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Can a Trust own and manage my business? The short answer – yes, it can; however, there is more to it. Trusts can own businesses and manage them for the benefit of your heirs, but there are nuances to consider.

S-Corp thoughts/considerations. For example, if your business is an S-Corp, you avoid corporate taxation, double taxation, because the shareholders receive the income and losses from the business (S-Corps are “pass through” tax entities). In other words, the business income gets treated like personal income for the shareholders, although certain exceptions apply. An S-Corp:

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Maybe you just graduated college and landed your absolute dream job. Or maybe you have been working with the same company for ten years now and are considering a change of career. Regardless of what your situation is, one main source of focus should remain a constant; your workplace benefits. Having benefits in your workplace, and better yet; understanding what those benefits are is a very important aspect you should keep in mind as you are looking to start your career or perhaps exploring the idea of changing jobs. After all, millennials are the “job-hopping generation.” There are numerous staples to your financial future that a workplace can offer, many of these unfortunately tend to slip the mind throughout the application process. Beyond the seemingly bare minimum 401k match, keeping in mind benefits such as healthcare coverage, flexible schedules & vacation time, student loan repayment, and career & personal development should all be taken into consideration! Your future is much more complex than the dollar figure of your paycheck every week.
 
In today’s world, having healthcare coverage through your employer is one of the most important benefits to consider, and a huge factor for deciding if you’ll take on a new role at a new company. The future of the current healthcare system remains uncertain, so having guaranteed coverage provided by your employer is beneficial in more ways than you may think. For starters, you get to keep more money in your own pocket; which can be huge for young families that are just starting out. Not worrying about finding coverage on the healthcare exchange and having deal with that headache can really save you stress in the event something was to ever happen. Finally, many employers want to keep their employees healthy and will often throw in gym memberships and health classes as an added bonus, brownie points for getting fit!
 
Another point to consider when looking into a new job, is work-life balance. In today’s day and age, it seems to be more and more difficult to manage the roles and responsibilities of being an exceptional employee, along with the health and wellness of your home and social life. There is a never-ending stream of “things to get done and places to be,” whether it’s with your spouse, work colleagues, children, family, or even just downtime with friends. If you find yourself constantly exhausted from a the seemingly never ending pull of your time and energy, a flexible schedule should be taken into careful consideration before signing the dotted line on your new job offer. Now that being said; most of us won’t get a “work when you can” type of job, but this thought process also pertains to vacation time. Two weeks’ vacation may sound great at first, but as you soon find out, that grandma’s birthday and your best friend’s Bachelor party have single handedly eaten through all your time off...you may find yourself reconsidering. Moral of the story here, understand the demands of your life and ensure before you sign that offer, that your personal life and emotional wellbeing won’t suffer as a result.
 
A sore subject among many millennials...student loans. Student loan debt is, and seems to continue to be a significant burden to the millennial budget. There are now more than 44 million college graduates who have amounted more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, yes you read that right...trillion. After making payments for months and even years, it seems like that loan burden will always be present. It is tough for millennials just starting out to balance finances when you hit the ground running backwards entering the workforce already owing, for some, tens of thousands of dollars. Working an entry level job because you don’t have experience all the while trying to make it on your own with high rent costs, student loan debt, credit card debt, and all the other bills you’re responsible for can make the future can look pretty glum. For many millennials, the reality of this has left them with very little (if any) money left over for anything else. Now, how does this fit into what to look for when applying for a job other than how big the salary is? One of the trending employee benefits for 2017 is student loan repayment, hallelujah! There is a light at the end of this tunnel! This benefit is monumental in helping young employees move forward in their early stages of life and is making jobs that much more competitive. Keep an eye for this up and coming benefit in the job market, it’s definitely one of the rising stars to making a company attractive to work for.
 
