The Isanti County News http://isanticountynews.com The Isanti County News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for the cities of Cambridge, Isanti, and Braham, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:14:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Fix Social Security http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/how-to-fix-social-security/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/how-to-fix-social-security/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:28 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?guid=269ba49afa3e8568083bf62dcb1ea55c We often read reports from the Social Security Administration’s reviews of the status of its trust fund and predictions that in 20 years funding will exist to pay 77 cents on the dollar of promised benefits. So far this revelation produces from policymakers no actual steps to fix the system. What can we do to fix Social Security?

As future recipients of benefits, we can take some actions now to reduce reliance on our eventual benefits. This won’t fix the system’s underfunding problem but may help your own situation.

Push for pensions. As workers, we may enjoy more power than we realize to push our employers to consider offering pensions again. A cost tradeoff for the employer compared with costs of other benefits, a pension can still be an attractive tool for employee retention.

Hard but not impossible to implement, as Connecticut recently proved for the state’s municipal workers.

Increase other retirement savings. Maxing out your 401(k) contributions and choosing proper investment diversification are good ways to supplement a dwindling or reduced Social Security benefit. You can also contribute to a Roth individual retirement account (within limits) and make non-deductible contributions to your 401(k) of some significant amounts (I recently wrote about this).

What policy changes might fix Social Security? Congress can take plenty of actions, including the following few that while tough do stand to resolve Social Security’s underfunding more or less permanently.

Eliminate the earnings cap. Currently only a certain amount of your annual earnings incur Social Security tax: $118,500 in 2015, up from $117,000 this year. Earnings above that limit are not subject to the combined 12.4% (employer and employee) Social Security tax.

Eliminating this limit or cap might pump significant additional funds into the Social Security tax revenues annually. Right now this cap covers approximately 83% of all earnings – leaving up to 17% of all earnings untaxed.

Increase the tax rate. The Social Security tax rate noted above comprises 6.2% from your gross pay and 6.2% from your employer. Any increase in this rate improves the trust fund.

Means testing. Folks with significant other sources of retirement income can often get by very well with reduced benefits or even without benefits altogether. After all, this insurance program supposedly provides benefits to retirees who lack means to completely provide for themselves.

You, like many others, may find it frustrating that saving for yourself potentially puts you in a position to receive reduced benefits. To save all of Social Security, that’s the sort of tough decision we as a society must make.

Increase retirement age. In 1983, the retirement age for Social Security rose from 65 to 66 for folks born between 1943 and 1954, and to 67 for folks born in 1960 or later. It’s not out of the question to gradually increase this age another year, to 68 for folks born in 1966 or later.

At the other end of the spectrum, the early retirement age of 62 dates from when the Social Security program began. Changing this age might likely result in some positives for the trust fund – but leaving it the same also sometimes insidiously produces even smaller benefits for folks who file early.

Probably no steps to fix the system will be pleasant: It’s never easy to give up what you think you paid into and earned. Problem is, if we don’t work to repair Social Security we will all certainly give something up, starting with an estimated at 23% of all our benefits.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Jim Blankenship, CFP, EA, is an independent, fee-only financial planner at Blankenship Financial Planning in New Berlin, Ill. He is the author of An IRA Owner’s Manual and A Social Security Owner’s Manual. His blog is Getting Your Financial Ducks In A Row, where he writes regularly about taxes, retirement savings and Social Security.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

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We often read reports from the Social Security Administration’s reviews of the status of its trust fund and predictions that in 20 years funding will exist to pay 77 cents on the dollar of promised benefits. So far this revelation produces from policymakers no actual steps to fix the system. What can we do to fix Social Security?

As future recipients of benefits, we can take some actions now to reduce reliance on our eventual benefits. This won’t fix the system’s underfunding problem but may help your own situation.

Push for pensions. As workers, we may enjoy more power than we realize to push our employers to consider offering pensions again. A cost tradeoff for the employer compared with costs of other benefits, a pension can still be an attractive tool for employee retention.

Hard but not impossible to implement, as Connecticut recently proved for the state’s municipal workers.

Increase other retirement savings. Maxing out your 401(k) contributions and choosing proper investment diversification are good ways to supplement a dwindling or reduced Social Security benefit. You can also contribute to a Roth individual retirement account (within limits) and make non-deductible contributions to your 401(k) of some significant amounts (I recently wrote about this).

What policy changes might fix Social Security? Congress can take plenty of actions, including the following few that while tough do stand to resolve Social Security’s underfunding more or less permanently.

