Five Things To Know About the Capital Gains Tax
September 15, 2023
It’s never too early to start planning for tax season. While much of what you own will experience depreciation over time, any profit made from something you sell may be subject to the capital gains tax. So if you think you’ll be making a return on a previous investment this year, then you’re going to want to be well-versed in the capital gains tax.
Understanding the Capital Gains Tax
A capital gains tax is a tax on profits made from the sale of assets, such as stocks, businesses, real estate, and other types of investments. When you sell anything and make a profit, the U.S. government views that profit as taxable income. The capital gains tax is calculated by deducting the original cost of the asset from the total sale of that asset. It’s important to understand the capital gains tax guidelines, such as profits made from real estate or collectibles, which come with their own unique rules. Understanding the rules can help you make the best decisions about your capital gains income.
In order to minimize losses and maximize your gains, here are five things to know about the capital gains tax.
The Real Estate Rules
If a person sells their home for $250,000 or less, or a married couple sells their home for $500,000 or less, then they are exempt from the capital gains tax; this exemption is only available once every two years. If you sell your home or any other investment property for more than that but reinvest the money made from the sale into a new property, then you would also be exempt from paying taxes on your real estate gains; this is known as the 1031 exchange. Cory Robinson, financial portfolio manager says, “That’s the beauty of taking gains: You can immediately reinvest.” For a home to qualify as a primary residence, you must have lived in it for at least two years, or two years out of a five year period. It’s important to understand the rules around property sales, so speaking with an advisor is always recommended before selling your home. “Familiarize yourself with the capital gains tax exclusion rules and consult a tax advisor,” says financial analyst Greg McBride. “If the property has been your primary residence for less than 24 months, for example, you may decide to hold off until you’ve reached that threshold to avoid capital gains tax.”
The Difference Between Short and Long-term Capital Gains
Put simply, if you have held any asset for less than a year before selling it, then that asset is considered a short-term capital gain and is subject to a higher capital gains tax; if you own that asset for longer than a year before selling, then your profit is considered a long-term gain and subject to a lower tax rate. This is why selling any asset before you’ve owned it for at least 12 months should be avoided if possible.
Investment and Rental Property Strategies
The rules around investment property are different since their value typically depreciates over time. A 25 percent rate then applies to the gain from selling real estate that depreciated, because the IRS wants to recapture some of the tax breaks you’ve been getting due to depreciation, known as Section 1250 property. If you sell a rental property that you have not lived in for at least two years for over $250,000 (or $500,000 if married), then that property could be subject to not only the depreciation rate but a capital gains tax that is based on your income bracket. One wat to avoid this could be to invest in property in opportunity zones, areas identified as economically disadvantaged, which are tax-free when sold after ten years. Deducting expenses, such as home improvements, repair, and even closing costs, is another way to lower the amount of profit that is subject to the capital gains tax.
Your Income Bracket Determines Your Capital Gains Tax Rate
Tax rates are determined by your tax bracket, so a lot of people will actually pay no capital gains tax on the sale of long-term assets if they fall in the 0% tax rate. For the 2023 tax year, a single person that made up to $44,625, and a married couple that made up to $89,250 jointly would not have to pay any capital gains taxes.
Keep Track of Both Gains and Losses
When an asset is sold for more than what it cost, it results in a capital gain, but when the asset is sold for less than it cost, it results in a capital loss. If you have both gains and losses, it will be important to know your net gain, or your gains minus your losses; only net gains are subject to the capital gains tax. If you only have losses in a given year, then capital losses could actually lower your taxable income. This loss is limited to $3,000 per year per person (or $1,500 if you’re married). If you have an excess of $3,000 in losses, then those losses can actually be carried forward to future tax years.
It’s never a good idea to buy or sell assets solely for tax purposes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well aware of the rules around the capital gains tax. Insureyouknow.org can help you store all of your financial records in one place, so that it’s easier for you to keep track of your assets and taxable income. Before selling any investment, it’s important to know the laws unique to your state and speak with an advisor, who will know best what taxes you may be held responsible for. It’s good to know that for many, zero taxes on gains are actually possible.
5 Benefits of Paying Off Your Mortgage Early
August 17, 2023
For many Americans, a home mortgage is one of the heftiest and lengthiest investments they will make in their lifetime. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, mortgages accounted for 71% of combined household debts in 2022. The good news is with proper planning, this stressor can be eliminated. Depending on your financial position, opting to pay off your mortgage early can make a positive impact on your finances. It can simultaneously offer you a sense of peace and stability and provide greater financial freedom.
“Paying off your mortgage is a major milestone,” said Meaghen Hunt of Bankrate. “It’s a moment to celebrate, but also to take specific steps to ensure you’re the legal owner of the property, and to continue paying your homeowners insurance and property taxes on your own.”
- Reduce Interest Costs
The more time you carry a mortgage for, the more interest you will pay. Paying off your mortgage early allows you to save significantly on interest. Laura Tarpley of Business Insider estimates that paying off your mortgage early could save you tens of thousands of dollars. “Just make sure to clarify with your lender that all extra payments will just be going toward your principal, not interest,” she cautioned.
