Six Things to Know about SIMPLE IRA

April 30, 2024

Offering a SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) to employees is an effective way for small businesses to offer their employees a retirement plan. At a glance, this plan allows both the employer and employee to make contributions, and there are less reporting requirements and paperwork involved for the small business owner. Besides the ease in which these plans can be established for employees, the main perks are tax incentives for both the employer and the employee. “They are fairly inexpensive to set up and maintain when compared to a conventional retirement plan,” says client advisor at First American Bank Karina Valido. “For employers, contributions are tax-deductible. For participants, contributions and earnings are not taxed until withdrawn.”

Even though the SIMPLE IRA is a straightforward retirement option, here are six things to know about this plan, whether you’re an employer or an employee.

  1. Employee Contribution Limits in 2024

With a SIMPLE IRA, an employee can, but isn’t obligated to, make salary reduction contributions. In 2024, the maximum amount an employee under the age of 50 can contribute is $16,000. With a SIMPLE IRA, you may also contribute to another retirement plan as long as both contributions don’t exceed the yearly limit. The annual limit for combined SIMPLE IRA and 401(k) contributions in 2024 cannot be more than $23,000 or $30,500 for people who are 50 or older. Since an employer cannot offer both plans, this would only apply to those employees who held a previous account elsewhere.

  1. Employer Contribution Requirements

Employers must do one of two things: match employee contributions or make nonelective contributions. If an employer chooses to match each employee’s salary reduction contribution, they must do so by up to 3% of their employee’s compensation. While an employer may choose to match less than 3%, they must at least match 1% for no more than two out of five years. If an employer chooses to make nonelective contributions of 2% of the employee’s compensation, they must do so for every employee, regardless of having some employees who are making their own contributions. So if an employer chooses to make nonelective contributions, then they must also match the contributions of those employees who choose to contribute to their own plans.

  1. SIMPLE IRA Tax Advantages

For employees, salary reduction contributions to their SIMPLE IRA reduces their taxable income and their investments will grow tax-deferred over time. Because it’s a tax-deferred account, you won’t need to pay capital gains taxes when you buy and sell investments within the account. Plus, unlike many other retirement plans, such as a 401(k), employer contributions to a SIMPLE IRA are immediately vested and belong to the employee.

Employers also benefit from tax incentives with the SIMPLE IRA. They can get a tax credit equal to 50% of the startup costs, or up to a maximum of $500 per year, for three years. This credit is in addition to the other tax benefits they will receive from contributing to employee retirement plans.

  1. All About Withdrawals

During retirement, withdrawals will be taxed as regular income. Before the age of 59 ½, there’s a 10% penalty on withdrawals in addition to the income taxes you would owe. With the SIMPLE IRA, the withdrawal penalty rises to 25% if the money is taken out within two years of the plan being contributed to. Under qualified exemptions, like higher education costs or first home purchases, then you may avoid an early withdrawal fee, but you would still have to pay the taxes.

  1. Eligibility for SIMPLE IRAs

The Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 created the SIMPLE IRA. It was designed with small businesses and self-employed individuals in mind and meant to be simple, accessible, and inexpensive. “A SIMPLE IRA is a small-business-sponsored retirement plan that, as the name indicates, is simple to establish and maintain,” explains financial advisor at Marsh McLennan Agency Craig Reid. “Available to U.S. companies with 100 or fewer employees, SIMPLE IRAs are a cost-effective alternative to the mainstream 401(k) plan.”

In order to be eligible for a SIMPLE IRA, an employer must have fewer than 100 employees and have no other retirement plan in place. They must also make contributions each year. For an employee to be eligible, they must receive at least $5,000 in compensation during any two prior years and expect to receive the same during the current year.

  1. The Difference Between SIMPLE IRA and SEP-IRA

Both a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP-IRA) and a SIMPLE IRA are employer-sponsored retirement plans that offer employees a tax-advantaged way to save for their retirement. Contributions in each grow tax-deferred until they are withdrawn during retirement. They are each designed to be easily established in small businesses, especially when compared to a 401(k).