Eliminate the earnings cap. Currently only a certain amount of your annual earnings incur Social Security tax: $118,500 in 2015, up from $117,000 this year. Earnings above that limit are not subject to the combined 12.4% (employer and employee) Social Security tax.

Eliminating this limit or cap might pump significant additional funds into the Social Security tax revenues annually. Right now this cap covers approximately 83% of all earnings – leaving up to 17% of all earnings untaxed.

Increase the tax rate. The Social Security tax rate noted above comprises 6.2% from your gross pay and 6.2% from your employer. Any increase in this rate improves the trust fund.

Means testing. Folks with significant other sources of retirement income can often get by very well with reduced benefits or even without benefits altogether. After all, this insurance program supposedly provides benefits to retirees who lack means to completely provide for themselves.

You, like many others, may find it frustrating that saving for yourself potentially puts you in a position to receive reduced benefits. To save all of Social Security, that’s the sort of tough decision we as a society must make.

Increase retirement age. In 1983, the retirement age for Social Security rose from 65 to 66 for folks born between 1943 and 1954, and to 67 for folks born in 1960 or later. It’s not out of the question to gradually increase this age another year, to 68 for folks born in 1966 or later.

At the other end of the spectrum, the early retirement age of 62 dates from when the Social Security program began. Changing this age might likely result in some positives for the trust fund – but leaving it the same also sometimes insidiously produces even smaller benefits for folks who file early.

Probably no steps to fix the system will be pleasant: It’s never easy to give up what you think you paid into and earned. Problem is, if we don’t work to repair Social Security we will all certainly give something up, starting with an estimated at 23% of all our benefits.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Jim Blankenship, CFP, EA, is an independent, fee-only financial planner at Blankenship Financial Planning in New Berlin, Ill. He is the author of An IRA Owner’s Manual and A Social Security Owner’s Manual. His blog is Getting Your Financial Ducks In A Row, where he writes regularly about taxes, retirement savings and Social Security.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

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Is Your Price Right? http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/is-your-price-right/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/is-your-price-right/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:25 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?guid=50884af6a83f937815b059590adcac7a How long has it been since you evaluated your pricing strategy? If you feel your business is not as profitable as it should be, do a pricing test. It takes some courage, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

One of my earliest mentoring clients had a very nice business, but the company just wasn’t making enough money. We spent time looking at the industry and found that my client underpriced his products by about 20%.

All we did was change the pricing policy, and this change alone more than doubled his profits. The company went from being barely profitable to having enough cash to grow. 

However, even if you survey prices of your competitors, you might still not know whether your prices are correct. Your entire industry might be underpriced without knowing it.

There is no rule that says your prices have to be the same as others’. If you provide better products and service than your rivals, you deserve to charge more. Apple is a great example of this. Even though the prices of Apple’s products are significantly higher than those of its competitors, it has no problem getting people to pay extra.

The only way to find out if your pricing is correct is to test it. Value is always in the eyes of the beholder. This means your clients are the ones who tell you whether your service and products are worth the money you charge.

If you don’t have customers saying you’re too expensive, your prices are too low. If you have customers telling you that they can’t believe how much value you deliver, it’s time for you to think about raising your prices. It’s really that simple.

You might be concerned that increasing prices hurts sales. The solution to that is to find ways to add perceived value for your customers. When you work on improving your company’s profitability, I want you to focus on how you can continually increase the value you provide. The more valuable you make your service, the more people will be willing to pay for it.

The value you add should meet the needs of your customers. If you find you have a hard time getting people to say yes, maybe you provide more than they are willing and able to pay for. Make your offering less comprehensive and lower your prices. This helps the bottom line.

Do yourself a favor. Make sure you test your pricing, survey your customers, and better yet, have them pay you more by delivering additional value.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Josh Patrick is a founding principal of Stage 2 Planning Partners in South Burlington, Vt. He contributes to the NY Times You’re the Boss blog and works with owners of privately held businesses helping them create business and personal value. You can learn more about his Objective Review process at his website.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

]]>
How long has it been since you evaluated your pricing strategy? If you feel your business is not as profitable as it should be, do a pricing test. It takes some courage, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

One of my earliest mentoring clients had a very nice business, but the company just wasn’t making enough money. We spent time looking at the industry and found that my client underpriced his products by about 20%.

All we did was change the pricing policy, and this change alone more than doubled his profits. The company went from being barely profitable to having enough cash to grow. 