- Live Debt-Free
Forbes estimates that nearly 10 million American homeowners who are still paying off their mortgages are 65 years of age or older. That is a significant number of individuals still saddled with debt well into their old age. The increased financial security of having a paid-off mortgage means greater room in your finances to address other debts. The funds spent to make a mortgage payment can be redistributed to pay off other outstanding debts such as loans, credit card balances, and more. Overall, the ability to live debt-free without the stress of having to make a substantial payment is a significant benefit.
Hunt cautions that you may see your credit score suffer after paying off your mortgage especially if it was the only debt you carried. Although there is a brighter side. “In some cases, your score can improve, depending on what other kinds of credit you’ve borrowed,’ she added.
- Eliminate Monthly Payments
Most homeowners can expect to pay off their homes in 30 years making normal monthly payments. Not having to meet monthly payments frees up a sizable amount of money that can be invested in other, potentially high-earning, endeavors. This could allow for more wealth to be generated over time. Additionally, if you are unable to make your monthly payments due to financial instability, you are protected from losing your home.
- Be Financially Free
Mortgage payments often make up a substantial portion of one’s expenses and are also multi-year, with the average mortgage spanning between 15-30 years. Paying off your mortgage ahead of schedule frees up funds and allows for greater room to direct funds to other places.
“For people nearing retirement, a paid-off mortgage means they have that much more free cash flow from their fixed income when they stop working,” said Miranda Marquit of Bankrate. “It allows you to tap the equity in your home if you need money in the future.”
- Have Peace of Mind
Arguably one of the most advantageous benefits of having a fully paid mortgage is the right to own your home outright. Additionally, it protects you from the instability of the housing market which can lower the value of your home.
Having a mortgage paid off early provides many advantages, such as money saved long-term that permits debt and interest-free living and greater availability of funds to direct towards other investments. While not having to keep up with costly monthly payments into your retirement sounds appealing, it is important to take inventory of your finances before making the decision to pay off your mortgage early. Use insureyouknow.org to keep a track of your payments and debts to determine if an early mortgage payment is the right fit for you.
The Pros and Cons of Living with Children in Retirement
August 1, 2023
Combining households can be a positive experience for everyone. In order to ensure that every member of the family is comfortable with living together, it will be important to talk it out. Communicating about any concerns before moving in together and then regularly thereafter will ensure that everyone remains happy with the decision to cohabitate. Amy Goyer, an AARP family expert, tells children of retirees to embrace the chance. “Look at this as an opportunity,” she adds. “You have a chance to enjoy your mom or dad in their later years. This is a way for children to know their grandparents in a way they wouldn’t otherwise.”
Before combining households, retirees and their children should consider all of the pros and cons of living together during retirement beforehand.
The Pros of Living With Children During Retirement:
- Retirees can be a big part of their grandkids’ lives. Many parents choose to live with their children during retirement so that they can be a major part of their grandkids’ lives. Some parents want to help their children raise their kids, such as picking them up from school, helping with meals, or taking their grandkids to their extracurriculars after school. Parents who were busy with work while their own children were growing up may feel that they can now make up for lost time.
- Your family will have a strong support system in place. While you may want to help your children with their needs, they may also need to help you. This can range from needing a ride to a doctor’s appointment to needing care after surgery or during an illness. Either way, living together will enable each of you to be more available to one another in times of need.
- Combined expenses may make living together more cost effective for both of you. Having a real financial talk with your children before you decide to combine households may prove that it could save each of you a lot of money. Coming up with a budget of shared expenses can actually help family members thrive both as a whole and individually. With the right budget, retirees shouldn’t have to dig into their retirement as much every month, while their children will be able to save up more of their monthly income.
In addition to communicating with one another about finances and caretaking roles, make sure everyone is allotted their own personal time. For instance, grandparents may opt to have their friends over while their grandkids are in school and their children are at work. Working together to ensure that every member of the family gets space from one another from time to time will help prevent anyone from feeling stifled. Retirement expert Nancy K. Schlossberg, author of Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work and Play as You Age, says, “If you do your emotional work upfront, you’re more likely to be satisfied with your final decision.”
The Pros of Living With Children During Retirement Could Also be the Cons:
- Retirees may not want to become full-time babysitters. If your children have children, and you’re disinterested in being a full-time babysitter to the grandkids, setting boundaries upfront about what you do and don’t want to do will be extremely important. Also, consider day-to-day life with young children and maybe pets. “If you have no tolerance for noise, do you want to move into a house with children or teenagers?” asks Jennifer Prell, president of Illinois elder-resource network Silver Connections.Be realistic about what you will and won’t be able to handle on a daily basis.
- Children of retirees may not want to become full-time caretakers either. Children of retirees may not be prepared for the burden of caring for their own parents.Again, establishing what everyone is comfortable with will be imperative. Contemplate the worst-case scenarios before moving in together. “Even if Mom moves in relatively healthy, that could change overnight,” elder-law attorney Kerry Peck points out. “Families generally underestimate the amount of care that Mom is going to require.”
