; Is this enough coverage? Did my health change for the better? Do I think I can qualify for a better rate? Any or all these can be reasons to review your policy.
Q: When should I update my beneficiaries? A: Make sure you keep your beneficiary designations up to date. There are certain life events that you will want to change beneficiaries. These include: Marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or your designated beneficiary passes away.
Q: When should I apply for a new policy for more coverage? A: This is a catch 22. As you get older, your insurance needs change, but your premiums will rise considerably. You may have purchased a small insurance policy when you were fresh out of college to cover your student loans. Ten years have passed and now you’re married with kids. You would want to increase you policy to cover your kid’s schooling, as well as maybe a mortgage, etc. Any time you have a life changing event such as being married, or having a child, it’s a good idea to apply for a new policy with more coverage.



The Four Walls of Retirement Income

With people living longer then ever, and now the average life expectancy moved up to 87 years, many people ask themselves Will they outlive their money? It might seem impossible to answer. Who really knows how long they will live, never mind the roller coaster of the investing world? This answer seemed so much easier, back in the day. Yet you can know some things, such as how much income you are likely to need in retirement, and how much you will likely generate when you actually retire....

With people living longer then ever, and now the average life expectancy moved up to 87 years, many people ask themselves Will they outlive their money? It might seem impossible to answer. Who really knows how long they will live, never mind the roller coaster of the investing world? This answer seemed so much easier, back in the day. Yet you can know some things, such as how much income you are likely to need in retirement, and how much you will likely generate when you actually retire. But income is the first step. After you stop working, how much money you have coming in each month will determine not only your lifestyle but the likelihood of that money lasting as long as you need it to last.
1. Social Security
It's much easier to figure out your income from Social Security contributions now than it ever has been. The government has long mailed out annual estimates, but now you can go online and look up your current retirement income analysis any time you like. Go to My Social Security and create an account. It will take a few steps to identify, but it's well worth it. From there, you can easily see what the Social Security Administration currently believes you will receive at early retirement (age 62), full retirement (67) and at age 70, the latest age at which you can file for income benefits. This should make up roughly 43% of your retirement income on average.
2. Pensions and annuities
This is increasingly rare for American retirees, but if you work or worked in the past for a government agency or a large corporation, you might have a pension plan waiting for you. This is also known as non-contributory deferred retirement plan. Likewise, you may have purchased an annuity inside an IRA as well. You can learn the ultimate monthly and annual income values of such plans by directly contacting the plan administrators. You should be getting a quarterly statement. If not, make sure they know where you live and how to contact you. This should make up roughly 25% of your retirement income on average.
3. Portfolio holdings
Income from investments can be difficult. I like to suggest that 4% is good percent of money to withdraw from a conservatively invested portfolio, a majority of that withdrawal coming from dividends. However, like investing itself, income from investments is a moving target, and can change at any given time. The important point is to make sure that your calculations include income from the other three walls here, and that you stay smart about income taxes in retirement as well. On average this makes roughly 12% of your retirement income.
4. Working
It's easy to give up and say, "I'll just work forever!" But if you know what to expect from the previous three income sources, it might change your attitude toward what work you choose to continue doing and for how long. For instance, rather than seeking part-time work year-round, your income from Social Security, a pension and investments might create an opportunity to work seasonally and perhaps travel off-season. Balancing work and play is no less important in retirement as it was during your full-time working life. On average this makes up roughly 11% of retirement income.
In the end, a good retirement must be managed, much like a good career. Once you add up all of the potential income sources, things often start to look better, and if coordinated correctly, your foundation, and 4 walls will hold your financial house up well through retirement.
Putting The Four Walls of Retirement Cash Flows Together
Ultimately, these components of interest, dividends, capital gains, and principal form the four walls of your retirement income house. In some years, the biggest drivers to total return are from interest and dividends, which can be taken and spent. In other years, a bull market means ample capital gains that can be liquidated for retirement spending instead, especially in times of low yields from interest and dividends. In down years, it may be preferable to tap principal, in order to leave the rest of the portfolio invested for a hopeful future rebound. In fact, diversification across the four walls of retirement income can be a highly effective way to protect against the potential stressors that can adversely impact a retirement plan.
It's crucial to recognize that not all retirement income is actually taxable income. In fact, the process to optimize the tax-efficient liquidation of retirement accounts is entirely separate, including determining when to tap taxable vs pre-tax vs tax-free vs tax-exempt accounts, proper asset location of available investment assets across the different types of retirement accounts, as well as ongoing tax-efficiency strategies like the timing of harvesting capital gains and losses and converting your tax deferred account to tax free. One goal is to make the same amount of money stretch as much as possible, and tactfully managing your tax bracket is going to build the roof of the house.
But again, that’s actually the whole point of relying on all four walls for your retirement income. You don’t necessarily know which one will produce the desired results from year to year, but diversification gives you the best shot to get it from somewhere, without taking on excessive risk or portfolio concentration in stretching for yield along the way.
With you as the foundation, the four walls holding up your financial roof, you can make it through retirement, and not outlive your money.



