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3 Tips for Latino Families Working With a Financial Planner

(NewsUSA) - Every family’s financial situation is unique, with different challenges, opportunities and cultural considerations affecting their decisions about money. For some -- particularly families who have immigrated from Latin America, where financial services are less regulated than in the United States -- a mistrust of financial institutions may also influence decision-making.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Latino households are five times less likely than white ones to have a banking relationship. Other research has found that financial challenges facing the Latino community range from higher debt and lower household wealth to less awareness of, or access to, diverse financial products.

Although this can make planning for your family’s future seem complicated and overwhelming, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional has the education and experience to help you make sense of your financial options and chart a path to reach your short- and long-term goals. CFP® professionals also make a commitment to the CFP Board to act as a fiduciary when providing financial advice to clients, which means they have agreed to put their clients’ best interests first.

Here are three tips for building trust and making the most of a partnership with a CFP® professional:

1. Look for a CFP® professional with international expertise. If your family members don’t live near you, estate planning can be challenging, so make sure you prioritize that with your planner. Cross-border issues need to be taken into consideration to minimize financial consequences. Make sure you ask your financial planner to give examples of how they’ve dealt with similar client issues in the past.

2. Include your family in the planning process. If your focus is on taking care of your family as a unit -- or you rely on your closest relatives for advice -- it may be smart to involve your partner, parents and children in your financial plan. This enables you to work together as a family to align your financial plan with the family’s well-being. It can also accelerate relationship-building with your financial planner as they learn about your values, culture and unique traditions.

3. Make sure your financial plan covers your needs. Most plans include cash flow planning, retirement, education, taxes and estate planning. Including plans for establishing credit, debt management and asset protection is also important. Don’t be afraid to ask your planner questions about financial structures and products that you’re not familiar with, or have them explain the advantages and disadvantages of different options. You can also ask your planner for illustrations or other graphic representations of your options. Visit LetsMakeAPlan.org to find a CFP® professional in your area and for more tips on making a solid financial plan.

Getting started on a comprehensive financial plan today will prepare you for a more secure tomorrow.

Is A Debt-Free Life Possible?

"To say we were disorganized is putting it mildly."

Like so many Americans, they didn't have a plan for their money.

The problem is often not how much money a family makes, but that they have no idea what they're spending it on. Seventy-eight percent of full-time workers say they live paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder. Worse, most feel it will always be that way. But it doesn't have to be.

Financial experts agree that the best way to break the vicious cycle of scrambling to make ends meet is by having a written budget and sticking to it. Leslie heard about a website, EveryDollar.com and the EveryDollar budgeting app that makes it simple to create a budget, manage money, and track spending. They signed up, set up their budget, and they've stuck to it for years. "We paid off $165,000 in debt since we got started. Now we're in a position to be completely debt-free, including our house and rental property, in the next three years."

The "B" word has gotten a bad rap. Budgeting sounds hard. It sounds restricting. Frankly, it sounds boring. But people who've made budgeting the center of their financial behavior have discovered quite the opposite. The technology behind apps like EveryDollar make budgeting easy. Rather than feeling restricted, they say it feels as if they have permission to spend - just not permission to waste.

Sierra Schmidt was surprised by how much having a budget changed her attitude. She's a single mother in Spokane, Washington, whose bills include daycare, rent, and student loans. "I felt so far behind every month, and things seemed hopeless," she says.

"Now, I keep track of every dollar, and the numbers are right in front of me. I'm getting ahead instead of falling behind. Every month I feel more confident that I can wipe out the debt that's been so stressful."

Sierra and Leslie empowered themselves to take control of their money. You can too. Creating a budget and sticking to it could change your life and help you take control of your money in the new year.

EveryDollar is a free budget app that allows users to create customized monthly budgets, and seamlessly track expenses, income and savings from the convenience of their computer and phone. It's available for both iOS and Android devices. EveryDollar launched in March 2015 and now has more than three million users.

Learn more by visiting www.everydollar.com.

 

America’s Retirement Score Hits All-Time High

That's according to Fidelity Investments' latest biennial Retirement Savings Assessment study, which - while mostly upbeat - also makes clear that all too many of those surveyed remain "at risk" of not being able to fully cover essential expenses in retirement if they don't turn things around.

Specifically, after totaling up the assets of the 25- to 74-year-old respondents earning at least $20,000 annually - and that included current or expected Social Security benefits - Fidelity estimated that the typical saver is on track to have 80 percent of the income he or she will need to cover retirement costs. That's the highest it's been since the study was first conducted in 2005, when the same figure was 62 percent and people were just beginning to know the joys of watching videos of cats performing weird tricks.