- Retirees (or their children) may end up footing the bill for everyone. If retirees or their children become overly reliant on one another, then moving in together may become more expensive for one party than remaining apart. Having an honest talk about financial responsibilities and emergency savings before moving in together should help prevent unexpected expenses for either one of you down the road. “So many families run into trouble when something bad unexpectedly happens,” says Jill Schlesinger, author of The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money. “That’s why it’s so important to talk to your kids about the What-Ifs,” said Schlesinger.
Consider Alternatives to Living Together
If you decide that joining households may not be the best option for your family, there are alternatives. Simply living closer to one another can reap the same benefits of living with children during retirement while removing the downsides.
While there’s an appeal to living ten minutes from one another, one of you may feel as if some of your independence has been lost. Talk to your children, and decide how close is too close. If in the end, you decide to live farther away from your children, planning reciprocal visits or spending part of the year with them may turn out to be the best of both worlds.
If you do decide to remain independent during retirement, make sure there’s plenty of room in your home for your children to visit or stay overnight. If you have more than one child, factor in enough space for all of them and their families, so that each of your children may visit you simultaneously.
In the end, living with your children during retirement should be beneficial for both of you. Insureyouknow.org can help your family keep the peace. When combining households, keeping the budget, financial information, healthcare records, and even family schedules in one easy-to-access place can help everyone work together to keep the household running smoothly. Since communication will be the key to living happily together, it will be important for everyone to be in the know.
Are you too old to open a Roth IRA?
July 1, 2023
Many people intend to rely on their 401(k) plans offered through employment, personal savings and collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits during retirement, but financial advisors recommend diversifying your retirement plan to include a Roth IRA. Plus, if you’re not offered a 401(k) plan through work, Social Security and savings alone may not be enough. The first step in determining whether it’s too late to open a Roth IRA is understanding the potential benefits and downsides of having one.
Understanding the Roth IRA
The difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA is that a Roth IRA allows for tax-free income during retirement, while a Traditional IRA taxes withdrawals. With a Roth IRA, contributions are taxed upfront, so all withdrawals of earnings are federal tax-free once the account has existed for five years, and the account holder is at least 59½. Contributions, though, can always be withdrawn at any age without taxes or penalties, which could be especially important during unexpected financial hardship. For anyone new to investing or planning for retirement, IRA expert and accountant Ed Slott recommends starting with a Roth IRA, saying, “There’s just no question that that is the better place,” to start.
Opening a Roth IRA
In order to contribute to a Roth IRA, you must earn an income, but there are income limits. In 2023, a single person may make $153,000 or less, while those who file jointly may make $228,000 or less. While there are no RMDs, there is a Maximum Contribution allowed of $6,500 under the age of 50 and $7,500 for those 50 and over. That means that if you have extra income to invest between the age of 50 and 70, the Roth IRA might be just right for you. Contributions are not tax deductible and all earnings grow tax-free. Because Roth IRAs do not have Required Minimum Distributions (or RMDs) after the age of 73, this is yet another reason that it might be the perfect account to consider for someone who is older and may be behind on their retirement planning.
The Benefits to Opening a Roth IRA at an Older Age
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. With a Roth IRA, the longer the account is open, the longer someone has to save and take advantage of compound interest. Winnie Sun, managing director of Sun Group Wealth Partners says she always points young investors to Roth IRAs, because not only can it get them started on long term investing, but it can “help them sock away money that can be accessed in an emergency.” There are still advantages to opening a Roth IRA even at an older age, as long as an individual falls within the income and contribution limits. If you’re over the age of 59½ or getting there, then once the account has been open for five years, there will be no penalty for withdrawing earnings tax-free, and if you plan to continue earning past 73 or don’t need to withdraw funds at that time, then there will be no harm in not withdrawing a certain amount per year as Roth IRAs do not have RMD restrictions. While some people view the inability to claim contributions as a tax deduction as the downside to Roth IRAs, others argue that not having to pay taxes on your distributions is the upside to that later on. Perhaps the best way of looking at this feature is that retirees may leave their heirs tax-free funds, which may be particularly important for some people. Income, though, may be the most important factor in opening a Roth IRA later in life, as some individuals don’t earn more until they are older. It may not be until an older age that an individual has the extra income that they can now invest, especially once the mortgage is paid or their children are independent. Many find themselves in the unfortunate position of not having saved up what they’ll need, and so they’ll want to make the most of their earnings while they can; that’s when a Roth IRA can help.
The best thing to do when it comes to retirement planning is to start early, but because of various situations, this isn’t always possible for everyone. Even if an individual has been saving or has a decent 401(k) plan through their job, opening a Roth IRA at a later time can help many people plan on having extra funds during their retirement years. Insureyouknow.org can help you store all your retirement plans in one place so that your retirement accounts and other finances are easy to access and can be updated regularly. This way, you can focus on earning and enjoying your funds both now and later in life.