However, even if you survey prices of your competitors, you might still not know whether your prices are correct. Your entire industry might be underpriced without knowing it.

There is no rule that says your prices have to be the same as others’. If you provide better products and service than your rivals, you deserve to charge more. Apple is a great example of this. Even though the prices of Apple’s products are significantly higher than those of its competitors, it has no problem getting people to pay extra.

The only way to find out if your pricing is correct is to test it. Value is always in the eyes of the beholder. This means your clients are the ones who tell you whether your service and products are worth the money you charge.

If you don’t have customers saying you’re too expensive, your prices are too low. If you have customers telling you that they can’t believe how much value you deliver, it’s time for you to think about raising your prices. It’s really that simple.

You might be concerned that increasing prices hurts sales. The solution to that is to find ways to add perceived value for your customers. When you work on improving your company’s profitability, I want you to focus on how you can continually increase the value you provide. The more valuable you make your service, the more people will be willing to pay for it.

The value you add should meet the needs of your customers. If you find you have a hard time getting people to say yes, maybe you provide more than they are willing and able to pay for. Make your offering less comprehensive and lower your prices. This helps the bottom line.

Do yourself a favor. Make sure you test your pricing, survey your customers, and better yet, have them pay you more by delivering additional value.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Josh Patrick is a founding principal of Stage 2 Planning Partners in South Burlington, Vt. He contributes to the NY Times You’re the Boss blog and works with owners of privately held businesses helping them create business and personal value. You can learn more about his Objective Review process at his website.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

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Plan to Prevent Bad $$ Moves http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/plan-to-prevent-bad-moves/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/plan-to-prevent-bad-moves/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:21 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?guid=db8b47c7c7ed5f08088f2d4d54965247 When managing personal finances and investments, people frequently exhibit irrational behavior for different reasons. If you’re one of these folks, be fair to yourself: It doesn’t even take a spate of market zigzags like October’s to prod you into questionable decisions.

Everyone makes choices about money nearly every day – how to earn, spend, save, invest and so on. Sometimes you pick wisely, sometimes harmfully. Some decisions, particularly those regarding when and where to invest, whipsaw from wise to harmful and back, depending on when you reached your conclusion and when you took the plunge.

Supposedly, if you can learn more about the cause and effect of your money decisions, and what around you contributes to them, you will improve your financial security. Pinpointing behaviors as either rational or irrational in the middle of the storm comes hard, though. The October market provided a convenient and timely case study to help explain why.

That month, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of large U.S. stocks declined 5.6% through Oct. 15 and then gained 8% through the end of the month. If sensitive to market moves, maybe you read the swift early declines and sold big – a flight perhaps revealed as irrational, given the late-October rally that continued into November.

If you sold in mid-October, you likely showed loss aversion – one of many often-irrational money behaviors. Psychologically, people perceive losses (or declines in value of an investment) as much as 2½ times more impactful than gains of a similar size. Watch your investment drop $1,000 and you feel more than twice as bad as you might feel good about a gain of $1,000.

Most people are loss averse; it’s clear why many sell when market prices decline. Is loss aversion irrational? Or sometimes, is it timely clairvoyance?

Rewind to 2007, when from Oct. 9-19 the S&P 500 quickly declined more than 4% – similar to what it  it did in early October this year. Let’s say you were one who sold  Oct. 15 this year (and looked irrational in hindsight). Let’s imagine further that in early October 2007 you also cut back your market exposure under these similar conditions.

Instead of irrational, you would have appeared brilliant. Oct. 9, 2007, was a high point; financial apocalypse reigned for the next year and a half.

What-if situations such as these clearly show that sometimes irrational behavior produces good outcomes. And sometimes well-trained (and often self-proclaimed) experts, applying rational processes to money management, wind up on the wrong side of the intended outcome, especially in the short term. This helps make investing fascinating and, at times, maddening.

Because investment markets are complex and potentially both irrational and efficient, understand well your tolerance for risk. Define what risk actually means in terms of your financial security, and your willpower to handle markets when fear and greed influence decisions.

A written investment strategy can serve as a foundation for your long-term decisions. Your strategy – and your commitment – may also benefit from testing your strategy’s performance hypothetically in past crises.

Since we can’t predict outcomes that depend partially on luck, we plan according to probabilities. For example, rather than focus on the size of your expected returns, know the probability that your investment strategy can support your desired spending rate in retirement or make tuition payments, fund a wedding, cover health-care costs and so on. Your broader financial plan drives your investment strategy, not the other way around.