"It's a significant improvement," says Ken Hevert, Fidelity's senior vice president of retirement, who attributed the rise to both a higher median savings rate compared to 2006 (8.8 percent vs. 3.6 percent) and better portfolio asset allocation.

Even more comprehensively, four color-coded categories were used to show where households fell on a retirement preparedness spectrum based on their ability to handle estimated expenses in a down market:

* Dark Green Thirty-two percent were on target to cover more than 95 percent of their freight (up 1 percent from 2016).

* Green. Eighteen percent were looking good as far as essentials go, but not discretionary items like travel and entertainment (down 1 percent from 2016).

* Yellow. Twenty-two percent were off track, with "modest adjustments" likely required to their planned lifestyles (down 1 percent from 2016).

* Red. Twenty-eight percent definitely "need attention," to put it kindly (up 1 percent from 2016).

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the study had to do with Millennials.

For the first time ever, those born between 1981 and 1992 surpassed the older Generation X in Fidelity's unique cross-generations scorecard. The latter are on track to have 78 percent of the retirement income they'll need, while the former lags behind by 1 percent - though that's presumably after many of them dipped into their own savings to pay the college tuitions of their Millennial offspring. "Millennials are clearly putting money aside for retirement and taking more control of their personal situations," says Hevert.

And Baby Boomers? Collectively, they're in the best position of all, especially those Baby Boomers with increasingly rare pensions, and are on course to have set aside 86 percent of the money they'll need.

For those curious where they stand, Fidelity allows anyone to access their retirement score online. And if you really want a cushiony retirement, keep in mind that you could have 108 percent of what you'll need by embracing all three of the following "accelerators": saving at least 15 percent of your income yearly; ensuring an age-appropriate asset mix; and deferring Social Security benefits till at least 66 or 67.

"While these actions taken separately are clearly helpful," says Hevert, "doing all three could help bring you from good to great."

 

Coupling Finances: What All Newlyweds Should Know

It's a catchphrase that's been described as perhaps the first "I do" for newlyweds, and it's especially relevant as we head into wedding season. Because as much as you may think no two people have ever been more in love than you are - hey, look at the size of that engagement ring! - the truth is that it could be less than smooth sailing ahead if you're not on the same page when it comes to financial matters.

"Couples have a very hard time talking about money," Joan Atwood, a Hofstra University professor of marriage and family therapy bemoaned on an NPR "Money Coach" segment on the issue. "I would say it's the last taboo."

Ready to break it? Read on.

* Set common goals. You probably discussed this in a dreamy sort of way while dating. You know, a large house with a swimming pool ... yearly vacations. But turning those reveries into reality requires habitually saving to pay for them and finance your later retirement years - not to mention deciding whether both partners contribute equally or based on salaries.

"The median ages for brides and grooms are 29 and 31, respectively, these days," said Andrew Peterson, a vice president at Fidelity Investments (fidelity.com). "So while people may come into a marriage with their own assets, they need to take some time after the wedding to sit down and start getting organized as a couple."

* Be transparent. There's no law that says you have to put all your cash into a joint savings account - some couples do, some don't - but at the very least you'd be "less than truthful" by not divulging any outstanding debts. And then figuring out, together, how to pay them down.

* Safely store your information. Quick: What's your new spouse's Social Security number? And what other vital information don't you know if a sudden need arises?

Exactly.

To truly mark your financial coupling, you might consider using an online service like FidSafe.com that lets you store, access and share all your new family's important records and documents anywhere via a web browser or iOS app.

Not only is it free and simple to use with handy checklists, but even before it was officially introduced two years ago by Fidelity - Get it? "Fid Safe" - Barron's magazine gave the service five stars for being what it called "the first cloud-based safe deposit box we've seen that's secure enough to organize everything from financial statements, insurance policies, and real estate records to a will, IRA benefits, and even passwords."

"With all the other things on their to-do lists, newlyweds typically don't focus on all the important financial and other documents they need to begin married life on a solid footing," said Peterson. "This makes things easier for them from the start, as well as through the years as they have even more joint documents to retain - including those related to perhaps buying a house and having children."

You get up to 5GB of storage, which leaves plenty of space left over once you download your new marriage license and the receipt for that engagement ring.

* Investigate this option. Do you both get health insurance through your employer? Congrats. You may have just saved yourselves some money if it works out it's less expensive for one of you to be on the other's plan rather than pay for both.

 

The Latest Job Benefit Helps Employees Pay Off Student Debt

A company car? (How Boomer-like of you.) A 401(k) plan? (Pretty common these days.)

With Millennials now comprising the largest share of the workforce, a growing number of companies are betting that offering to help pay off student debt is the next game-changer when it comes to attracting and retaining the best and brightest.