Scammer on the Rise: How to Protect Yourself in Retirement
June 1, 2023
A change in your retirement savings balance could be the result of recent stock market volatility, or because your account has been accessed by someone else and compromised. The National Association of Plan Advisors reported that hackers have been targeting retirement accounts, either through large-scale attacks on financial institutions or by using stolen personal information. Bryce Austin with TCE Strategy said that a hacker can get into your 401(k) two ways, either by “retrieving your credentials with the financial institution” and pretending to be you or by convincing you to do it “on their behalf.” Scammers have been known to contact people posing as the police, claiming that their funds are at risk and convincing them to transfer their retirement money into a “safer” account. If someone does so, then there’s no legal recourse, because they are doing so deliberately; the savings are “just gone,” Austin said. It’s important that retirees are aware of this trend and make sure that their accounts are secure.
Set Up Online Access to Your Accounts
First, make sure that you have online access to all of your retirement accounts. This will allow you to monitor your own accounts regularly. If you ever notice any unusual activity or changes that you have not made yourself, contact the institution immediately. Some firms will not reimburse account holders for fraudulent transactions if they aren’t reported during a certain time frame. Establishing online access also prevents someone else from doing so before you can, since thieves have been known to use stolen information to access and retrieve funds. Create your own Social Security account at ssa.gov while you’re at it, so that hackers don’t divert your Social Security benefits to their own accounts. When out and about, do not use public WiFi connections to check your accounts. Unfortunately, hackers can access these networks and steal your personal information by viewing your online activity.
Access your Accounts Safely
Once you have access to your accounts online, make sure you use a strong password and change it regularly. Your password should be something that a hacker cannot easily guess, such as your or a loved one’s birthday. Next, use multi-factor authentication if your institutions offer this step. Requiring multiple verifications to access your account can stop thieves in their tracks, as well as alert you if someone else is trying to access your account. If you are able to, financial author Cameron Huddleston suggests naming a trusted contact. A trusted contact cannot access your account, but your institution can contact them and make sure that it is actually you who is trying to access your funds.
Periodically Check Your Credit Reports
In addition to monitoring your own accounts, checking your credit reports regularly is one more easy thing you can do to catch any unusual activity on your accounts. A credit report shows all accounts that you have opened, balances, and can even find data breaches. A data breach can compromise your personal information and alert you to change your passwords or close a compromised account. A sudden fluctuation in your credit score can also be a sign that something isn’t right.
How to Recognize (and Avoid) a Scam
If you receive a suspicious phone call, text message, email, social media message, or letter that doesn’t seem right, then trust your gut. The caller or sender may not be who they say they are and it’s likely a scam. If you want to be sure, then you can call the company’s customer service line and verify that they meant to contact you. No matter how official the message may seem, that doesn’t mean it’s authentic. Many scammers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration, Medicare, IRS, or credit card companies. Lawyer and author Steve Weisman says, “The IRS and the SSA will never initiate contact with people through a phone call, so you can be sure that the person calling you is a scammer.” The same goes for Medicare. Your Medicare number is valuable and can enable a criminal to steal health benefits, so if anyone is asking you for your Medicare number, then this is a sure red flag that they are a scammer.
Perhaps the number one rule for protecting yourself against a scam is to never provide anyone with personal information without verifying their true identity. Again, this can be done by hanging up or ignoring the message and calling the company directly. Also, be mindful of your mail. Any documents with sensitive information should be shredded, and if anyone else is retrieving your mail, make sure they are someone you trust. Opting for paperless statements is another safeguard against anyone stealing personal information via your mail.
Anyone who is trying to rush you into making an important financial decision likely does not have your best interests at heart. It’s important to research any company that you plan to invest with. Before buying stocks, you can even check the SEC’s EDGAR database. Be especially skeptical of anyone who is pitching something in a time-sensitive manner, such as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” A true financial advisor will respect your desire to think it over and even encourage you to do so. Before making any important financial decisions, it’s not a bad idea to refer to a trusted professional anyway. That being said, anyone telling you to “leave everything to me” may not deserve that much of your trust. At the end of the day, you should always be your own expert on your retirement and finances.
The best defense against retirement theft is your willingness to take a few extra steps to protect your accounts, such as using multi-factor authentication and monitoring your own accounts on a regular basis. Most of all, remain diligent about who you’re providing sensitive personal information to. These are simple ways to protect your nest egg and gain valuable peace of mind. Insureyouknow.org can help you store all of your financial information in one place so that your retirement accounts and other finances are easy to monitor. Then you can get back to worrying about what’s really important, such as how you’ll be enjoying your retirement.
The Lowdown on the Banking Crisis and What it Means for Retirees
May 15, 2023
In the midst of the Great Retirement, an excess of 2.6 million retirees left the workforce during the pandemic. “A lot of people had reasons to retire and the way markets evolved allowed them to,” says research economist Miguel Faria-E-Castro. While health and safety concerns were very real for many, others chose to leave early because of changing work environments or needing to become full time caregivers; others simply took advantage of rising asset values.
The pandemic isn’t solely to blame for the influx of retirees, though. The Employee Benefit Research Institute regularly finds that many Americans end up retiring earlier than planned. Whether you’ve already retired or intend to soon, it may be important to factor the recent banking crisis into your planning.