The Ultimate Financial Cheat Sheet at 30

Your 20’s were great, you finished school, you found your career, you earned a couple of raises, and now you’re finally 30. It was fun being reckless and care free. Now what? Maybe you are thinking of saving for a house, maybe you realize that expensive car payment isn’t worth it anymore because you understand it’s a depreciating asset, maybe you have a child and want to start to fund their future education costs. All these questions are great, and maybe you need a direction on where to...

Your 20’s were great, you finished school, you found your career, you earned a couple of raises, and now you’re finally 30. It was fun being reckless and care free. Now what? Maybe you are thinking of saving for a house, maybe you realize that expensive car payment isn’t worth it anymore because you understand it’s a depreciating asset, maybe you have a child and want to start to fund their future education costs. All these questions are great, and maybe you need a direction on where to start.
Start an Emergency Fund. This by far is the most important start to getting ahead. According to Investopedia, an emergency fund is an account used to set aside funds needed in the event of a personal financial dilemma, such as the loss of a job, a debilitating illness or a major expense. In 2013 the Federal reserve board conducted a study. They asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all.You should have no less than three months of expenses in a readily available liquid account. Expenses not only mean bills, but food, transportation, and what you need to live daily. This isn’t money that should be invested, it should be easily retrievable and accessible.
Pay down your debt. According to the FED, the average revolving debt comes in around 7,600 dollars. The average credit card interest rate is around 15%. If you carry an average daily balance of $3,000 in credit card debt, your minimum payment will be around $60 a month (assuming a 2% minimum payment). If the credit card charges a 15% APR, interest could cost you between $400 and $450 per year. That interest could pay a phone bill for four months, or even better, you can put towards retirement into a Roth/Traditional IRA.
Start saving for your retirement. Now. Today. With the power of compound interest, it is imperative that you start saving for retirement today, and not a year out, 5 years out. Start to adjust your budget any way you can to secure roughly 5% of your income into a retirement vehicle such as a 401K or IRA. I cannot stress the true cost of waiting to save. As you can see from the chart to the right, in only 5 years you would have to save almost 50% more. In 10 years, you would have to double your savings. Every day you wait to start the process, pushes you back in the long run.
A 401k will allow you to save more money than an IRA, and if you work for an employer that matches, it’s almost like getting a raise. Meaning if you have a 5% match, and you put 5% of your income into your 401k, your employer will double what you put in for the year. An easy example of this, if you saved 300 dollars a month for the entire year, when your employer matches, you would see an extra 3600 dollars, that goes in tax deferred! The next choice you have to make, is if you want to do ROTH or Traditional retirement accounts. A Roth retirement accounts gets funded with AFTER tax dollars, but allows you to take out money when you are over the age of 59 ½ TAX FREE. A traditional retirement account gets funded with BEFORE tax dollars, and allows you to write off what you put in against your taxes every year. You then would pay taxes when you take money out when you retire.
Stop spending money on depreciating assets. Saving money boils down to making good choices on the three biggest expenses in your adult life: the house you buy, the car you buy, and how much you pay for college. The average monthly payment in America topped 500 dollars a month for a car in 2016. That is not including insurance. We spend roughly 280 hours a year behind the wheel of the car, which translates to about seven 40-hour work weeks. Every mile you put on the car brings down the value of the car ever so slightly. If you were able to cut that bill in half, and save the latter for retirement, think about how much better you would be off in ten years.
Don’t buy a home unless you can afford to get a good mortgage with the lowest possible rate. For most American’s this will be the biggest purchase of your life. Before you think about making a purchase, make sure you can afford a down payment of 20% to avoid paying PMI. Also make sure you have a great credit score to have the absolute best rate. A 300,000 home, with a 270,000 mortgage with a 4.5% interest rate, along with paying PMI, comes in at 1,907. You would have paid over $220,698 in interest by the end of the loan. Consider if you put down 20% and had a 240,000 mortgage, at a rate of 3.92% your mortgage would be 1561 a month, and if you paid it by weekly instead of monthly, you would have paid $142,412 in interest. A whopping 80,000 dollars in difference that could go towards your retirement! Let’s take it a little further. If you paid 1000 extra a year, you would cut your mortgage by roughly 3 ½ years and save another 21,500 on interest! The bottom line is, make sure you can afford the home you are buying, and able to get a great rate, and the ability to pay more than is required.
Get healthy. Both mentally and physically. You have two assets that you can never get back once you’ve lost them: your body and your mind. Most people stop growing and working on themselves in their 20's. Most people in their 30s are too busy to worry about self-improvement. But if you’re one of the few who continues to educate themselves, evolve their thinking and take care of their mental and physical health, you will be light-years ahead of the pack by 40.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF TAKING RISKS. The biggest regret most people have at 40, is the risks they didn’t take when they were 30 to right the ship and be happy. Most feel they should have their career dialed in, but it is never too late to reset. The individuals that have seen with the biggest regrets during this decade are those that stay in something that they know is not right. It is such an easy decade to have the days turn to weeks to years, only to wake up at 40 with a mid-life crisis for not taking action on a problem they were aware of 10 years’ prior but failed to act. You must act!
Ideally, this will start reaping benefits and point you in the right direction going forward, so when you are 40, you are better prepared for your midlife. If not, don't worry - it's not too late to start, but it is time to get going so you have some progress to show by the time you turn 40. All of these can be achieved with the help of a licensed financial. So don’t be afraid to reach out, if you don’t have any one of these items on your check list.



