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Well it is finally over. No more political advertisements interrupting my enjoyment of the World Series. My Facebook feed has finally started to get back to cat pictures, fake news, and 12 people I need to wish a Happy Birthday. The question on everyone’s mind now is, “what does this mean?”. The reality is for some time we may not know exactly and uncertainty is not fun for anyone. A few things are certain and those are what we need to concentrate on right now, especially when it comes to our retirement planning.

  • Have you planned for the possibility of a market sell off?
  • Many thought this would happen immediately if Trump won the Presidency but as we have seen the opposite was the immediate reaction as the most indexes roared for 7 straight days higher. That’s not to say the danger is over or likewise that a collapse is pending just around the corner. One thing we do know for sure is that we are at all-time highs in most indexes and that alone should have you making sure you have prepared your portfolio. The number of people we see for initial consultations that tell us they are moderate or even conservative in their risk tolerance only to be shown the way they are investing is sometimes quite a bit more aggressive, is still surprising to me. Many of you are investing still like it is 1999 or maybe more appropriately like it’s 2007. Make sure you know your risk tolerance and your portfolio reflects it properly.

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If you're anything like me then you dread going to the doctor, you dread going to the dentist, you dread shots, medical checkups, exams and tests that you can't pronounce the name of.  Just like most people when I hear the phrase "checkup", my "I don't want to do that" sensors immediately start to go off.  The term checkup is innocent enough but it can be associated with varying levels of pain, discomfort and scariest of all: the unknown!  Of course for me anyways these feelings and associations all happen in the blink of an eye, subconsciously. As a parent of two it certainly is my job to help my children understand the benefits of getting a checkup and to help them overcome the fear, the uncomfortableness and the potential pain of the dreaded exam.  So, in that parental spirit and without further ado, here are my six reasons why doing a mortgage checkup is less painful than a medical checkup and something every homeowner should have on their annual to do list:

  1. Convenience…scheduling a Doctor appointment can sometimes be quite the production arranging schedules, taking off work and having to drive across town can be a headache. When you get your mortgage checkup you can do it from the convenience of your own home, be in your favorite bathrobe or slippers watching your favorite reruns of SNL or Seinfeld, with your cat or dog snuggled on your lap. Some people prefer a face-to-face meeting, but generally most of our clients would rather start with a conversation over the phone that usually takes no longer than a half hour.
  2. Minimal preparation…let's be honest, you will be hard-pressed to find one loan officer anywhere in the country that will require you to "fast" prior to getting your mortgage checkup.  You may want to have a paystub handy, a recent mortgage statement and maybe your tax returns if your income is more complex; however, for the initial conversation most of the information is available right off the top of your head. So go ahead indulge in that pumpkin spice latte and grab that breakfast sandwich; getting a mortgage checkup will not require you to "fast" for 12 hours in advance of your appointment!
  3. Painless...A mortgage checkup is virtually painless!  You won't have to bend over and cough, be stuck with needles or subjected to any other types of physical invasions of your personal space!
  4. The Results can enrichen you...At the end of a mortgage checkup you may find out that you can eliminate your PMI, drop your interest rate, reduce your loan term and retire sooner, reduce your monthly payment, qualify for the purchase of an investment property or that you are in great shape already! Unlike being told you have high cholesterol and need to lose weight, a cavity that needs to be filled, a mole that needs checking into or additional test that need to be done, the results from a mortgage checkup will only help you save money, improve your credit scores and confirm that you're on the right track financially!
  5. 5....Knowing that you're in good shape on your mortgage, nothing is reporting erroneously on your credit and that you're in the lowest interest rate possible is most important. But, also that you're tracking to have your loan paid off on target and that your mortgage is working for you will help you sleep better at night, giving you the peace of mind we are all looking for!
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I recently returned from a trip to North Carolina. The reason for the trip was simple. We wanted to spend a few days with some friends who do not live near us, and we wanted to enjoy the beautiful countryside without the interruption of all of the news and noise that populates our life.

Our main physical activity was our daily hikes in the mountains. On day 2 we woke to a soaked earth and wet leaves. During the night, the wind and the rain combined to create a slick surface. In addition the trail we were taking featured exposed roots, rocks, and a steep drop off to one side, causing us to make adjustments to how we hike this trail.

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If you die without an estate plan, your loved ones may have to go through the probate court process, wasting time and money. In probate, you run the risk that the court’s decisions may not be consistent with your goals; rather, intestate succession (the process automatically applied when there is no trust or will) determines how your assets are distributed. Estate planning does not have to be expensive; however, even the most basic plans will offer you the following benefits:

  1. Designate Beneficiaries. Who would you like to leave your assets to? A will outlines these intentions; however, improperly titled assets can quickly undo the intentions of your will. Titling assets and designating beneficiaries with the advice of an attorney can avoid unintended consequences.
  2. Appoint a Guardian for Your Minor Children. The decision of whom you choose as a guardian for your children is perhaps the single best reason for creating a will. Choosing a guardian can eliminate interfamily disputes and any questions about your intention; you are able to appoint who you want to take care of your minor children in the event of your death.
  3. (In some cases) Create a Trust for Your Children. Parents should consider leaving assets in trust for the benefit of their children. Assets can be distributed immediately upon your children reaching a certain age, or, many families choose to make disbursements at various ages to prevent wasteful spending. Parents are able to name a trustee to manage the trust assets and make distributions for the benefit of the children over time.
  4. Designate Who Will Handle Your Financial and Health Care Decisions. Your estate plan will include financial and health care power of attorney designations. These appointments grant legal authority to whomever you want to make financial and medical decisions for you in the event of death or incapacity.

As the proverb states, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Read more at

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We are just three months shy of the New Year and this is a great time to get a jumpstart on coming out ahead at tax time. A little strategic thinking, planning and taking action now could give you a reduction in your tax bill come April, perhaps boost your retirement savings and college fund savings. You might even see a significant reduction in any debt you might owe.
A great place to start is to take a close look at your investments. Your portfolio may benefit from a rebalance, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve made any changes. With the recent volatility in the market you might discover that your allocations may not match your risk tolerance. 
If you have a 401(k) look into maxing out your contributions before the end of the year. If you’re under 50 years old, you can contribute a total of $18,000. That’s a $500 increase over last year. If you’re over 50, you can contribute up to $24,000.
Are you enrolled in a Flexible Spending Account? If so, now is the time to see if you have excess funds that must be used before year’s end. Even if your employer lets you carry over an unused balance, you may be better off stocking up on eligible items that can round out your first-aid kits. Some eligible items include sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, diabetic testing kits, and hot and cold packs. 
Other items to look at include your credit rating and any high-rate credit card balances. If your credit score is good, you could benefit from a zero percent balance transfer offer since the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates in the near future. When the Fed raises interest rates credit card companies usually follow suit.
Making these adjustments now will help you breathe easier at tax time. And that’s always a relief.
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