It's not a bad wager. Total education debt stood at a staggering $1.52 trillion at the end of March. And while the perk is by no means reserved only for Millennials - hey, even 4 percent of those 45 and older are still in the hole, according to the Pew Research Center - it's not lost on anyone that the average student loan borrower will have graduated this year saddled with more than $37,000 in debt.

"It stood at about $600 billion 10 years ago," MarketWatch.com reported.

One of the companies facilitating the new benefit is the same one - Fidelity Investments - that already handles millions of workers' 401(k) plans. Businesses enrolled in its Student Debt Employer Contribution program are able to make after-tax contributions on their employees' outstanding student loans, setting their own parameters as to "who" and "how much" with the help of a modeling tool for estimating their potential recruitment and retention cost savings.

"This is a new and relevant benefit that gives companies a competitive advantage to hire top talent," said Asha Srikantiah, vice president of emerging products at Fidelity (fidelity.com), noting that the average contribution for most companies is about $100 a month, although it can be as high as $800 monthly in some cases. "It also enables employees to pay off their debt faster, which in turn allows them to focus on other priorities - including buying a home, raising a family, and saving for retirement."

Among the "early adopters" Fidelity says it's teaming up with to offer the benefit: tech giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise; the rail industry's New York Air Brake; financial firms Millennium Trust and OCC (The Options Clearing Corporation); and Ariel Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of separable reciprocating gas compressors used in the global natural gas business.

In fact, more than just being a "facilitator" for others, Fidelity helped trail blaze this brave new world by having begun offering its own employees a student debt program back in 2016. To date, more than 8,900 of its workers have received the benefit, paid directly to their loan service provider, with some pretty impressive numbers to show for it: a total of $22.5 million in savings on principal and interest, and 34,625 years of loan payments shaved off.

The company is also taking what it calls "a holistic approach" to the student debt issue by offering open access to its website's Pre-College Planning Resources, which can help avoid the pitfalls of incurring too much debt, and its Student Debt Tool that lets individuals view all their student loans and repayment options in one place.

A deal recently inked with student debt refinancing platform Credible.com now also integrates student debt refinancing into the Student Debt Tool, allowing employees enrolled in the program to receive actual pre-qualified rates from more than 10 refinancing lenders without affecting their credit scores.

"The idea is to help more Americans take control of their debt so they can better save and invest for the futures," said Stephen Dash, Credible's founder and CEO.

 

Bitcoin Gains Can Become “Tax-Free”

Yet the challenge is how to find, research, track, manage and trade these tax-exempt investment over the ten years of the tax incentive.

The Entrex Capital Market is one of the leaders building state by state Opportunity Zone Trading solutions, typically for the state economic development teams. Working together with local and state representatives, Entrex brings each opportunity zone to the forefront and can even allow investors to perform tax-free 1031 type of exchanges (including qualified bitcoin gains) into qualified assets in each Opportunity Zone, all through regulated market constituents.

One company taking advantage of the new tax "opportunities" is Webco Dental, a Disabled Veteran-qualified small business. Webco has gained significant exposure from building their company in a Pasco County, Florida Opportunity Zone. Christopher Cooley, CEO of Webco, suggests;

"Being in an Opportunity Zone and being a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, or SDVOSB, allows us to help investors support our veterans, while focusing on the economic and employment growth our communities need - all on a potentially tax-free income and capital gain basis."

Entrex helps to bring exposure to investors by offering the ability not only to buy debt and equity of companies, but also the potential of liquidity. "It's like the eBay or real estate's MLS for private companies," says entrepreneur Craig Rutkai of Florida.

Similar to the way they managed over 200 transactions for companies in 2017 - each reviewed by the regulators - Entrex now offers a variety of alternative investors from real estate, gold and silver commodities, Opportunity Zones, and consumer debt. And potentially is there for government-backed airlines leases.

Stephen H. Watkins, CEO of Entrex, suggests: "Back in 2015, when our Broker/Dealer managed the Overstock.com TIGRcub Bond - we helped manage the first security to ever trade on the Blockchain. Now every trade and interest payment we service can be pushed out."

"It is an exciting time and the beginning of the democratization of private companies."

To learn more about the Entrex Alternative Trading Portal capabilities, technologies and opportunity zone investments, visit www.EntrexCapitalMarket.com.

 

Women Prioritize Family Needs Over Their Own Financial Security

According to a new "Female Financial Empowerment" survey from Edward Jones, while women have made great strides in gender and income equality in the workplace, one of the biggest challenges they continue to face is their tendency to "prioritize immediate family needs" over saving for their own future.

That certainly helps explain what the financial services firm acknowledged was an inherent conflict in the findings: While seven out of 10 women polled said they felt "confident" about their financial knowledge, all too many have actually done little to nothing to generate their own long-term wealth.