One key difference between the two plans is that while a SIMPLE IRA allows both the employer and employee to make contributions, the SEP-IRA only allows the employer to contribute. The SEP-IRA, though, does allow higher contributions, which will be limited to $69,000 in 2024, compared to $16,000 in 2024 for the SIMPLE IRA. The other main difference between the two plans is that any employer can offer a SEP-IRA, while only businesses with less than 100 employees qualify for offering the SIMPLE IRA.

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If you’re a self-employed individual, a small business owner, or you have recently begun working for a small business that offers you a SIMPLE IRA, it will benefit you to know the upsides of having one and understand the rules around the plan. With Insureyouknow.org, you can store all of your financial information and records in one place so that you may stay organized and allow yourself the best decision-making process in your retirement planning.

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How to Cut Down on the Cost of Owning a Car

February 15, 2024

In 2023, the average cost of owning a new car was $12,182 a year or $121 a month according to AAA. In addition to car payments, insurance, and maintenance costs, the price of gas is $5 a gallon,, which means that most U.S. households will spend $2,750 on gas per year. “If you are living paycheck to paycheck, it could put you over the edge,” says Ivan Drury, senior manager for Edmunds.com, a car shopping site. “But even if you are not, it’s very emotional. It’s in your face twice a week.”

The good news is that by cutting your expenses in other areas, such as with car insurance, you can save money and make up for the added charges at the pump. Besides simply driving less, which isn’t an option for many people, here are a few ways to make car ownership more affordable.

1. Shop Around For Car Insurance

According to J.D. Power, only 1 in 7 drivers changed auto insurers last year, but shopping around for lower premiums could save you a lot of money. In addition to your location and the type of car you own, other factors affect your rates, including your age and credit score. If you’ve improved your score within the last year, this one factor may lower your car insurance bill.

You can collect quotes through an insurance agent or use an online search engine, such as Experian, who claims to have saved drivers an average of $961 a year or $80 a month in 2021. Calling around or doing a quick search takes only fifteen minutes and could shave a lot of money off of your premium.

2. Check For Discounts and Adjust Your Existing Policy

Your existing carrier may offer discounts you don’t even know about, such as for paying your bill online and in advance. According to Zebra, paying your bill early online saves the average customer $170 a year. Bundling insurance policies, such as combining your homeowners and auto insurance, is another way insurance companies incentivize their policies through discounted rates.

There are usually three types of coverage on any given insurance policy, including liability, collision, and comprehensive. While most states require drivers to carry some amount of liability coverage, eliminating collision and comprehensive coverage could save you up to $900 a year. You may also opt to lower your car insurance premium by raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000. This makes sense if you don’t have a new or expensive car and can afford to pay the deductible if anything were to happen.

3. Outside Financing And Refinancing

One of the smartest ways to avoid high interest rates on a car payment is by securing outside financing. Compared to what the dealership will offer you, this can save you a ton of money in interest alone. Your local bank or credit union can help you shop around for the best offer. If you already have a monthly car payment, the next best thing to do is to look into refinancing your loan. Drivers who benefit the most from refinancing are those who have improved their credit score since initially securing their loan.

Of course if you can purchase a car outright, avoiding any kind of financing is always the very best option. If it’s possible for you to stick to a budget and save up, you may even be able to negotiate a better deal on the purchase price of your desired vehicle. Forty percent of the cost of owning a car is actually depreciation, which can equal more than $3,000 annually. That means that buying a gently used car is a great deal, without the rapid decline in value.

4. Sell One of Your Cars or Trade it Out

If you have a luxury or oversized vehicle, then trading your vehicle or a more practical car is always an option. Once you have a simpler car, you’ll save money on gas, insurance, and even maintenance costs. “Less fancy cars are more reliable,” says editor of Autotrader Brian Moody. “They have fewer gadgets.”

If your family has more than one car, then you may be able to sell one of them and end up saving a lot of money every month. Many families find that they adjust to sharing a vehicle, and when you need your own car for some reason, using Uber or Lyft periodically may still cost less than owning a vehicle. 

5. Save on Gas

Nearly twenty percent of the cost of car ownership comes from fuelling up. Unless your vehicle requires premium fuel, save by filling up with regular gas. You may also choose to slow down as gas mileage increases at lower speeds. If you can, try driving less, such as by walking to close destinations or starting a carpool for work. If you are able to get your annual mileage below 7,500, then your insurance company might even give you a discount on your coverage for that too. 