Your job is much more than just your salary or your paycheck. The people you work with become sort of like your second family, and your office your “home away from home.” You spend most your time with colleagues during the week, and most of the time they end up knowing you better than your best friends. You will grow close with your bosses and their desire to ensure you do well will increase as your relationship grows; after all...if you do well, the company does well too. You want to ensure that you will be setup to succeed and the people and environment you’re working in will be one that you can prosper. When your company invests time and money into you to help develop you as an employee, they have an incentive to keep you around and keep you happy. It is important to be challenged each day, so work to find a job you love, stick to it, and develop your skills to work your way up the corporate ladder! The people and the environment are a key component to your success!
 
Like I said in the beginning, we are the generation of job hoppers. With more and more college educated millennials entering the workplace, companies have had to get creative with their benefit packages to keep millennials from continuing the job to job trend. When looking for a new role or when negotiating your offer, it is ok to play hard to get! You are an asset to them...remember that. There are a lot of great benefit packages out there and it is well worth holding out for the one that best suits you. Understand your options and be selective in your decision, the choices you make today have a serious impact on your career and future.
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I suppose there are a lot of lighter topics that one could talk about on the dawn of a new year, however in my line of work every year around this time I find myself providing counsel to individuals and couples that have decided to go their separate ways. Generally, it's not the holidays or the new year that actually done the relationship in. Although the stress of the holidays coupled with unwanted conversations over politics with in-laws that may have over stayed their welcome certainly doesn't help a struggling couple find their way. Typically, the relationship has been broken or been breaking for a long time leading up to these conversations.

It's never easy for someone to open up about personal matters such as this and quite frankly especially when there are children involved, it can be a very emotional conversation. I decided to lay out some of the biggest takeaways and advice that I could give to someone facing the breakdown of a relationship and the prospect of a divorce or separation.

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As some of us get closer to retirement, programs like Social Security and Medicare become more important to us. We have paid into these programs with every paycheck we have earned. There has been an implied promise that these programs would add financial security to us in our retirement. These programs are not entitlements, since we have paid for them with involuntary deductions from our paychecks, earmarked for Social Security and Medicare.
 
Each year the Office of the Chief Actuary, publishes “A Summary Of The 2016 Annual Reports.” This is a summary of the Trustees Report of the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees.
Here are some amazing facts from the summary.
 
“Social Security and Medicare together accounted for 41% of Federal program expenditures in fiscal year 2015. “
 
“The OASI (Old Age and Survivors Insurance ) and DI ( Disability Insurance ) trust funds are by law separate entities. However, to summarize overall Social Security finances, the Trustees have traditionally emphasized the financial status of the hypothetical combined trust funds for OASI and SI.”
“The Trustees project that the combined trust funds will be depleted in 2034, the same year projected in last year’s report.”
If changes are not made, reserves will be depleted by 2034, and estimates are that benefits will have to be cut by 25 per cent.
Medicare is in worse shape.
“The Trustees project that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will be depleted in 2028, two years earlier than projected in last year’s report.
The Conclusion of the report is that Lawmakers should take steps that would reduce or eliminate the long term financing shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, and that it should take those steps sooner rather than later.
There are not any easy decisions to make. All decisions will be negative to some or all of our population.
There are two narratives that are harmful to the discussion. The first narrative is that we need to add benefits to these programs. The premise of groups that support increasing social benefits is that our country has too much income inequality. Too many people have reached retirement age and have not sufficiently saved for retirement. Another point is that the COLA increases are not sufficient for lower net worth retires that are facing higher expenses. While it would be nice to be able to increase the social security benefits, we cannot raise the benefits for a program in its current state. Proponents of raising benefits want to raise the amount of income subject to social security tax. Unfortunately, we will have to do that anyway in order to maintain current benefits.
 
The second harmful narrative is what I call the blame game. In other words, making Social Security and Medicare a political issue to demonize political opponents. This works both ways and is unconstructive. The republicans and the democrats have not secured the tax money that was paid by workers and employers for social security. This is one reason, not the only reason, that these programs are facing fiscal challenges. Several organizations and politicians have used this issue to demonize people that want to fix a system. Our politicians would do the citizens a great service by working to educate the public about the fiscal challenges of these programs and not accuse those who want to fix these issues of starving their grandparents. This has been going on for decades. Stop it already.
In the past year two major changes were made to help stabilize social security. One was to take away a method of filing that benefited a married couple, where one spouse earned more than the other. Another change, late in the year, changed the amount of income subject to social security tax.
 