Understanding the Banking Crisis
In March 2023, the United States’ Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) suddenly collapsed, mainly in part due to a bank run, when their customers rushed to withdraw their funds over panic due to the bank’s loss of stocks. The failure of this California-based bank raised concerns for Americans about the financial health of their own assets, even though the Federal Reserve, Treasury department, and FDIC moved quickly to ensure that all depositors would have full access to their funds, a move meant to calm fears of a full market collapse. Financial experts believe that because of these unprecedented actions, the failure of SVB does not pose a threat to the financial market at this time.
While deposits of up to $250,000 are FDIC insured, many people are wondering if their 401(k) is protected, and the short answer is: It depends. If your 401(k) is uninsured and invested in “stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, you’re not covered against those investments losing value,” then your funds are not protected under the FDIC guarantee, according to finance professor Valentina Bruno. Retirement plans that the FDIC does cover include IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs, up to $250,000, but if you had more than one of these (each valued at over $250,000) at the same banking institution, then only one of them would be insured. This is why it may be a good idea to spread your assets out over different institutions.
Planning for Retirement
If you haven’t retired yet, hopefully you’ve begun planning and saving already, because the earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow. If you’re offered a 401(k) retirement plan through employment, it’s important to take advantage and get enrolled. Even better, if the plan allows you to make contributions, do so and you’ll be rewarded with lower taxes at the end of the year. The biggest mistake people make, according to financial expert Jim Yih, is starting too late. “All my clients, no matter how much they have saved, say they wish they’d started earlier.” Yih’s first recommendation is to put away 10 percent of your gross income, starting as soon as you can.
Become the Expert of Your Retirement
While learning all about retirement plans may be intimidating, many financial advisors actually recommend becoming an expert of your own retirement options. If you are not offered a 401(k) through employment, there are other options, including an IRA, which is a plan that you would open yourself through a broker or other provider. Since there are many types of IRA accounts, the most common being a Traditional or Roth IRA, it’s important to learn about the different conditions of each account before deciding which is the best fit for you. Financial author Liz Weston encourages everyone “to consult a fee-only financial planner or accredited financial counselor if at all possible before retiring, simply because there are so many decisions that have to be made.”
No matter the kind of account you choose, the first step is to determine how much money you’ll need when you retire. Experts advise replacing 70 to 90% of your annual pre-retirement income through Social Security and savings. The next step is to determine what your financial goals are now, such as paying off a mortgage or other debts and saving for your childrens’ college tuition. Factoring in these financial boundaries help put retirement budgets into perspective. Yih warns that, “It’s almost impossible [to do it all] unless you have a big income, and even then, things don’t always work out,” so he tells people to choose two or three focal areas that are most important to them.
Exercising Financial Resilience
In order to increase financial resilience, one must learn to anticipate the unexpected. While 60% of families faced a financial emergency last year, one third faced two. If any of your retirement accounts were affected by the banking crisis, then you may have experienced an unexpected loss firsthand. It’s best to prepare for this and diversify your retirement plan. A good rule is to make sure 80% of your savings are invested in methods that have stood the test of time, while 20% of your funds are involved in higher-risk investments.
Thanks to Social Security, whatever your retirement accounts are, you can still plan on collecting something after the age of 65. This also means that if you were affected by the banking crisis and are 65 or older, then you can still count on these benefits. If you intend to retire earlier than 65, then you want to include this factor in your planning. For instance, how much money will you need to carry health insurance before you’re eligible for Medicaid at 65? Since “Social Security is guaranteed income that is adjusted for inflation,” Weston advises delaying Social Security benefits for as long as you can.
Consider part-time work, not just for the supplementary income it will provide, but for the purpose it will likely bring to your life. The lifestyle component of your retirement is as important as having enough money to retire. “The most successful retirees are not the ones with the most money. The busiest retirees are the most successful ones,” says Yih.
Planning for retirement and financial resilience can provide peace of mind and allow you to focus on what really matters. The resolve you’ll feel after tackling financial planning is priceless. Insureyouknow.org can help you store all of your financial information in one place so that your retirement planning remains organized. Plus, when everything is easy to assess, periodically reassessing your finances when circumstances change becomes painless and straightforward.
The 8 Best Places to Live & Retire
April 15, 2023
Imagine this: you’re sitting on a hammock at the beach with the sun on your face without any concern about getting back to work. You’ve entered your retirement, better known as the best phase of your life.
There are many high liveability indicators that help characterize the best place for retirement. Many of these factors include a prosperous economy to find work in case a retiree needs to reenter the workforce, mild weather, a relatively low crime rate, quality hospitals and assisted living facilities, and sufficient wellness opportunities that won’t have you missing the workforce.
There are several places around the United States that serve as ideal spots to retire that possess many of these factors when you say goodbye to the 9 to 5.
Top Places to Escape to for Retirement
According to U.S. News, the following locations have the most affordable housing options, low retiree taxes, and are ranked high for overall happiness and quality of health care.
- Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Pensacola, Florida
- Tampa, Florida
- York, Pennsylvania
- Naples, Florida
- Daytona Beach, Florida
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
Lancaster is located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this city, there is plenty of Amish produce, local stores at the Lancaster Central Market, and a wide variety of cuisines and restaurants. It offers advanced health care for seniors and has high rates of happiness for its residents. Many of the residents also enjoy the diverse collection of cuisines and the art galleries and museums in the area including The Pennsylvania College of Art & Design and Franklin & Marshall College.
Harrisburg is the state capital of Pennsylvania with the Susquehanna River and several hiking trails including the Appalachian Trail. This ideal location has large metro areas nearby for visiting and the housing costs are very affordable for the residents. Many retirees enjoy traveling to New York City, Washington, Philadelphia, and Baltimore for day trips along the coast.
Pensacola is located near the border of Florida and serves as an accessible beach retirement spot for retirees. It features low taxes, high desirability, and affordable housing. It also has a very convenient location for access to the Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola Bay and a warm desirable climate. This area also has a small military presence that encourages several military families to settle in the area.
Tampa is a city with a combination of a beach and a metro for residents. Highlights of the city include many entertainment options including zoos, theme parks, and aquariums. Tampa also serves as a popular port spot for cruise ships for retirees to travel post-retirement. There are several active senior communities and neighborhoods in the area including Bayshore Beautiful, Bayshore Gardens, Beach Park, Oakford Park, and Sunset Park.
York is a city in Pennsylvania with preserved architecture from the 1700s that previously served as the nation’s capital. With a population of just under 500,000, it played an important role during the Revolutionary War and has a rich history for its residents. Retirees can enjoy a wide variety of places to explore in this city including galleries and theaters like the Agricultural and Industrial Museum and Colonial Complex, vendors at York’s Central Market, and parks and trails including Heritage Rail Trail County.
Naples is more expensive than other retirement spots in Florida but it allows for a high quality of life. Without an income tax for the state, retirees are able to keep more of their earnings if they obtain another job. Over half the existing population in the city is already over the age of 65. These residents are able to enjoy the warm weather, sunsets and beaches at the Naples Pier, several restaurants and shops, and private golf courses including the Hibiscus Golf Club and Naples Grande Golf Club.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach on the east coast of Florida has mild winter weather and is known for its prevalence of motor sports. Many retirees enjoy the low housing costs and views of the Atlantic Ocean. This area also has several 55-and-older communities already in place including Latitude Margaritaville which sells several single-family homes with resort-style amenities.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor, a college town with the University of Michigan, has a vibrant economy and lifestyle with abundant health care options and job opportunities. Retirees enjoy a high quality of life with ample musical performances and sports events. Additionally, this area has one of the largest healthcare complexes in the world with high-quality treatment facilities through Michigan Medicine, which is especially appealing to retirees.
After leaving the workforce, it is important to find the best place for retirement. At the places mentioned in this post, many retirees enjoy the widespread opportunities and high liveability indicators. At insureyouknow.org, you can track your savings to see which retirement location is the best fit for you and your future.
Planning for the Care of Your Adult Child on the Spectrum
April 1, 2023
Today marks the start of National Autism Awareness Month. For parents who have children with autism spectrum disorder (or ASD), it is imperative that they begin to plan for their future now. The CDC recently reported that approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD. Though it’s not something anyone wants to think about, every family should prepare for the day they are no longer around to care for their loved ones, especially those with disabilities. The most important part of designing a care plan is to utilize the help of professionals who specialize in the care of special needs. Since the process can be overwhelming,
“It’s essential to work with specialists in this type of planning,” said AndrewKomarow, founder of Planning Across the Spectrum in Connecticut. When working with a specialist, parents should let them know what they want for the child, so that a specialist can tell them what is right for their situation.
For many, the most intimidating portion of planning for the care of a special needs child is likely the financial aspect. People with disabilities usually qualify for Government services, such as Social Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicaid, but sometimes that may not be enough. Many government services have income limitations, so it’s very important to set up supplemental income, such as personal funds and life insurance, properly in order to avoid the disqualification of government aid. A special needs, or supplemental needs, trust will hold the assets of a person with disabilities without costing them their government benefits; another financial option is an ABLE account, that allows savings up to $100,000 without losing government benefits.
When it comes to housing, “It’s more important to look at the individual,” Komarow said. “What interests and supports do they need?” Parents should think beyond their child living in the family home or with other family members. It’s important to consider how independently functioning they are and which communities will best serve their needs. In other words, instead of parents thinking about where they would like to retire, they should be looking at areas that their child can thrive in after they pass away.
There is a trend toward more community-based living, Gordon Homes with WestPoint Financial in Indianapolis points out. “State-administered Medicaid HCBS waiver programs allow people with disabilities to live in a house or apartment,” he said. A planning specialist will know about options such as these and be able to direct parents toward a solution they can be comfortable with, and their children, if able to, should always be brought into this conversation.
Designating a Care Team
How independently functioning a child with ASD is will determine what kind of care team needs to be put in place. A trustee will help to manage the trust on behalf of the child. They should be someone who is responsible, cares about the child, and will outlive the parents. A guardian or conservator would make all of the decisions regarding an individual’s financial and personal affairs. With a power of attorney, both they and the individual will be able to make decisions together. If able, the child should always be included in the decision-making process, because they should feel just as comfortable as their parents are with the designated care team.