5 Things You Didn't Know About Life Insurance

Not everyone knows what a life insurance policy is, it's an insurance contract in which an insurance company promises to pay out a monetary benefit to policy beneficiaries after the insured passesaway, as long as premium payments are paid consistently and no misrepresentations are made on the application. Based on that definition, you can tell that life insurance is a pretty straight-forward policy, but that doesn't mean it can't be used as a sophisticated financial planning instrument.There...

Not everyone knows what a life insurance policy is, it's an insurance contract in which an insurance company promises to pay out a monetary benefit to policy beneficiaries after the insured passes
away, as long as premium payments are paid consistently and no misrepresentations are made on the application. Based on that definition, you can tell that life insurance is a pretty straight-forward policy, but that doesn't mean it can't be used as a sophisticated financial planning instrument.
There may be some things that you don't know about life insurance that could help to fortify your financial plan against certain risks and give you access to additional cash when you need it. There are many benefits to owning a life insurance policy if you get the right one for you. With so many different companies out there, and so many different riders, and different products, it may be confusing on which one you should go with. Let’s go over 5 different areas you may want to focus on when you pick your policy.
Cash Value Loans. If you need money for almost anything; paying taxes, supplementing retirement, college savings, funding a medical treatment or paying for a vacation, you can take a loan out of your life insurance policy's cash values in order to satisfy that need. Cash value loans are tax-free, since they aren't considered gains but loans that you need to pay back, and interest is usually much lower than your credit card or HELOC. Also, once there is a sufficient cash value in the account, you may be able to get a zero-net loan, where the dividends from your policy pay the loan interest. Just remember that if you don't pay back the loans before the death benefit is paid out, it will reduce the proceeds that your heirs receive.
Accelerated Benefit Rider. If you should be diagnosed with a critical, chronic, terminal illness, you can access a percentage of the death benefits of your policy before you pass away if you have the Accelerated Benefit rider. This can help defray some medical expenses and living expenses when you are no longer able to work (Consider this, almost 70% of people over 65 will need long-term care in their life.) and can help you and your family stay comfortable financially during this difficult time (Consider it costs roughly 3,000 dollars for an assisted living facility and around 20 dollars an hour for a home aide). It is important to note that using this rider will greatly decrease the death benefit your heirs receive since it is accelerating a portion of the benefit to be received prior to the insured's death.
Decreasing Premiums/Death Benefits. Term insurance policies offer a death benefit for a limited period of time. They are often used to cover temporary, large debts like mortgages or college education because the term of the policy's benefit can be chosen for the number of years that the debt will be outstanding. But term policies are even more flexible than that. You can design yours so that the death benefit decreases over the years, much as your mortgage balance will, or you can design it to have decreasing premiums. Or you can even use a universal life policy to provide cash recovery after a set amount of years.
Variable Subaccounts. When you invest in a variable life insurance policy, there are subaccounts that you can pick from to invest your cash values in. These subaccounts are created from underlying investments like stocks, bonds, and money markets. They can vary in risk, volatility, and growth depending on how the underlying assets perform. If you become unhappy with the performance of one of your subaccounts and you wish to make adjustments, you can. Additionally, you can allocate a percentage of your cash values to multiple subaccounts. Variable subaccounts usually offer a guaranteed floor every year, while capping upside if you would like as well. An example being, an S&P Fund that gives no worse than 2% while capping any upside over 9% for the year.
Probate-free Death Benefit. Unless your assets are in a trust, your estate will need to go through probate after your death. Even if you have a will and no one who can contest it, your heirs will be forced to wait until after probate to receive your estate. Life insurance proceeds, however, do not need to go through probate unless the estate is named as the beneficiary.
The bottom line is, your life insurance policy can be as simple as you want it to be, or it can be a complex vehicle designed to complement your overall financial plan and hedge against losses, illness expenses, and probate. It's up to you and your advisor to design a policy that works the way you need it to, either as a simple death benefit or a sophisticated planning tool.
Variable universal life insurance is permanent life insurance that offers protection and an opportunity to build cash values. You will incur mortality and expense fees and sub-account expenses and you may also incur optional rider expenses, surrender charges, and policy charges. You should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the variable life insurance policy and its underlying investment options carefully before investing. The prospectus contains this and other important information, please read prospectus carefully before investing.
The cost and availability of life insurance depends on factors such as age, health, and type and amount of insurance purchased. Before implementing a strategy involving life insurance, it would be prudent to make sure that you are insurable by having the policy approved. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications.
All product guarantees, including optional benefit riders, are based on the claims paying ability and financial strength of the issuing insurance company. The optional riders associated with variable life policies carry additional costs and have restrictions.