6. Save up for Maintenance

The cost of vehicle maintenance is equal to fourteen percent of the total cost of owning a car. By keeping up on routine maintenance and using synthetic oil, you will avoid more expensive issues down the road. When a large repair does arise, always call around to get quotes and go with the best deal. Since emergencies happen, setting up a sinking fund for unplanned car expenses is always a good idea. By putting away only $83 a month, you’ll save up $1,000 a year, which could be used for an unforeseen mechanic bill. “You could set aside money every week,” suggests Lauren Fix of Car Smarts. “Then the money will be available rather than using a credit card at a high interest rate.”

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The less money you spend on your car, the more you’ll have for other expenses in your life, from groceries to vacations. With Insureyouknow.org, you can store all of your vehicle and financial records in one place. That way when it’s time to refinance, shop around for better insurance, or sell your car, everything you need will already be at your fingertips. There’s never a good reason to throw away your hard-earned money on unnecessary expenses.

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Which is Best: Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account?

February 1, 2024

While a health savings account (HSA) and a flexible savings account (FSA) both help you to set money aside for health care costs, they are not the same. Both accounts are often offered by employers, but it is possible to open an HSA independently as long as you have a HSA-eligible health plan in place. FSAs however are strictly employer-based and can only be contributed to if your employer offers them to you. Here are six key differences to know between HSAs and FSAs.

  1. An HSA Belongs to You, Not Your Employer

Whether or not you opened up a HSA through your employer-offered insurance, the funds within your HSA belong to you forever. You may even use your HSA to cover health insurance costs if you leave your current job. On the other hand, FSA funds belong to your company, and when you leave them, you forfeit your FSA.

This is not to say a FSA can’t be advantageous, as long as you intend to stay with your current employer. “The FSA basically works with any kind of health insurance plan,” says Roy Ramthun, president of HSA Consulting Services. “So from that perspective, the ‘flexible’ in the name is pretty good.”

  1. Both Accounts Have Contribution Limits

Each year, the IRS determines maximum annual amounts that can be contributed to both HSAs and FSAs. Employers may also apply their own limits to their employee FSAs. For 2024, the IRS individual contribution limits for HSAs will be $4,150, while the family limit will be twice that. In 2024, the maximum contribution for FSAs will be $3,200. While a HSA has a higher contribution limit, your employer may be contributing to your FSA for you, which may allow you to contribute more of your earnings into your own HSA.

  1. HSA Funds Carry Over

With an HSA, you may carry over unused funds from year-to-year indefinitely. This is helpful when you have more in your account than you can use before the year’s end. With the HSA, your funds won’t go wasted. This is why it is a great way to save up for unexpected health costs down the road.

Alternatively, FSA funds must be used before the year is over, or you’ll forgo the existing funds when the calendar year starts over. Some employers may allow you to carry over part of the funds or provide you with a grace period to use your funds, which is generally two and a half months. Since FSAs are offered through your employer, it will be important to inform yourself of their policies around the account.

  1. FSAs are More Accessible at the Beginning of Each Year

While your FSA funds don’t rollover, if you or your employer plan to contribute your entire limit at the beginning of the year, then that entire amount is available to you immediately. HSA funds accumulate over the year, which means that if you need access to more coverage midyear, you may not have enough money in your HSA to pay your medical bills. The upside to this is that you should be able to reimburse yourself for previous medical expenses from your HSA once those funds become available.

  1. The HSA Can be an Investment Strategy

Unlike an FSA, the HSA can gain interest over time. Couple this with the fact that your funds carry over year to year, and the HSA offers the potential for growing quite a sizable nest egg for potential health care coverage. According to the Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, an average retired couple age 65 in 2023 may need up to $315,000 saved just to cover health care expenses in retirement, while a single individual will need approximately $157,500.

  1. At 65, the HSA Can Act as a 401K or IRA

Before the age of 65, you will be subject to a 20% penalty if you use your HSA or FSA funds for anything other than medical expenses. But once you’re 65 or older, that fee is waived, which means that those HSA funds are only subject to income taxes no matter how you use them. While you avoid the 20% penalty over the age of 65 with a FSA as well, those funds can still only be used for health care coverage.