Ideally, when your goals link directly to your plan, you have a better foundation for dealing with investment uncertainty and Wall Street’s effect on your emotions and decisions.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Gary Brooks is a certified financial planner and the president of Brooks, Hughes & Jones, and a registered investment adviser in Tacoma, Wash. An expanded version of this piece first ran at his blog The Money Architects.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

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When managing personal finances and investments, people frequently exhibit irrational behavior for different reasons. If you’re one of these folks, be fair to yourself: It doesn’t even take a spate of market zigzags like October’s to prod you into questionable decisions.

Everyone makes choices about money nearly every day – how to earn, spend, save, invest and so on. Sometimes you pick wisely, sometimes harmfully. Some decisions, particularly those regarding when and where to invest, whipsaw from wise to harmful and back, depending on when you reached your conclusion and when you took the plunge.

Supposedly, if you can learn more about the cause and effect of your money decisions, and what around you contributes to them, you will improve your financial security. Pinpointing behaviors as either rational or irrational in the middle of the storm comes hard, though. The October market provided a convenient and timely case study to help explain why.

That month, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of large U.S. stocks declined 5.6% through Oct. 15 and then gained 8% through the end of the month. If sensitive to market moves, maybe you read the swift early declines and sold big – a flight perhaps revealed as irrational, given the late-October rally that continued into November.

If you sold in mid-October, you likely showed loss aversion – one of many often-irrational money behaviors. Psychologically, people perceive losses (or declines in value of an investment) as much as 2½ times more impactful than gains of a similar size. Watch your investment drop $1,000 and you feel more than twice as bad as you might feel good about a gain of $1,000.

Most people are loss averse; it’s clear why many sell when market prices decline. Is loss aversion irrational? Or sometimes, is it timely clairvoyance?

Rewind to 2007, when from Oct. 9-19 the S&P 500 quickly declined more than 4% – similar to what it  it did in early October this year. Let’s say you were one who sold  Oct. 15 this year (and looked irrational in hindsight). Let’s imagine further that in early October 2007 you also cut back your market exposure under these similar conditions.

Instead of irrational, you would have appeared brilliant. Oct. 9, 2007, was a high point; financial apocalypse reigned for the next year and a half.

What-if situations such as these clearly show that sometimes irrational behavior produces good outcomes. And sometimes well-trained (and often self-proclaimed) experts, applying rational processes to money management, wind up on the wrong side of the intended outcome, especially in the short term. This helps make investing fascinating and, at times, maddening.

Because investment markets are complex and potentially both irrational and efficient, understand well your tolerance for risk. Define what risk actually means in terms of your financial security, and your willpower to handle markets when fear and greed influence decisions.

A written investment strategy can serve as a foundation for your long-term decisions. Your strategy – and your commitment – may also benefit from testing your strategy’s performance hypothetically in past crises.

Since we can’t predict outcomes that depend partially on luck, we plan according to probabilities. For example, rather than focus on the size of your expected returns, know the probability that your investment strategy can support your desired spending rate in retirement or make tuition payments, fund a wedding, cover health-care costs and so on. Your broader financial plan drives your investment strategy, not the other way around.

Ideally, when your goals link directly to your plan, you have a better foundation for dealing with investment uncertainty and Wall Street’s effect on your emotions and decisions.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Gary Brooks is a certified financial planner and the president of Brooks, Hughes & Jones, and a registered investment adviser in Tacoma, Wash. An expanded version of this piece first ran at his blog The Money Architects.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

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Money Smarts: How U.S. Rates http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/money-smarts-how-u-s-rates/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/money-smarts-how-u-s-rates/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:17 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?guid=b21c2ed9629aff303f0c36200921ef47 We all flip between believing that America leads the world at everything to thinking our nation lags behind foreign powerhouses in every way. Regarding financial literacy, we’re solid in the top five – but far from best.

The recent Visa International Financial Literacy Barometer reports that the U.S. ranks fourth out of 28 countries. If you think sophisticated Europeans edge us out, you’re wrong. The top five nations were Brazil, Mexico, Australia, the U.S. and Canada.

The first question surveyed the 25,500 respondents worldwide about the age at which children need to learn financial literacy. The U.S. came in at around the global average of 11.3 years old. Respondents in Brazil, overall the most financially literate nation in the world, said children need to start becoming financially literate at age 9.

The answers to four subsequent questions helped determined the rankings:

1. Do you have and follow a household budget? The best budgeters were in Brazil, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Canada. The U.S. placed sixth.