Both of these measures were changed quietly, without much news coverage or fanfare.
 
Some other proposed changes are being considered.
Raising the full retirement age would lower the amount of years, someone would collect Social Security. This would probably change gradually. Most proposals I have read about would add 3 months to the full retirement age each year, until the full retirement age was 68. These proposals would also let you delay the maximum age until you begin drawing social security to 72.
That shrinks the amount of time between when you start collecting social security, and are seriously considering knee or hip replacement.
You would probably still be able to collect at age 62, but the monthly benefit would be less.
Increasing the amount of income that is subject to social security tax is probably going to happen. In 2016 the amount of income tax subject to social security tax was $118,500. The way it works now is that you pay 6.2% of your wages for social security, and your employer pays 6.2% of your wages for social security. This tax is assessed on the first $118,500 of income. It is a substantial tax.
Starting in 2017, the amount of your payroll subject to social security tax will increase to $127,200. Proposals for improving the fiscal health of social security include raising or uncapping the amount of income subject to social security. Other proposals call for increasing the 6.2% rate.
Means testing is another area under consideration. Means testing is a method of denying some citizens the benefit they paid for, because they have been successful enough and do not need it as much as lower income citizens.
New formulas for calculating COLA, (cost of living increases) are under consideration. This would lower the annual increases provided by social security.
 
Longevity Indexing is another topic being discussed. This would link Social Security benefits to population wide longevity changes. If the population continues to live longer, the Social Security would lower the benefits being paid. This would mean that benefits would fall behind inflation. The older you are, the lower your purchasing power would be. If you combine that with a reformulated COLA, you will have a rapidly diminishing purchasing power.
You may be getting the feeling, and you would be correct, that are not any painless solutions. This is the reason that politicians have a hard time confronting this problem. Try not to attack the messenger, or the people brave enough to suggest some solutions. It is a national problem. We have to be adults, educate ourselves, and encourage our politicians to work together to start fixing the problem. The longer we wait, the more drastic the negative changes will have to be.
In closing, it should be obvious by now that you need to take personal responsibility for your own financial planning for retirement. The government has made promises that they do not have the ability to keep. This will play out in reductions of benefits and increases in taxes. Social Security is the focus of this article. Medicare and some pensions are also suspect.
Now is the time to take your ownership of your retirement plan. Most people need to save more. I have seen people of average means that have excelled in saving for retirement, and I have seen people with high net worth, who have done a poor job saving for retirement. I know it can be done.
I think Social Security will be there for everyone reading this article. But I think a lot of people miscalculate the purchasing power their social security check will have after reduced COLA’s, taxes, and increased Medicare payments.

You have your “big stuff” booked.  The venues, caterers, and photographer, whew, you take a deep breath.  It’s organized and maybe even semi-payed for or you have already established payment plans within your budget!  It feels amazing!  You actually still have money!  Except, you don't.

When you’re planning a wedding, there are a ton of little things that cost money that many brides and grooms forget about.  All of these things, even if they are small amounts can add up quickly, pushing past your budget.  Here are three things to think about and how to keep the costs low.  

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Should I get a trust? The short answer – it depends. There are several factors to consider; primarily, trusts help clients avoid probate (saving time and money), thereby privately distributing assets upon the grantor’s death. However, not everyone needs a trust. Consider the following factors:

How much of your estate will bypass probate? One of the main advantages of a living trust is being able to bypass the time and cost of probate (“probate,” definition: generally, assets are transferred from the decedent to the heirs; it is the process of administering an estate through the courts, a process that can take several months or years and can easily cost thousands of dollars). However, not all assets are subject to probate. For example, exemptions apply to jointly owned assets with rights of survivorship and assets with designated beneficiary forms, such as annuities, life insurance, and retirement accounts. Also, several states, such as Michigan, allow bank accounts to be “payable on death,” or “POD,” so beneficiaries can merely produce a death certificate and valid ID to access the account. Michigan also allows stocks and bonds to transfer-on-death (“TOD,” or “TOD” registration for securities).