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Both HSAs and FSAs can prove to be valuable parts of a health coverage plan. Whether or not your employer offers a FSA to you in addition to health insurance coverage for you and your dependents will of course factor into your decision making about whether or not an added HSA will be necessary. Insureyouknow.org can help you store all of your financial and medical information in one place so that you can stay organized and make the best decisions when planning for your family’s health coverage.

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Saving for Your Next Vacation is Easy With a Plan

November 15, 2023

With world oil prices up, so is the cost of everything else. And now that interest rates are on the rise in an effort to combat inflation, hotel prices have risen by ten percent at many popular destinations. The benefits of traveling though are not worth foregoing due to rising costs. Travel is beneficial to your mental health by helping you feel calm and relieving stress and tension. With a little bit of creativity and determination, anyone can save up for a vacation and even get a great deal on travel costs.

How to Save for a Yearly Vacation

The best way to save for a vacation is to plan for it. If you have a specific trip in mind, start thinking about how much it will cost. Then create what is known as a sinking fund. If you think your vacation a year from now is going to cost $2,400, then put away $200 into an account every month. In a year’s time, you would have what you need for that vacation. If you continued the habit, then you’d have that vacation money saved every year.

When bills come in and unexpected expenses pop up, it can become difficult not to dip into your savings. This is why it’s important to keep your vacation account or sinking fund out of reach. Set up an automatic transfer for your savings every month instead of relying on yourself to transfer the money when you get paid. Gaby Dunn, author of Bad With Money, advises separating your money from your general savings so that you don’t use it for a different expense. “It’s also a good idea to open a specific account just for your vacation fund,” she suggests.

Once you’ve determined how much you’ll need to save, it then becomes time to get serious about sticking to a budget. “Many times, people will design their vacation and then attach dollars to it,” says Jesse Mecham, the founder of You Need a Budget. “But it’s better to come up with a reasonable number first, then whittle away at it when you start planning the trip. The reality is that we have only so much money.”

Budgeting really becomes about determining where you’re wasting money and where you can save money. Here are five easy ways to save for your next vacation::

  • One of the best ways to cut back on spending is to eat out less often and cook more meals at home. “Anyone I’ve talked to who has saved up a lot of money or paid off a lot of debt has cut back on eating out,” says Mecham. “Learning how to meal plan has been the overarching approach that has worked.” It might take some getting used to, but meal planning on the front end of your week can save a lot of money in the long run that you can put toward your travel budget.
  • Study your spending habits and cut back on buying unnecessary items. It might be coffees to-go, books that could have been borrowed  from the library, or impulse clothing purchases. Notice your spending weaknesses and then get disciplined about avoiding  those temptations.
  • You may have some sneaking subscriptions to streaming services, apps, or memberships that you’re not using often enough to make them worth the added strain on your budget. Take an inventory and see which subscriptions you could go without. The twenty or so dollars you’re spending a month on something you’re not even using could easily go toward your sinking fund instead.
  • Savings account interest rates are often higher with online banks than brick and mortar banks. Kelly Johnson of the travel blog, Snap Travel Magic, suggests finding the highest-yield savings account. Then, “Put 5% of each paycheck,” she advises,
    directly into the account.”
  • Use credit cards that reward you, whether it’s a bonus sign-up offer, regular cash back percentages on money spent, or points that can be put toward travel expenses. “Many credit cards offer sign up bonuses in which you can earn free cash back, extra airline miles and travel points for spending a certain amount of money within the first few months of account opening which you can use to cover a big portion of your travel expenses,” says shopping consultant Andrea Woroch.  

The most important thing when it comes to saving for your travel goals may be to stay motivated. Keep in mind why you’re budgeting by placing a picture of your desired destination somewhere you look often or making it the background image on your phone or computer. This way, if you’re tempted to make a purchase through your phone, you’ll be reminded of why you’re working so hard to save money for your dream vacation.