2. How many months’ worth of savings do you have aside for an emergency? The best savers were in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada. The U.S. placed seventh.

Overall, more than one in three (68%) of respondents had less than three months of emergency savings. A quarter of high-income respondents worldwide have less than three months of savings.

3. How often do you talk to your children (ages five to 17) about money management issues? Parents who talked most frequently about money with children were in Mexico, Brazil, Serbia, Bosnia and Lebanon. The U.S. again placed sixth.

Parents and other adults in the wealthier nations spent the least time talking to children about money.

4. To what extent would you say teenagers and young adults in your country understand money management basics and are adequately prepared to manage their own money? More adults in Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Colombia and Mexico believed kids understood financial basics than in other countries.

More than half the countries surveyed believe the young understand little about finances. America also gave its youngsters low marks here: The U.S. placed 27th.

It’s remarkable we placed fourth when our ranking was lower than that on every individual question. Our final ranking was higher partially because questions that America did better than other nations on happened to count for more toward the final score.

The best financial education begins at home. If interested in educating your children about money, you can try another Visa survey entitled “The Tooth Fairy Tightens Purse Strings.”

In 2014, the Tooth Fairy left American kids 8% less, on average, than in 2013. American children received about $3.40 per tooth.

Ask your children why that might be. Are kids losing more teeth so the Fairy must retrench and pay less? Did the Fairy budget badly? Are some teeth worth more than others (perhaps cavities versus cavity-free)?

The world’s a big place: What do you really learn when you hear that Indonesians talk to kids about money only 5.5 days a year? It’s always easier to learn when your own wallet is part of the subject.

 

Jonathan K. DeYoe, AIF and CPWA, is the founder and president of DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, California, and blogs at the Happiness Dividend Blog. Financial planning and investment advisory services offered through DeYoe Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations to any individual. For your individual planning and investing needs, please see your investment professional.

Follow Jonathan K. DeYoe on Twitter at @happinessdiv.

 

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

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We all flip between believing that America leads the world at everything to thinking our nation lags behind foreign powerhouses in every way. Regarding financial literacy, we’re solid in the top five – but far from best.

The recent Visa International Financial Literacy Barometer reports that the U.S. ranks fourth out of 28 countries. If you think sophisticated Europeans edge us out, you’re wrong. The top five nations were Brazil, Mexico, Australia, the U.S. and Canada.

The first question surveyed the 25,500 respondents worldwide about the age at which children need to learn financial literacy. The U.S. came in at around the global average of 11.3 years old. Respondents in Brazil, overall the most financially literate nation in the world, said children need to start becoming financially literate at age 9.

The answers to four subsequent questions helped determined the rankings:

1. Do you have and follow a household budget? The best budgeters were in Brazil, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Canada. The U.S. placed sixth.

2. How many months’ worth of savings do you have aside for an emergency? The best savers were in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada. The U.S. placed seventh.

Overall, more than one in three (68%) of respondents had less than three months of emergency savings. A quarter of high-income respondents worldwide have less than three months of savings.

3. How often do you talk to your children (ages five to 17) about money management issues? Parents who talked most frequently about money with children were in Mexico, Brazil, Serbia, Bosnia and Lebanon. The U.S. again placed sixth.

Parents and other adults in the wealthier nations spent the least time talking to children about money.

4. To what extent would you say teenagers and young adults in your country understand money management basics and are adequately prepared to manage their own money? More adults in Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Colombia and Mexico believed kids understood financial basics than in other countries.

More than half the countries surveyed believe the young understand little about finances. America also gave its youngsters low marks here: The U.S. placed 27th.

It’s remarkable we placed fourth when our ranking was lower than that on every individual question. Our final ranking was higher partially because questions that America did better than other nations on happened to count for more toward the final score.

The best financial education begins at home. If interested in educating your children about money, you can try another Visa survey entitled “The Tooth Fairy Tightens Purse Strings.”

In 2014, the Tooth Fairy left American kids 8% less, on average, than in 2013. American children received about $3.40 per tooth.

Ask your children why that might be. Are kids losing more teeth so the Fairy must retrench and pay less? Did the Fairy budget badly? Are some teeth worth more than others (perhaps cavities versus cavity-free)?

The world’s a big place: What do you really learn when you hear that Indonesians talk to kids about money only 5.5 days a year? It’s always easier to learn when your own wallet is part of the subject.

 

Jonathan K. DeYoe, AIF and CPWA, is the founder and president of DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, California, and blogs at the Happiness Dividend Blog. Financial planning and investment advisory services offered through DeYoe Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations to any individual. For your individual planning and investing needs, please see your investment professional.