The Right Way to Handle an Inheritance

According to this HSBC survey of 16,000 people across the world, 69% of retirees plan to leave an inheritance to their offspring, at an average of $177,000. Retirees in India were most likely to do so -- with 86% expecting to leave money behind -- while American retirees were the least likely, with only 56% expecting to give inheritances to their children. If you are fortunate enough to be the benefactor to a sizable inheritance, one of the first things you should do, is go to a...

According to this HSBC survey of 16,000 people across the world, 69% of retirees plan to leave an inheritance to their offspring, at an average of $177,000. Retirees in India were most likely to do so -- with 86% expecting to leave money behind -- while American retirees were the least likely, with only 56% expecting to give inheritances to their children. If you are fortunate enough to be the benefactor to a sizable inheritance, one of the first things you should do, is go to a Financial Advisor. A new car, vacation or kitchen renovation may be in your future, but make sure you carefully assess your financial picture and retirement planning goals so you can maximize the inheritance for your long-term financial security.
One of the best things you can do, is not do anything for three months, access your overall financial situation, make a plan on how the cash can help any short falls in your long term and short term plan, and don’t base your decisions on emotion.
Even if you are skilled at managing your money, it’s still important to take a breather and develop a financial plan. In the meantime, you could place the money in a high-yield savings account or a conservative mutual fund for six months or so to sort out your priorities.
Here are the best ways to handle an inheritance.
Create a list of financial goals. Prioritize and address any bad financial habits that have tripped you up in the past. Also, do a cash-flow analysis to see how much money you need both in the short term and long term to help you determine where you should direct the money.
Fund an emergency account. One of the most important buffers in life is to have an emergency account. Three months is the minimum you should have access to. This is essential to staying out of debt. If any unforeseen expense comes up, and you don’t have an emergency fund, it usually goes on the credit cards, and you’re back paying off high interest rate debt.
Pay down debt. The next priority is outstanding debt, which can include student loans, credit card debt and if possible, mortgage debt. Start with the largest high interest rate, and work down from there. A credit card with a $5,000 balance and 18% APR that is paid down over 24 months will cost you almost $1,000 dollars in interest. For other debt, including mortgages, it is important to consider the interest rate, your tax bracket, and expected investment return. For example, look at the after-tax rate of interest you are paying on your mortgage. If you are in the 25 percent tax bracket, paying 4 percent on your mortgage, you receive a tax deduction for part of the mortgage, which means you are really only paying a 3 percent interest rate.
Retirement savings. Next in line is investing in your retirement savings accounts. If you haven't been contributing the maximum to a 401(k) or individual retirement account, do it now. Let’s say you earn $50,000 this year and had to spend it all on bills, lifestyle, and debt. But now you receive an inheritance of $148,000. Contribute to your Roth or workplace retirement from the $177,000, sheltering some of it from taxes and allowing it to earn tax-free returns. In almost all cases, it makes sense to maximize your retirement accounts if your cash flow allows you to do so.
Have a little fun. Finally, some advisors suggest spending 5 percent to 10 percent on discretionary purchases. But that’s it. It’s fine to treat yourself but don’t overdo it. don't use a one-time windfall as an excuse to change your lifestyle.
Deploying that inheritance wisely can help you climb onto firmer financial footing and lay the groundwork for a more secure future.