How to Get the Best Deals on Travel Costs

If you’re willing to be flexible with where you travel to, there is another way to score inexpensive tickets. Companies such as Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flying allow you to seize temporary deals. By entering your home airport into Google Flights, choosing a desired departure date, and leaving the destination blank, people can find startling low prices on round trip tickets. This is not to say you should forego your dream trip for a deal on plane tickets. This is just one strategy to consider if you’re more in need of a break than of an actual place you have in mind.

Knowing how to avoid the high season in certain places is an artform worth mastering. Besides dealing with less crowds on your vacation, you can also take advantage of lower prices on almost all of your costs. While school schedules affect peak travel times, time off varies depending on the location. The ideal time in most places is likely going to be in between seasons or “shoulder season,” such as May in tropical destinations and October in colder places, including Europe. A little research will tell you when it’s best to travel to the destination you have in mind.

Next, shop around and compare the prices of hotels and rental properties. For instance, the advantage of having a kitchen in a rental may vary widely based on where you’re going. In some places, it will be less expensive to eat out than to cook and vice versa. Whichever you choose – hotel or rental – pay close attention to reviews, especially with Airbnb, where only travelers who have stayed there are allowed to leave a review.

How to Save Even When Traveling

Once you’ve worked hard saving up for a trip and doing your research to get the best deal on transportation and lodging, you’ll want to avoid getting caught up in the moment on your trip and go crazy with frivolous spending. The biggest trap people fall into is the cost of meals on vacation.

One way to avoid overpriced dining is to eat where the locals do. Walking fifteen minutes in any direction out of the city can make a huge difference. Not only will you spend less at restaurants, but you’ll have a more authentic dining experience. Asking the locals for suggestions is another best practice to find places to eat, as most people will love the opportunity to share their recommendations.

Just as in avoiding the peak time to travel somewhere, the same goes for restaurants. Making reservations a little earlier or later than when everyone else is will cut down on the costs of that meal, as many restaurants provide specials outside of peak times. Another way to budget is to plan on one splurge meal a day. If you eat a light breakfast and grab a small lunch on the go, then spending more on dinner won’t feel as glutiness.

Beyond eating, be open to free activities, and again: do your research ahead of time. There are many museums that offer free or reduced admissions on certain days and times. Then there’s the gardens, parks, and general sightseeing that are always free-of-charge. Always check for local markets to get a taste of local fare and the unparalleled experience of people-watching in a new place.

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Getting serious about saving money for travel will also help you to get your finances in tip-top shape and make the most out of your money in your everyday life. While you keep your eye on your goals, Insureyouknow.org can help you stay organized by storing all of your financial records, budgets, and plans in one place. Making a plan and sticking to it will be well worth it when you have the means to take a well-deserved holiday, perhaps even more than just once a year.

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Legal and Financial Planning for Those with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers

November 1, 2023

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, then there are certain things that you will need to plan for legally and financially. An estimated 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and it is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that slowly decreases memory and thinking skills, while dementia involves a loss of cognitive functioning; both cause more and more difficulty for an individual to perform the most simple tasks. Though a diagnosis can be scary, the right planning can help individuals and their families feel more at ease.

Putting Legal Documentation in Place

Christopher Berry, Founder and Planner at The Elder Care Firm, recommends three main disability documents that should be in place.

First, there needs to be a financial power of attorney, a document that designates someone to make all financial decisions once an individual is unable to do so for themselves. If an individual lacks a trusted loved one to make financial decisions, then designating a financial attorney or bank is an option.

The next document that needs to be in place is the medical power of attorney that designates someone to make medical decisions for an individual. In many cases, it may be appropriate to appoint the same person to be the financial and medical power of attorney, as long as that person is well-trusted by the individual. In the event that something happens to the original power of attorney(s), successor (or back-up) agents for power of attorney(s) should also be designated.

The last document is the personal care plan, which instructs the financial and medical power of attorney(s) on how best to care for the individual in need. For instance, those entrusted to the care of an individual will need to make sure they sign medical records release forms at all doctor’s offices; copies of the power of attorney or living will should also be given to healthcare providers.

These three documents provide a foundation to make decisions for the individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia when they no longer can themselves. It’s ideal to include the individual in these conversations in the early stages of their diagnosis, so that they may be a part of the decision-making process and appoint people that they will feel most comfortable with during their care.