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Tis the season for giving thanks, for pulling our loved ones close to us and letting them know how much we appreciate and love them, for being charitable and spreading joy and good favor to those less fortunate and in need. For a lot of you out there (if you're anything like me) this is a time for reflection; this is a time to look back at the prior year and often during this time, I think about some of the families and situations that we were privileged to work with. Now in business, just like with our families, things don't always go the way we planned and every year there's a handful of circumstances and situations that create complex issues that we as a team try to collaboratively solve. Here are few situations that we encountered in 2016.

Disclaimer: We take our clients right to privacy extraordinarily seriously so these stories have been altered to protect the identity of our clients and serve only as an example of the said situation.

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Millennials are often portrayed as the black plague for our country’s future. We are referred to as lazy, ungrateful, and incompetent. The consensus is that we will be detrimental to the future of our country because we don’t have a clue, but just how could that be? We are just beginning our adult lives and haven’t had a real impact on hardly anything yet. Most of the issues we face today started well before we were born. With our generation inheriting a seemingly endless national debt, a monumental student loan crisis, and little to no social security to utilize, how on earth could the most financially distraught generation be portrayed as becoming the wealthiest ever?

Here’s some insight into answering that question…

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Knowing where your information is coming from is crucial to your consumption of knowledge. Deciphering among the credible and non-credible can be a challenging feat, but there are some basic questions you can ask yourself before forming a conclusion or deciding an outcome based off the data obtained from the media. It’s obvious that the way we collect information has changed dramatically, and the amount of material available to us is insurmountable and only continuing to grow. Consequently; as a direct reflection of the growth of good information, the growth of false or misleading content has developed itself as well. Leading us to ask the question, how do you navigate the bad to ensure you are consuming only desired, factual information? Here’s where I can help.

Some questions to ask yourself:

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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 http://www.keilenlaw.com/articles/

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We often hear from our friends and family, various tips on money and saving for retirement, but are they the ones that should really be giving us the advice?

The generations that pre-ceded the millennials typically have a different way of thinking when it comes to money. Does this mean that we shouldn’t take their advice and follow in their footsteps? Not exactly, but take the advice with a grain of salt. The financial world is ever changing and the one that previous generations grew up in is vastly different than the world we live in today. Here are a few of the topics that advice is commonly given on:

1. We hear “Don’t get a credit card.” – You should actually get a credit card to build up your credit. Just because your parents or grandparents paid for everything in cash, doesn’t mean that you can’t use this tool to help grow your credit score. A prompt and consistent record of credit card payments can have a significant impact on curving this score. There are also some significant rewards associated with certain credit card providers that can provide for numerous rewards such as cash back, airline vouchers, and hotel stays.

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The first few days after getting engaged are a complete whirlwind.  Your days are filled with phone calls, texts, an incredible amount of love expressed from friends and family, and a billion questions that you probably don’t have the answer to.  Once it settles down, reality sets in, and planning begins.  The average cost of a wedding in the United States is over $32,000.  Like Wut?  Now for some brides, that’s totally reasonable, and if you have the money HEY, why not?  “It’s the most important day of your life!”  However, for my fiancé’ and I, $30,000 could go towards so many other things.  It’s $30,000 you could have for retirement, multiple vacations and so much more.  We just aren’t willing to drop that much money for one, single, day.  Nor are we willing to ask our parents (and neither should you), who are all in retirement to sacrifice their income and future, for our big day.

With a budget well below the national average, my fiancé and I sat down and really thought about what we had to have and what was most important to us, and what we could do without.

