Same Old, Same Old Tax Returns?  NOT!

Same Old, Same Old Tax Returns? NOT!

Finance
By Ina Fernandez, CPA President & CEO, Fern Capital Inc. With April is here and, you may find yourself sympathizing with the Beatles in “Taxman”: “There’s one for you, nineteen for me.” In reality, the significant changes made to the tax laws affecting the 2018 tax year may hold a few pleasant surprises for most of us. Here is a sampling: Tax Brackets: Tax brackets have changed for 2018. There are still 7 brackets, but the intention of these changes was to reduce taxes paid at lower income brackets. So expect good news in general in this category. Standard Deductions: The standard deduction almost doubled from 2017 to 2018. For singles, it is now $12,000 (versus $6,350 in 2017). For married couples filing jointly, it is now $24,000 (versus $12,700).…
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Getting Real:  Financial Tips for First-time Home Buyers

Getting Real: Financial Tips for First-time Home Buyers

Finance
by Ina Fernandez [caption id="attachment_2574" align="aligncenter" width="226"] photo by Mark Moz[/caption]   Contrary to popular belief, millennials are gradually succumbing to the siren’s call of home ownership.  And why not? Mortgage rates are still at historic lows, home prices are inching up, and job growth is steady. Meanwhile, rents are rising. As my daughter put it, “I want something to show for all those checks I am writing.” If you have already made the decision to buy, congratulations! From a financial standpoint, first-time homebuyers have a few things to work on. Credit Score:  The better your credit score, the easier it is to get a mortgage at better rates. So get your finances in shape so your credit score is the best it can be. Pay your bills on time,…
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Is Your Financial Advisor a Fiduciary? And Why Should You Care?

Finance
Fewer workers these days are lucky enough to have a pension plan. The rest of us save for retirement through our employers’ contributory plans like the 401k, or a 403b or Individual Retirement Account (IRA). When we retire or change jobs, we are responsible for managing these accounts ourselves or hire financial advisors to do so. Advisors come in all stripes: brokers, bankers, insurance reps, planners, or independent money managers. But they all fall in two broad categories: advisors who adhere to the “Suitability standard” and ones that are held to the higher “Fiduciary standard.” Advisors who are Fiduciaries are required, quite simply, to put their clients’ interests above their own. It means avoiding potential conflicts of interest or disclosing conflicts where they exist. Trades should be placed with the…
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“Tis the Season”

Finance
It was Christmas morning, and our kids, bright-eyed and way too bushy tailed, were all agog at the twinkling lights and the shiny presents under the tree. Soon, both were working into a present-opening frenzy, with wrapping paper and bows flying. Each barely registered the gift itself, so anxious were they to move to the next one. The whole process was repeated at the extended family gathering later that day. Surveying the wreckage after it was all over, I turned into Mom Scrooge. We went to a gift exchange format with the extended family, and were more judicious with our gift giving within our immediate family. ‘Tis the season, you say, to spread good cheer throughout the world, and spoil the children… yes and no. Americans spent an average of…
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Water, Water, Everywhere

Finance
By Ina Fernandez, CPA A client commented on the fact that although he was carrying insurance coverage significantly in excess of the value of his home, he still wasn’t covered for damages from the “flood of the century” that hit the Detroit area recently. Unfortunately, he isn’t alone.  Many beleaguered home and business owners are finding this out as well, when they finally get through to their insurance carriers.  If your home is located in a flood plain, most banks require you to carry flood insurance.  For the rest of us, we may well find ourselves truly soaked, treading water, or… (fill in your own pun here). What is covered by typical flood insurance policies? Unfortunately, standard insurance policies do not cover floods; you need a separate rider on your…
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A Rose by Any Other Name…

Finance
Well, I beg to differ from the Bard’s famous quote from Romeo and Juliet:  “What’s in a name…?”  There is plenty in a name, particularly when it comes to investment professionals. If you are contemplating using a professional to manage your investments, it is important to know the difference, as each are regulated differently and may have different legal obligations to their clients. Investment Advisor:  This is a person (or firm) paid a fee to give advice on investments to their clients. They are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities regulator. Investment advisors provide advice that is individually tailored to their clients’ needs using securities like stocks and bonds, or mutual funds. They are considered “fiduciaries,” the highest standard of care, and as such,…
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