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Monday, February 24, 2014

Importance of Financial Advisor, CPA and Attorney Relationships

In the world of finance, tax and law becomes increasing more complex on a daily basis. As you do your taxes this year think about a few items: Does your CPA know your attorney? If not, does your CPA know your advisor? Does your estate attorney know your advisor?

This is the time of year we get many calls about tax information and what has to be sent to a CPA. When a client introduces us to their CPA they have a much simpler life because with their permission we can deal directly with that professional. Also, over the last few months we have had clients who have passed away and left family and a spouse behind. When we have a relationship with their attorneys and CPAs, we are much more equipped to handle the financial and legal challenges that lie ahead. As always, if you have questions on any of these items please reach out to one of us at Argus.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tax Me Now or Tax Me Later

If you contribute to an IRA or 401(k) plan, one of the decisions that you face is whether you want your contributions to be Roth or Traditional. Roth contributions are made with after-tax dollars and grow tax free. As long as you follow the rules, you will be able to pull out your money tax free in retirement. Traditional contributions to an IRA or 401(k) are pre-tax and grow tax deferred. Your retirement withdrawals will be fully taxable.

So, which is the best option? Of course, it is not a simple answer. The first problem is that we can’t predict the future of taxation. Tax law will change many times in our lifetime, making it difficult to plan for the long term.

Theoretically, if tax rates are higher in the future, the Roth would be best for most people. Conversely, if tax rates are lower in the future, the Traditional would be best. Let me know if you know the answer.

For most folks, we recommend a plan that includes using both to diversify your future tax exposure. Ideally, you would look for ways to have your retirement funds in both types of accounts.

Of course, every situation is different. It is important that this decision is part of the overall plan that looks at your current tax situation and considers the future possibilities.

The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, if considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits and tax treatment of Roth IRAs. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Protecting Your Personal Information and Identity

The protection of your identity, security and credit card information has been in the news the last couple months. The data breech over the holidays at Target has affected millions of people including my family. We received a letter from our bank that they were issuing a new card as we (my wife and I) had used our card at Target during the dates of the security breech. I have been monitoring our accounts on a daily basis for fraudulent activity.

Times like these make folks wonder what others are doing to protect their information. Obviously with being a financial firm we have quite a bit of financial and personal information on our clients. We have taken numerous steps to curb the possibilities of information being compromised. All cell phones and tablets have passwords, laptops are encrypted, desktop computers have passwords and timeout after no activity, all papers with information are securely shredded and emails with personal information are encrypted or password enabled. In the new technology world the threat is always out there, so we are making a conscience effort to do everything possible to keep our clients secure.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Don’t Be Generous with Scams

Of course not, why would anyone be generous with scammers? It happens. Unfortunately, it is growing fast. Fraudulent charities and scam artists that feed on your good heart. In the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, fraudulent relief solicitations were so common that alerts were issued by the FBI, the IRS, and FEMA to name a few.

They often adopt names that sound very similar to a well known charity. They contact you on the phone or by email. They are very good at sounding legitimate and tugging at your heart strings. Their victims are both the contributor and those in need.

Here are some ways that you can avoid contributing to the scammers:

1. Do not donate based on an unsolicited phone call or email.

2. Do not donate based on a text message.

3. If a solicitation sounds good, ask them to mail you their information so you can review it prior to making a donation.

4. Do not give personal information such as social security number, checking account number, or credit card number to anyone without first verifying that the organization is legitimate.

5. Stick to recognized charitable organizations.