How to Pay for Long-Term Care

Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the level of care an individual needs will increase over time. Care costs may include medical treatment, medical equipment, modifications to living areas, and full-time residential care services.

The first thing a family can do is to use their own personal funds for care expenses. It’s important for families to remember that they will also pay in their time, as many children of loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia will become the main caregivers. It may be wise to meet with a financial planner or sit down with other family members, such as your spouse and siblings, to determine how long some of you may be able to forgo work in order to provide full time care.

When personal funds get low or forgoing work for a period of time becomes difficult, long-term care insurance can be a lifesaver. The key to relying on long-term care insurance though is that it needs to be set up ahead of the Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnoses, so considering these plans as one ages may be smart.

Veterans can make use of the veterans benefit, or non-service-connected pension, which is sometimes called the aid and attendance benefit. This benefit can help pay for long-term care of both veterans and their spouses.

Finally, an individual aged 65 or older can receive Medicare, while those that qualify for Medicaid can receive assistance for the cost of a nursing home. If someone’s income is too high to receive Medicaid, then the spenddown is one strategy to know; under spenddown, an individual may subtract their non-covered medical expenses and cost sharing (including Medicare premiums and deductibles) from their available income. With the spenddown, a person’s income may be lowered enough for them to qualify for Medicaid.

Minimizing Risk Factors During Care

Research published recently in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that nearly half of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia will experience a serious fall in their own home. Author Safiyyah Okoye, who was at John Hopkins University when the study was conducted, recommends minimizing risks such as these by safeguarding homes early on in diagnoses. “Examining the multiple factors, including environmental ones like a person’s home or neighborhood, is necessary to inform fall-risk screening, caregiver education and support, and prevention strategies for this high-risk population of older adults,” she states.

The good news is that since the progression of Alzheimer’s is often slow, families have plenty of time to modify the home for increased safety.

In addition to fall prevention modifications, other safety measures may include installing warning bells on doors to signal when they’re opened, putting down pressure-sensitive mats to alert when someone has moved, and using night lights throughout the home. Coats, wallets, and keys should also be kept out of sight, because at some point, leaving the home alone and driving will no longer be safe. Conversations about these safety measures, such as when an individual will have to stop driving, are ones that caregivers should have early on with their loved ones. Including individuals in their future planning while they are still cognitively sound will help both them and their caregivers feel more comfortable with the journey ahead.

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It’s important to remember that even though receiving an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can be devastating, it is not the end. People with Alzheimer’s can thrive for many years before independent functioning becomes difficult. Both patients and caregivers will feel more calm through planning ahead. Insureyouknow.org can help caregivers stay organized by storing all of their important documents in one place, such as financial records, estate planning documentation, insurance policies, and detailed care plans. Above all, there is hope for those with Alzheimer’s; research is happening every day for potential therapies and future treatments.

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How ChatGPT is Shaping Retirement

October 15, 2023

Chat GPT is an artificial intelligence program that can answer human questions. This chatbot is able to understand human language that is spoken or written and then uses algorithms to process and analyze this information in order to produce answers. For instance, you may ask ChatGPT informative questions such as how climate change is affecting endangered species, but Chat GPT can even be directed to write a poem. When it comes to finances, ChatGPT may even be able to help someone begin their retirement planning.

ChatGPT Provides Content, Not Human Advice

Anyone can ask ChatGPT anything, and they will receive a remarkably well-rounded response. If someone were to ask what their retirement plan should include, the chatbot will provide an outline of the basic elements of a common retirement plan. The problem with this is that ChatGPT won’t know the person asking the question and be able to understand the individual details of their life that would make a difference in their retirement planning.

While Chat GPT may not completely replace the value of a human financial advisor, that doesn’t mean that financial advisors won’t need to change the way in which they advise clients to plan for their retirement. If anyone can get a basic plan through ChatGPT, then the services provided by an advisor need to become more about the one thing ChatGPT can’t provide: the human understanding and emotional side of advice. Despite having spent decades taking the emotion out of financial decisions, financial professionals will have to pivot to provide more humanity than ever.