Compiling Information for Caregivers
Marianne Ehlert of Protected Tomorrows, who works with families of people on the autism spectrum to plan for adult living, knows that, “Usually, parents or guardians of a teen understand what that child needs.” It will be important to determine whether or not a child will have the skills they need as a young adult to function independently, such as managing finances, scheduling care appointments, managing personal hygiene, and maintaining the shopping, cooking, and cleaning at home. This will also help determine what sort of living conditions they will need. Will they live with family, alone with minimal support, or will they need to live at a full-time care facility? A statement or letter of wishes, though not a legally-binding document, will serve as a guide for those who will care for your child. It should include all of the child’s care instructions, including medical needs, financial benefits, residential arrangements, and even daily routines.
Planning While Your Child is Still Young
When planning happens early, parents can learn about beneficial programs that their child may be eligible for, oftentimes at their own school. A child’s education can actually be designed to support their plans for the future. Special Needs Planning expert Phillip Clark points out that many planning processes focus on the care of the child once the parents are gone, but planning should be focussed on the child thriving both in the future and now. In order to succeed in the future, children need support now that will help them achieve all of their goals. Families should envision what they want for their child and then determine what needs to be done in order to make that happen.
Not only can planning provide caregivers with priceless peace of mind, but it can also lead to the discovery of resources that will help children with ASD flourish now. Since the planning process can be long, Insureyouknow.org can help parents stay organized by storing all of their documents in one place, such as financial information, medical records, and detailed care instructions.
Jugging: The New Crime Trend
March 20, 2023
Everyone knows what it’s like to have your hands full. It takes special skills to juggle bags, briefcases, electronics, and to-go coffee containers all while trying to unlock your car door. It feels like a badge of honor is earned when you lug all those grocery bags inside in one trip. But all of these distractions can put you at risk of being the victim of a scary new crime trend called “jugging,” and gas station and c-store owners need to be aware of its dangers.
Jugging refers to a robbery that happens after a victim has withdrawn cash from a financial institution or ATM, and then is followed to a second location. It is a relatively new term that hasn’t caught on everywhere yet, but police departments across the United States, from Alabama to Hawaii, have started warning folks about the uptick in cases. Suspects tend to target certain demographics before choosing someone to follow. Women, the elderly, or people who seem to have their hands full are sought out for this type of crime.
“You go to a bank, you conduct business, you’re followed, and then you’re assaulted, or you lock your car and go into another business after the bank errand, and your car is broken into,” said Detective Matthew Judd, a detective in the robbery unit of the Austin Police Department (APD), in a recent press conference.
Avoid Becoming a Stat
On Saturday, Dec. 12, 2022, APD officers responded to a jugging case at a gas station located on East William Cannon Drive. The victim of the jugging had visited a bank and withdrawn cash before pulling over to refuel and purchase items inside. Three suspects followed him from the bank to the gas station, and violently robbed him while he was inside the store. They also assaulted the man who was working behind the counter when he tried to intervene and help the victim.
On Dec. 28, 2022, four people were arrested after a jugging incident at a Texaco on Cluck Creek Trail in Cedar Park. The victim had just withdrawn cash before stopping at the gas station, where they were attacked and robbed. Thanks to the victim’s descriptions of the attackers and their vehicles, police spotted them in Fayette County, where they were pulled over and arrested. Police believe these four suspects are connected to several other jugging incidents around Austin.
But it’s not just customers who are targeted. Gas station and c-store owners have been victims of juggings as well.
In 2018, a woman whose family owns a gas station and check cashing business in Houston was the victim of a violent jugging after she withdrew $75,000 in cash and took it back to her workplace. She was followed from the bank by two vehicles who were both monitoring her financial institution and working as a team. The men in the vehicles ambushed her once she was walking through the gas station parking lot. Her husband ran out to help her, but the assailants beat both victims and ran over the woman with their car. Both victims were hospitalized, and the suspects were arrested shortly after the robbery and charged with felony aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
The idea of jugging is scary, but officials have suggested many tips to keep it from happening to you:
Be aware of your surroundings
Police officers stress that simply being aware of your surroundings is the most important step you can take to preventing being the victim of a crime. If you see someone acting suspicious in or around a financial institution, either leave and come back at a later time, or tell a security guard. Make a mental note of anyone loitering near your bank or where you parked your car, as they may be scouting for potential victims. For example, if you enter a bank and see someone sitting in their car and they are still there when you exit and then follow you out of the parking lot, that’s a red flag.
If you think you’re being followed, get help
If a car pulls out of a parking lot after you, and you think they’re still trailing you after a while, drive to the nearest police or fire station or call 911. Do not drive home or stop anywhere. Try to get a good description of the vehicle and the person driving it, if you can.
“If they think you have cash, they’re going to follow you wherever you go,” said Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, who works in the APD robbery unit. “Our dispatch has been advised about the jugging problem. They are aware, and they should send an officer.”