Follow Jonathan K. DeYoe on Twitter at @happinessdiv.

 

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

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Knowing Needs from Wants http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/knowing-needs-from-wants/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/knowing-needs-from-wants/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:11 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?guid=76516101c63f3ac037ce0ffca76e9fa7 Making more money is not a necessary step to achieve your goals. If you truly wish to save more, you have to know how to identify a want in disguise of a need.

Sometimes, when you save for large goals in the future, such as retirement or a down payment on a home, you may feel that you need to make more money before these things can happen. You think that once your incomes are up to a certain level, you’ll be able to afford to save.

Not true. For many folks, learning to distinguish between wants and needs is enough to get you to your savings goals.

Here’s an exercise I do with my students in the class I teach whenever I hear them say that they “can’t afford” to save. Grabbing a marker, I ask them to tell me what monthly expenses they have and write those down on the board. For example, dining out: $100 per month; car payment: $250 per month; cable TV: $120; and smartphone: $80. Other items include clothes and shoes, getting hair and nails done and playing the lottery.

Then we look at the board and really think about whether these things are needs. This is where the fun begins. Initially, my students rationalize why they need the things they want. A big point of contention is smartphones. Many students say they need them, but in reality admit that smartphones aren’t something they can’t live without. And that’s the point to this exercise – rationalizing. We’re very good at rationalizing what we want, making it sounds like a need when it is not.

If the students can do without the things listed on the board, they can save $550. To hit the $5,500 annual max of contribution to an individual retirement account, they only need $458.33 per month. This means without having to ask for a raise or to get a second job, they can max out an IRA and still having $92 left over to invest.

With my trusty financial calculator, and using the students’ timeline for retirement, I come up with an amount that blows my students away. If they have 40 years to fund an IRA up to the limit until retirement, with a reasonable rate of return in the market of 7%, they can accumulate $1,174,853 in 40 years – all without having to make more money. This was money they are already spending.

For all of us, it boils down to priorities. Once we make our future financial needs a priority, we can change our perception of what we really need versus what we want, and reallocate our money accordingly to fund our goals.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Sterling Raskie, MSFS, CFP, is an independent, fee-only financial planner at Blankenship Financial Planning in New Berlin, IL. He is an adjunct professor teaching courses in math, finance, insurance and investments. His blog is Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row, where he writes regularly about investments, retirement savings and financial planning.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

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Making more money is not a necessary step to achieve your goals. If you truly wish to save more, you have to know how to identify a want in disguise of a need.

Sometimes, when you save for large goals in the future, such as retirement or a down payment on a home, you may feel that you need to make more money before these things can happen. You think that once your incomes are up to a certain level, you’ll be able to afford to save.

Not true. For many folks, learning to distinguish between wants and needs is enough to get you to your savings goals.

Here’s an exercise I do with my students in the class I teach whenever I hear them say that they “can’t afford” to save. Grabbing a marker, I ask them to tell me what monthly expenses they have and write those down on the board. For example, dining out: $100 per month; car payment: $250 per month; cable TV: $120; and smartphone: $80. Other items include clothes and shoes, getting hair and nails done and playing the lottery.

Then we look at the board and really think about whether these things are needs. This is where the fun begins. Initially, my students rationalize why they need the things they want. A big point of contention is smartphones. Many students say they need them, but in reality admit that smartphones aren’t something they can’t live without. And that’s the point to this exercise – rationalizing. We’re very good at rationalizing what we want, making it sounds like a need when it is not.

If the students can do without the things listed on the board, they can save $550. To hit the $5,500 annual max of contribution to an individual retirement account, they only need $458.33 per month. This means without having to ask for a raise or to get a second job, they can max out an IRA and still having $92 left over to invest.

With my trusty financial calculator, and using the students’ timeline for retirement, I come up with an amount that blows my students away. If they have 40 years to fund an IRA up to the limit until retirement, with a reasonable rate of return in the market of 7%, they can accumulate $1,174,853 in 40 years – all without having to make more money. This was money they are already spending.