How AI Can Improve an Advisor’s Abilities

Once upon a time, the internet threatened travel agents everywhere, as people could suddenly book their own plane tickets, hotel rooms, and rental cars themselves, from the comfort of their home computers. But travel agents are alive and well, and that’s because the internet still couldn’t do one thing that an agent could: understand a client’s needs and provide personal advice. Instead of mere transactional planning, personalized insight is the new premiere service that a travel agent can provide, and financial planners can grow to do the same.

While ChatGPT can provide concrete information, it cannot begin to factor in the unique preferences of an individual. True conversation is more than the exchange of information. It involves feelings and the confirmation that the person you’re speaking with understands you. A good financial advisor already understands this. Their job is about more than just offering retirement plans; people need empathy. Financial advisor Patti Brennan says her clients “are looking for someone who isn’t just focused on managing their money; that’s just table stakes. What they really want is to know they’ve got someone they can count on during times of crisis; someone who will be a trusted advocate for their future and quality of life.”

Mitchell Morrison, CEO and founder of Eyeballs Financial, says, “ChatGPT is like building a chassis for the financial plan. Its chief weakness is that the answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask.”

While a machine can provide the building blocks of a good plan, an advisor has the capability to understand the complexities of financial planning and the nuances of a person’s life. Together, ChatGPT and the advice from a professional can be used to formulate a plan that is more well-rounded than if someone just relied on one or the other. Rob Leiphart, a certified financial planner at RB Capital Management, adds that, “ChatGPT lacks one crucial step needed in financial planning and investment management: KYC,” or know your client. “It doesn’t begin by asking questions of its own in order to hone its responses. Instead, it provides generic or basic advice,” he says.

While AI ‘s abilities will evolve, financial advisors will be required to as well. Professionals should view ChatGPT as a tool and reevaluate their role in retirement planning. While clients can be well-versed through the framework that ChatGPT can provide them, financial planners can become educators, coaches, and navigators of their retirement plans.

What AI Can Do For You Now

ChatGPT can do more than provide information on how to begin planning for retirement. It can also be used as a resource to think outside of the box in terms of finances. Here are five ways anyone can use ChatGPT to improve their finances now.

1. Research side gigs

Whether you’re interested in supplementing your income now or during retirement, you can ask ChatGPT, “What are the best side gigs for retirees, in my area, or in my field of work?” AI will provide a list of options ranging from consulting, house sitting, or personal errands.

2. Build a better resume

Perhaps you’d like to make more money in your working years or there are a handful of positions you’ve always wished you could land. ChatGPT can help make your resume stand out by suggesting which skills recruiters are looking for in certain positions.

3. Get your business off the ground

ChatGPT could tell you how much you’ll need to start that business you’ve always dreamed of starting, including what resources you’ll need to get going, projected earnings, and even help with sales copy. Whether you’re selling goods or services, you’ll need good advertising to attract potential clients. ChatGPT can provide you with a better idea of what your business idea will entail and help you to create a detailed plan of action.

4. Get tips for writing a better house listing

Planning to make money for retirement by selling your house or planning to move when you can retire are both common goals. An attractive house listing can help you get the best offer on your current property. Paired with gorgeous pictures of your home, ChatGPT can help you write the listing that will get you the most interest. You could even use ChatGPT to help you buy your home elsewhere by researching the most cost effective places to retire.

5. Find financial planners in your area

Once you’ve decided it’s time to start thinking about your retirement, ChatGPT can provide you with a list of qualified and highly-rated financial advisors in your area. Plus, educating yourself through ChatGPT on common retirement plans before you meet with your advisor will give you an idea of what to discuss at your meeting.

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Retirement planning can be overwhelming, but you’ll benefit from using every resource available to you, including ChatGPT. For now ChatGPT is an excellent starting point but shouldn’t be the main resource of your final plan. Insureyouknow.org can help you compile your research, store your financial records, and serve as a valuable place to regularly revisit and fine tune your retirement plan.

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Paying for Early Childhood Intervention Services

October 1, 2023

Over three million children in the United States had a reported disability according to the 2019 U.S. Census, and that number has risen 0.4% since 2008. Children experiencing developmental delays, not reaching developmental milestones, or those at risk may be eligible for early intervention services and supports.