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By the time you are in your 30’s you should be on the road to building a solid financial future. Whether you think you don’t have the means to save or continue putting it off and will “save later” keep this in mind; more than one-third of American’s don’t have anything saved for retirement. (US Department of Labor) Many of you that are younger may find investing interesting, but not sure where to begin. Below are six great ideas of what you should be doing to prepare for retirement as young as 30. 
 
1. Paychecks Save at least 15% of your income on an annual basis. You can even automate it, so saving is systematic. 
 
2. Guard against lifestyle inflation. As your career grows, your salary is likely to grow. Yet, just because you have more money in the bank, doesn’t mean you should spend it all. Each time you get a salary bump, increase the amount you save.
 
3. Start envisioning your retirement. Your retirement may be years away, but having an idea of the kind of life you want during retirement is extremely important. Do you want to travel the world or spend time with family? Really think about the things you may want to do and the lifestyle you want. Keep in mind that you are saving now for the life you want later. 
 
4. Pay attention to taxes. Taxes are not only a significant amount of your income, but they are a sure thing. Take a solid look at your accounts and options, and do the math. Paying taxes today rather than in the future may be more beneficial.
 
5. Rebalance your investments every 6 months. Invest in a well-diversified portfolio allocation based on your time horizon and risk tolerance. Every six months do a rebalance and make sure you are back in line with your intended allocation. Six months is a good check in to make sure you are sticking to your plan to reach your retirement goals.
 
6. Learn to negotiate. Research what similar companies and positions are paying as well as what added skills people in a similar position may have. Take the time to continuously invest and hone in on your skills. Negotiate and strategize with your employer to build the income you desire. Whether you have a salary of 30 or 300 thousand, the numbers will run the same. It is pivotal to not only start saving for retirement as early as you can, but to also understand how much you really need. Call today to meet with an Independent Financial Advisor for your complimentary review.

The student debt crisis is completely out of hand.  It has become one of America’s biggest financial mistakes not only topping $1.3 trillion, but growing more than $2,000 every second.  This is leaving millions with crippling debt that will follow them for decades to come.  How did we get here? 

We all have financial goals, and one of the most common goals for parents is paying for their son or daughter’s college education.  Although admirable, when someone wants to help foot the bill you can’t, and shouldn’t if you are putting aside your own retirement plans. CollegeCalc, says the average public university in Michigan will cost between $8,000-$12,000 dollars per year which is just for tuition. That doesn’t include the high interest rates backed by the government or any of the extra costs that come with higher education.

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Both, Clients and Financial Advisors, need to be on the same page in order to work together effectively. The start of the New Year is a good time to discover whether your resolutions are compatible.

So, whether you are looking for a financial advisor for the first time, reassessing the one you’re working with or looking to work with someone new, be sure to ask to speak with current and past clients of the advisor you are considering working with.  Get as much information about the successes, experience, education and ongoing training of the advisor that you can. If you are reassessing, be honest and tell your current advisor why you are reconsidering the relationship if appropriate. It’s your life and your money, so be committed to understanding everything your advisor suggests before diving in to a specific course of action. If you don’t understand something, keep asking questions until you do understand.

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The beginning of a New Year is the best time to establish your investment strategy for the year. If you work with a financial advisor, it’s important that you are both on the same page, so this is a great time to see if your resolutions are aligned.

If you are the client of a Financial Planner or are looking to hire one, the first and most important step is to set a resolution to Get a Plan. That means establishing your financial objectives, deciding where you want to end up and how much you can comfortably contribute to your plan on a regular basis along the way.

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For the first time in its history, changes being made to Social Security law will actually eliminate benefits currently being received by spouses, divorced spouses or children on the work record of a spouse, ex-spouse or parent who has taken advantage of the long used File and Suspend strategy. Those Social Security benefits will only continue when the worker restarts his/her retirement benefit.

This one change alone will cost millions of households tens of thousands of dollars by forcing those who have suspended their benefits in order to collect higher benefits at age 70 to restart their benefits at permanently lower levels. Most will have to do this in order to maintain their family’s living standards.

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