For all of us, it boils down to priorities. Once we make our future financial needs a priority, we can change our perception of what we really need versus what we want, and reallocate our money accordingly to fund our goals.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Sterling Raskie, MSFS, CFP, is an independent, fee-only financial planner at Blankenship Financial Planning in New Berlin, IL. He is an adjunct professor teaching courses in math, finance, insurance and investments. His blog is Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row, where he writes regularly about investments, retirement savings and financial planning.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

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Spotting a Tax-Scam Call http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/spotting-a-tax-scam-call/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/spotting-a-tax-scam-call/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:02 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?guid=04128bde898a64153f990f7d16282b20 Know who never seems to take a holiday? Scammers pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service. Don’t become the next victim; here’s what to know to protect yourself.

In these aggressive scams, callers claiming to be from the IRS may demand money, or may say you’re due a refund and try to trick you into sharing private information. Sometimes they already have bits of that information – such as the last four digits of your Social Security number – and usually alter the caller ID to try to make you believe they are in fact from the IRS.

Among other tactics, bogus emails sometimes follow the calls, and victims report hearing background noise that mimics that of a call site. Scammers often use bogus IRS identification badge numbers and of course fake names. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request or phone you back with a new strategy.

Recently, taxpayers reported that scammers frequently target immigrants, potential victims threatened with deportation, arrest, shutting off utilities or revoking driver’s licenses. The IRS says that callers are frequently insulting or hostile, sometimes following up with calls pretending to be from the police or local department of motor vehicles, with the caller ID again supporting their claim.

Other unrelated scams, such as a lottery sweepstakes and phony solicitations for debt relief, also fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

Here are five things scammers often do but the IRS never does. Any one is a telltale sign. The IRS never:

  1. Calls to demand immediate payment or call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
  2. Demands that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount the agency says you owe.
  3. Requires you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Asks for your credit card or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threatens to involve your local police or other law-enforcement to arrest you for not paying taxes.

In addition, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 or at the TIGTA complaint contact page.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you believe you do owe taxes, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. The employees there can help with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

If you receive an email you suspect comes from scammers, do not open any attachments or click on any links in the message but instead forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. A new IRS YouTube video also warns about scams.

And again remember: Give no personal information to strangers over the phone. The con artists are only impersonating the IRS and, unfortunately, can be very convincing.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Maureen Crimmins is the co-founder of Crimmins Wealth Management LLC in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Her websites are www.CrimminsWM.com and www.RootsofWealth.com.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

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Know who never seems to take a holiday? Scammers pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service. Don’t become the next victim; here’s what to know to protect yourself.

In these aggressive scams, callers claiming to be from the IRS may demand money, or may say you’re due a refund and try to trick you into sharing private information. Sometimes they already have bits of that information – such as the last four digits of your Social Security number – and usually alter the caller ID to try to make you believe they are in fact from the IRS.

Among other tactics, bogus emails sometimes follow the calls, and victims report hearing background noise that mimics that of a call site. Scammers often use bogus IRS identification badge numbers and of course fake names. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request or phone you back with a new strategy.

Recently, taxpayers reported that scammers frequently target immigrants, potential victims threatened with deportation, arrest, shutting off utilities or revoking driver’s licenses. The IRS says that callers are frequently insulting or hostile, sometimes following up with calls pretending to be from the police or local department of motor vehicles, with the caller ID again supporting their claim.

Other unrelated scams, such as a lottery sweepstakes and phony solicitations for debt relief, also fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

Here are five things scammers often do but the IRS never does. Any one is a telltale sign. The IRS never:

  1. Calls to demand immediate payment or call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
  2. Demands that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount the agency says you owe.
  3. Requires you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Asks for your credit card or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threatens to involve your local police or other law-enforcement to arrest you for not paying taxes.

In addition, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 or at the TIGTA complaint contact page.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you believe you do owe taxes, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. The employees there can help with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

If you receive an email you suspect comes from scammers, do not open any attachments or click on any links in the message but instead forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. A new IRS YouTube video also warns about scams.

And again remember: Give no personal information to strangers over the phone. The con artists are only impersonating the IRS and, unfortunately, can be very convincing.

Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.

Maureen Crimmins is the co-founder of Crimmins Wealth Management LLC in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Her websites are www.CrimminsWM.com and www.RootsofWealth.com.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.

 

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Douglas Harlan Hjeltman http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/douglas-harlan-hjeltman-2/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/douglas-harlan-hjeltman-2/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:04:10 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?p=117512 extractortemp328475-trimmed-Image-16302.jpgDouglas Harlan Hjeltman, 73, of Cambridge died on Monday, December 15, 2014.

He was born on November 9, 1941 to Rudy and Norma (Okerstrom) Hjeltman of Cambridge, Minnesota. He attended District 3 Country School and graduated from Cambridge High School in 1959.