Don’t be distracted
While you’re in the bank lobby or parking lot, stay off your phone and ditch your ear buds. Juggers tend to look for people they can take by surprise. Walk with your head up and make it obvious you are aware of your surroundings. Try to have your keys ready to unlock your car so you’re not digging through a bag or pockets looking for them – those few seconds are long enough for a jugger to catch you off guard.
Disguise your cash
Don’t make it obvious that you’re leaving the bank with cash. If you have a cash bag, put it in a different bag, like a briefcase or backpack. Even if you just have an envelope with bills in it, be sneaky. Slip it in an interior jacket pocket. Just make sure you do this before leaving the bank lobby.
Security is your friend
If you are withdrawing a large amount of money, ask your bank if they have a security guard who can safely escort you back to your car, or at least give the parking lot a once over. This should make anyone scouting out the parking lot nervous. Once you do pull out of the parking lot, keep glancing in your rearview mirror to ensure no one is following you.
Lock your doors as soon as you get back into the car
Press that lock button the second you’re sitting. Don’t wait to buckle your seatbelt or find what playlist you want to listen to – those are distractions, and a jugger just needs you to be distracted for a second to make their move. Your car door being locked will buy you time to drive off if someone tries opening it from the outside.
“Sometimes in these juggings, the suspect will just run up, open the passenger door, grab the bag, and leave,” says Taylor. “Lock your doors all the time, even if you’re inside.”
Don’t leave money unattended
Taylor says to not make any stops in between withdrawing cash and your last destination, as that’s usually when juggings occur. If you do need to make a stop after withdrawing cash, do not leave the money in your car unattended, even if your car doors are locked. Windows can be broken, and the center console is not a secret hiding spot.
Taylor encouraged people to follow these tips to stay safe.
“No amount of cash is worth your safety or enduring an assault,” she says.
As you start thinking of safer banking practices, consider using less cash and use online baking more, use InsureYouKnow.org – an online information-safe, as a place to safely store details of your bank. This product gives you the ability to access documents, and files remotely – or from the comforts of your own home.
Meal Planning on a Budget Without Compromising Ingredients
March 1, 2023
Grocery prices are up 11.8% as of December 2022, while certain items, like eggs are up 138% according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. With grocery prices soaring, many of us find ourselves pausing in the aisles, debating about whether or not we actually need something. “Meal planning is one way to edit down your shopping list to weekly essentials and save money,” said certified financial planner Ted Jenkin.
Here are five tips to keep your ingredients healthy, and your bottom line low:
- Know your prices. Though making more than one stop can be more time consuming, it can save you a ton of money. Margaux Laskey of the NYT suggests visiting a couple of different stores to take advantage of sales. When you begin keeping track of prices, you may start by taking notes on your phone, but eventually, you’ll memorize them, knowing where to get your regular items at the best price. When in doubt, a quick internet search will tell you whether or not you’re being gouged; coffee is an excellent example of this.
- Take an inventory of what you already have. Frozen meat, perishables, and pantry items are the first three things to check when making your list. For instance, if you already have a jar of marinara and a box of pasta, then you may only need to get ground beef for a fun spaghetti night.
- Always shop what’s on sale. BOGO (buy one get one) sales are great for pricier things like cheese and staples like cereal. “If you spot a good sale on your favorite, stock up!” emphasizes Laskey. She adds that cereal can also be used in cereal bars, pie crusts, and even as bread crumbs. Next, the produce and meat that’s on sale should be the items that help you decide what’s for dinner. Vegetables on sale will make excellent side dishes to almost any meat that’s also on sale.
- Keep breakfast simple, and use last night’s leftovers for lunch the next day. Food will never go to waste if you plan on eating leftovers the next day for lunch. Plus, if you have some leftovers piling up in the fridge, plan on a leftover dinner night. For breakfast, stick to a simple rotation; cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt are all inexpensive and pair well with fresh fruit.
- Give the pantry some love. You don’t need to buy fresh to incorporate produce into your diet. Salsa, marinara, canned veggies, apple sauce, fruit cups, and jams are examples of working produce into your diet without having to buy fresh. Dietitian Mike Gorski points out that with these items “you aren’t sacrificing nutritional value for convenience and reduced costs.” Canned seafood is another way to save; tuna (tuna salad), salmon (salmon cakes), and clams (linguini and clams) will almost always be less expensive than their fresh counterparts.
When in a Pinch, be Realistic
You may find that the store is out of something you need or it’s just really priced too high for your budget; let it go, and be flexible. Some nights, you may not feel well or just be too tired to cook, so have a pre-allocated takeout budget ready. Keep a drawer full of menus and coupons, and know your specials. Many locations have kids-eat-free nights, while grocery stores offer weekday specials too, such as $5 rotisserie chicken days. “Never underestimate the power of a rotisserie chicken,” said Vaughn Vreeland of NYT Cooking, who eats some for dinner, then shreds the remaining meat and uses it later in chicken salad and soup.
If you are one of the 64% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, creating a budget is imperative. There are several free resources online to help you plan and budget your monthly expenses as well as devise a meal plan for the week. At insureyouknow.org, we recommend that you track your monthly expenses at the grocery store and file receipts, important documents, and all of your family records.