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Moving from “tax” prep to “life” prep

At this time of year, everyone becomes a master at document gathering.  There is a shoe box or a filing system or a folder on your laptop to hold all the tax-related documents which are needed to complete your income tax returns.  It requires a diligent attitude to ensure nothing has been neglected or omitted which is important to the outcome of the bottom line.  Once the taxes have been submitted for the year, there is always a sigh of relief in getting to completion. Before you pack everything up and put it away for another year, take a step beyond tax prep and begin your life prep.  What does life prep really mean?  Like tax preparation, the devil is in the details and it is critical to your financial success that you take the time to examine and shore up the other areas of your financial life. You can start with that recently completed tax return.  Did you save to your employer plan and thereby reduce your current income?  If eligible, did you contribute to a Roth or regular Read on! →

What is “VUCA” for Dow 20,000? – A Message from the Pulpit

Being a fairly regular attendee at church, I enjoy the reflection that comes from listening to our Clergy explain the liturgy in ways that tie our lives, habits and values to what is happening in the world around us.  As with most large groups, I expect how the message is interpreted and acted on varies widely within the congregation.  As our democracy embarks on a new period of its long evolution, concerns are at a crescendo and opinions on the outcome of issues are not always positive or optimistic.  Under this backdrop, our Rector gave what I believe was a thoughtful sermon on how to put the current state of affairs in context while offering ways each of us could move forward in a caring, positive way as individuals.  That should not come as a surprise given the role Clergy play in our communities.  What might come as a surprise and at the risk of being accused of not paying attention, I couldn’t help but make a connection between the sermon’s foundation – VUCA – and what happens every day in Read on! →

A Hidden Gem in the Asheville Mountains

Many have had the pleasure of visiting Asheville and the surrounding area.  You may have visited during fall foliage season or in the spring when Biltmore’s gardens were in full bloom.  However, there is a lesser known event which occurs in the Asheville area twice a year and may be perfect to explore as you contemplate an important time of your life, retirement.   The concept of lifelong learning is not a new one.  Many take advantage of learning opportunities throughout their lives, completing degree programs at all ages.  However, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) located in the mountains of Asheville, takes that learning to new heights.  The topography of this small corner of the UNC Asheville campus helps and the offerings at the institute offer an amazing variety to please every sense.  One of their most unique offerings is a weekend adventure called, Paths to Creative Retirement.   The Institute hosts a 2 ½ day workshop focused on the many facets of retirement.  While your Financial Advisor typically helps you plan for the financial aspects of retirement, this workshop Read on! →

A “Value” Bias in Investing

Broadly speaking, value investments are those that are often acquired at a discount to their fair market price and that pay dividends.  They also tend to be perceived as “steady” and less inclined to volatility relative to their more growth oriented counterparts.  Our portfolios have a mix of U.S. and International equity investments classified as growth, but are more heavily weighted to value.  Only the smallest portfolios, limited to broad market, passive index investments with roughly equal weightings of value and growth, may lack this lean to value.   A closer look at portfolios will confirm this preference.  In the large cap space, value investments like PowerShares Large Cap Value (ticker, PWV) and FMI International (ticker, FMIJX) generally represent a larger percentage of the overall portfolio than their growth counterparts, Schwab U.S. Large Cap Growth (ticker, SCHG) and WisdomTree Emerging Market Consumer ETF (ticker, EMCG).  Berkshire Hathaway and IBM, which were added to larger portfolios almost a year ago, are two more examples of “value” companies.  A close inspection of mid cap, small cap and emerging market investments will turn Read on! →

“Fall” into your Employer Benefits Package

  Although it may not yet feel like fall outside, we are approaching the last quarter of 2016 and the time when employer benefits open enrollment occurs for the coming year.  Before that benefits package hits your mail/email, here are a few things to consider in advance and discuss with your advisor.   Are you covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)? An HDHP is defined as having a deductible of at least $1,300 for Singles or $2,600 for families.  If your health plan qualifies, you are eligible to contribute pre-tax money to a Health Savings Account (HSA), up to $3,400 for Singles in 2017, or $6,750 for families per year.  By contributing pre-tax money, you reduce your current taxable income, but more importantly, when the money is withdrawn from the HSA for qualified medical expenses, it comes out tax-free.   There is currently no other investment vehicle in which pre-tax money goes in and tax-free money comes out. The ideal situation is to maximize contributions to the HSA each year you are eligible (by having a high deductible health Read on! →