On February 8, 1964 Doug married Joyce Kelling and they resided in Cambridge, Minnesota. Douglas was a lifelong member of North Isanti Baptist Church and was active in the church serving on the Cemetery and the Trustee Boards.

At the age of 19, he started driving bus for the Cambridge-Isanti School District. His greatest joy was driving the bus for student athletes to watch their games. For 30 plus years he drove over the road as a truck driver and received an award for one million accident-free miles. In retirement, Doug was drawn back to bus driving part time. He most enjoyed spending time with his family, visiting Alaska, watching sports, fishing, playing golf, going to Texas, riding bike and seeing friends at McDonalds for his morning coffee. One of his greatest assets was serving people. He loved the Lord and will be missed by many.

Douglas was preceded in death by his parents Rudy and Norma Hjeltman.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce Hjeltman; sons Bruce (Amy) and Dean Hjeltman (Jenny Brody); daughter Tina Hjeltman (Mike Larson); grandchildren Trevor (Heidi) Hjeltman, Kristi Hjeltman (Tony Nelson), Justin Rud, Britta Rud and Daniel Rud.
A memorial service was held at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 19, 2014 at North Isanti Baptist Church in Cambridge, Minnesota. A visitation took place one hour prior to the service. Interment was in the North Isanti Baptist Cemetery. Online condolences at www.carlsonlillemoen.com. Arrangements are in the care of Carlson-Lillemoen Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Cambridge, MN.

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William John Stello http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/william-john-stello-2/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/william-john-stello-2/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:59:43 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?p=117510 William John Stello of Stanchfield, MN died on December 16, 2014 at St. Clare’s Living Community in Mora, MN. He was 85 years old.

Survived by son William L. (Tammy) Stello; son-in-law Don Ketels; sister Betty Ringiesen; grandchildren Jake, Amanda, Amber, Dale and Willy; great-grandson Kruse; special nephew Craig; other relatives and friends.

Memorial service will be held Saturday, Dec. 27 at 11 a.m. at Akkerman-Ingebrand Funeral Home in Mora. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service. Arrangements are handled by Rock-Ingebrand Funeral Home of Braham. www.aifuneralhome.com

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Shanon Marie Held http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/shanon-marie-held-2/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/shanon-marie-held-2/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:57:33 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?p=117508 extractortemp328509-trimmed-Image-16303.jpg

Shanon Marie Held has returned home to be with her angel, Hunter Warren Held.

Shanon passed away suddenly in an auto accident on Saturday, December 13, 2014, near her home in Braham, MN. She was the proud and loving mother to her sons, Hunter and Drake Held, and she was the best friend and wife to Kevin Held. Her life was full of laughter and love. She enjoyed being the proud football Mom to Drake, cheering him on at every game. She was a loving Daughter, caring Sister, amazing Aunt, and special Grand-Daughter. Shanon touched so many lives along her journey. She and Hunter will be watching over us all as we continue on, with her memory to guide us.

Shanon is preceded in death by her son, Hunter Held, and her grandfathers, Peter Petersen and Edward Jensen.

She is survived by her loving husband, Kevin Held, and her youngest son, Drake Held; her parents, Connie and Craig Jensen of Braham, MN; her brothers, Steve Jensen of Stillwater, MN and Chad Jensen (wife Michelle) of Cambridge MN; sister-in law, Robin Jensen of Stillwater, MN; niece (who she loved dearly), Alyssa Jensen of Stillwater, MN; grandmothers, Irene Jensen and Ruth Peterson of Braham, MN and her mother and father-in-law, Debbie and Mike Held of Mora, MN; also many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

Her funeral service was held at the Braham Area Community Center on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Arrangements by Rock Ingebrand Funeral Home of Braham. www.aifuneralhome.com

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Beverly “Bev” Ann Quiggle (Carlson) http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/beverly-bev-ann-quiggle-carlson-2/ http://isanticountynews.com/2014/12/19/beverly-bev-ann-quiggle-carlson-2/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:53:44 +0000 http://isanticountynews.com/?p=117493 Quiggle

Beverly Ann Quiggle (Carlson) went to be with the Lord on December 3, 2014. She was 74 years old.

Bev was preceded in death by her parents Chester and Edith Carlson and brother Bruce.

She is survived by her husband of 53 years, Bruce of Cambridge; sons Brad (Bobbi) and Barry (Megan) and nine grandchildren.

Memorial service will be held Jan. 2, 2015 at 12 noon at First Presbyterian Church in Hinckley, MN.

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