8 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

Last year the average tax refund was $2,857. It's the biggest lump sum most people will get in a year. Here are 8 smart ways to spend your refund check, that can help you go the extra mile, financially. 1. Start or Increase Your Emergency FundWithout an emergency fund, just one surprise major expense can send you on a debt spiral toward financial disaster. Most American’s cannot handle a 400 dollar unexpected bill, and according to MarketWatch, most American’s have less than 1000 dollars...

Last year the average tax refund was $2,857. It's the biggest lump sum most people will get in a year. Here are 8 smart ways to spend your refund check, that can help you go the extra mile, financially.
1. Start or Increase Your Emergency Fund
Without an emergency fund, just one surprise major expense can send you on a debt spiral toward financial disaster. Most American’s cannot handle a 400 dollar unexpected bill, and according to MarketWatch, most American’s have less than 1000 dollars saved. Many experts say that your fund should contain about six to eight months’ worth of savings in an easily accessible interest-bearing account. Storing that much money might take months (or even years) if you’re just taking a little bit out of each paycheck, so use your refund to make a significant deposit to your emergency fund.
2. Pay Off High-Interest Debt
After establishing an emergency fund, the next best thing you can do with your tax refund is reduce or eliminate any high-interest debt that you’re carrying. According to CreditCards.com the National average interest rate on credit cards as of 02/22/2017 was 15.07%. Put your refund to work by starting your debt elimination program of choice, paying off debt consolidation loans, high-interest private student loans, car loans, or credit card debt.
3. Pay Down Your Mortgage
For example, at a low rate of 4%, the interest on a $250,000 loan will be close to $200,000 - meaning the borrower may pay over $400,000 in total. By paying down your mortgage early, you can make a significant dent in the interest you'll pay over time. This will allow you to build equity faster, enabling you to own your home sooner. Just remember to check for prepayment penalties.
4. Invest in a Tax-Sheltered Account
Depending on your income level, goals, age, and whether you have already fully funded your tax sheltered accounts, using your tax refund to get a head start on Roth IRA contributions or 529 college savings plan contributions can be a great move. This may result in your three-digit tax refund growing into to a four-digit addition over the course of years.
5. Invest in a Taxable Account
If you’ve already contributed the maximum to your tax-sheltered accounts, consider opening an account with a financial advisor. Having a financial advisor guide you on different investment strategies may be a great way to continue to build wealth.
6. Get a New Business Up and Running
Have you been looking for seed money to take your business to the next level? Do you have a venture that you want to start? You can use your refund to move in the right direction. It’s a great opportunity to turn your refund into income for years to come, and get a few more small business tax deductions next year as well.
7. Fill gaps in Your Insurance
Check out Liability Insurance. Cover your legal expenses if someone is hurt in your home or by your car. It generally costs just $175 to $300 to buy a personal umbrella policy that provides $1 million in coverage over the limits of your auto and homeowners insurance policies. Check your Home insurance. Hurricane season starts in June, so it's a perfect time to use some of your refund money to protect your home. For about $50, you can add $10,000 to $20,000 in sewage backup coverage -- which isn't part of a standard homeowner’s policy. Consider buying a home generator: A 6.5 kw portable generator costs about $800 to $1,000. An automatic standby generator costs more than your refund (about $4,000 plus $3,500 for installation), but the money you get from Uncle Sam can help you start saving for one. You also can pay to trim your trees to help protect against some of the most common types of storm damage and put together a disaster kit.
8. Help your Kid Save
You can use the extra money to contribute to a Roth IRA for your child. Your kid is eligible as long as he or she has earned income -- from mowing yards or babysitting, for example. Your child can contribute up to $5,500 or the amount of his or her earned income for the year, whichever is lower, and you can give him the cash to do it.
Any of these ways are a great way to spend your income tax return. If you need any help in reviewing any of these strategies, or just guidance to get any of these started, don’t hesitate to reach out to your financial advisor.



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