When to Screen for Developmental Delays

If a child is born prematurely or with a genetic condition, then that child may qualify for early intervention as soon as birth. Early screening is part of the services that should be offered while parents are in the hospital for their child’s birth. However, if a parent becomes concerned about their child’s development after birth or notices any changes, they should refer their child for an early intervention evaluation. Eligibility for services is based on an evaluation of a child’s skills and abilities. A doctor’s referral is not necessary for an evaluation. It’s important for parents to educate themselves on which milestones their children should be reaching and not rely completely on their doctor’s recommendations; it is parents who spend the most time with their children, so they may notice something that a pediatrician won’t catch during a routine check-up. Emma Fitzsimmons, a New York mom who claims early intervention saved her son’s life, tells other parents, “If you’re worried that your child has delays, I would encourage you to seek out Early Intervention services and to ask for recommendations to find the best therapists in your area and a good service coordinator, the person who oversees your case.”

Know What Your State Offers

If eligible for early intervention, children may receive services to help with physical skills (crawling and walking), cognitive functions (thinking and learning), communication (talking and listening), adaptive skills (eating and dressing), and social-emotional development (play). Services are wide-ranging and can include speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, psychological services, home visits, nutritional services, audiology (for hearing issues), vision therapy, social work, assistive technology, and even transportation.

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, covers early intervention and school-aged services. Under Part C of IDEA, funding is made available to each state and requires services to be made available to eligible children with disabilities. While all states offer early intervention, the screening processes and services offered vary state by state. The first step in finding out what your child may qualify for is learning about what your state offers. The CDC offers links for each state in order to learn about the benefits your state offers. Each state has its own guidelines around how families qualify, but generally, a child must exhibit a developmental delay or have been diagnosed with a specific health condition that is known to lead to delays, such as a genetic disorder. The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (or ECTA) also outlines the services each state offers. In some states, children may be eligible for services if they are at risk and not yet exhibiting any delays, such as having been born at a low weight. If a child is found eligible for services, a care team will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), which will outline the services a child will receive and the desired outcomes for those services. For instance, physical therapist Tonya McCool explains, “If a child presents with a delay that limits their abilities to complete age-appropriate milestones, a provider will assist by guiding the child into appropriate positions, providing them opportunities to experience new opportunities or helping them try new things so that their families can continue to work with them throughout the week to meet their goals.”

Who Pays for Early Intervention Services?

Under IDEA Part C, Child Find services, which include the initial referral, evaluations, the development of the IFSP, and service coordination must be made free to families, but depending on your state’s policies, some services may be provided at a cost or on a sliding scale. In addition to the federal education funds provided through IDEA, Medicaid and private insurance can also help cover the costs of interventions, such as speech therapy and hearing services. Finding a provider that is familiar with Early Intervention funding will know best how to help families cover the costs of these services. Although early intervention is mandated by IDEA and designed to meet the needs of children, it often requires a combination of resources to cover the costs of services. The ECTA’s website offers contact information for each state’s lead agency, who will be able to provide parents with the resources they’ll need to secure services and funding. If your child qualifies for interventional services, it will be important to become educated in what services must be provided at no cost to you through IDEA Part C.

What Happens When Services End?

Once a child is three, if they are still experiencing delays or require supports, then services will continue and transition into special education services. These are often provided through a child’s school at no additional cost to you. The age at which a child begins schooling also varies state-by-state, which is why it’s important for families to work with their initial early intervention team in order to ensure children continue receiving the supports they need. When an IFSP is developed, it should include any support for the transition to preschool when a child turns three. Plans should be reviewed every six months, as children change quickly from birth to age three.

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Early intervention services can have an enormous impact on a child’s ability to meet developmental milestones. These services are provided not only for a child, but also so that their caregivers have the tools they need to create a healthy environment for their entire family. Insureyouknow.org can help you keep track of medical records, interventional resources, and your child’s IFSP, as well as their progress. When it comes time for your child to start school, having this paperwork organized in one place will help you provide their school with everything they require in order to ensure the necessary continued supports.

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