"Only 25 percent of women surveyed consider saving for retirement as their most important goal over the next three to five years," said Nela Richardson, an investment strategist at Edward Jones. "That tells us that female financial empowerment should be next on the list of barriers women have broken over the past few decades."

The two other biggest challenges women need to surmount, according to the national sample of 1,004 adult women ages 18 and older?

They're either waiting for some amorphous "perfect" time to invest - something, in all fairness, men are also guilty of - or they're waiting for … you name it to motivate them.

A big raise or other windfall (49 percent). A financial emergency (20 percent). A significant life event (20 percent). A market correction (12 percent).

None of which, let's be frank, is likely to make you the next Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. (More on that in a minute.)

"Waiting for a raise or a significant life event, by definition, isn't a financial strategy," Richardson said, "and they'll always be competing priorities. The key is to anticipate both tailwinds and headwinds in life, and be flexible enough to adapt to changing situations so you can meet your long-term financial goals."

Edward Jones lays out a female-centric approach to handling your finances on its website. But here's a quick cheat sheet to get you started:

* Make yourself a priority by starting to invest now in order to give your money time to grow - never underestimating the power of a wondrous thing called compound interest.

* Begin small with modest investments.

* Develop a goals-based financial strategy.

As for how much better women are doing financially, here's one notable sign: Forbes' list of the world's 100 richest people featured just four females in 2000 compared to 10 this year. The richest woman - and fifteenth overall - was the aforementioned L'Oréal heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers ($49.3 billion), who's chairwoman of the family's holding company.

But she inherited her wealth, you say? Well, the youngest self-made billionaire ever, according to Forbes, is none other than 21-year-old cosmetics wunderkind Kylie Jenner ($1 billion).

 

Surety Bonds Protect Infrastructure Investment

Finding consensus on addressing the question of how to pay for the massive investment needed to fix the problem, however, is another matter entirely.

As federal and state legislators discuss and debate the means by which to fund infrastructure improvements, what has become clear is that funds, whether from public or private sources or a combination of the two, are precious commodities that must be wisely spent and protected.

Mandatory bonding on federal and state public construction projects has been in existence for many decades, protecting and preserving countless projects through prequalification of contractors and providing guarantees of contract performance.

In fact, a recent study conducted by The Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis verified the economic value of surety bond protection.

"One of the conclusions which leapt off the page to us was…that non-bonded construction enterprises are 10 times more likely to become insolvent than bonded companies," states Steve Ness, President of the Surety Association of Canada. Construction projects carried out under the protection of bonded contracts have reduced risk of contractor insolvency, greater protection of economic activity, and better management of economic risk, Ness adds.

"Disastrous consequences for the public can result from instances when mandatory bond requirements are ignored," asserts John Bustard, President of the National Association of Surety Bond Producers, Inc. and Executive Vice President of King & Neel, Inc., an insurance and surety bonding agency in Honolulu, Hawaii.

He cites the example of the city of Harrisburg, PA, which decided to retrofit its trash incinerator plant without requiring the contractor to furnish a bond guaranteeing its work. The work turned out to be deficient, leaving the city with more than $280 million in debt. A grand jury investigation of the situation produced "A Report of the Thirty-Ninth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury" under then Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in which it was concluded that "the absence of performance bonds which were equal to the contract amounts involved here was the single biggest factor in producing the overwhelming debt now facing the city."

The report further states: "Had performance bonds been in place, they would have shielded the City from the financial fallout from the failed contract to retrofit the incinerator." Subsequently, Pennsylvania legislators have introduced legislation to address this particular issue and to require bonds at 100 percent of the amount.

Even when infrastructure projects are not solely funded with public funds, such as projects undertaken through a combination of public and private financing, as through public-private partnership arrangements, those projects need bond requirements.

Approximately 20 states have already reached that policy conclusion, enacting public-private partnership legislation that also mandates bonding requirements on such projects. Situations have arisen, however, in which bonding has been ignored or reduced on public-private partnership infrastructure projects; and the public has paid a heavy price when problems have arisen with little or no backstop.

As Congress weighs how to address the tremendous infrastructure needs of the country in the coming months, protections in the form of performance and payment bonds will be absolutely necessary to ensure that the precious funds of America's private and public investment are wisely spent and that the public receives the quality of infrastructure that it deserves.

 

One Date Parents Shouldn’t Ignore: 529 College Savings Plan Day

With the cost of a four-year degree rising nearly eight times faster than wages since the 1980s, those two questions are enough to give today's parents a serious case of night sweats. You can argue about the reasons for the disconnect -Administrative costs? Fancy amenities? - but you know there's a problem when a writer at Education Week is incensed.

"Madness," she decried.

Which is all the more reason to mark May 29 down on your calendar.

Otherwise known as National 529 College Savings Plan Day -Get it? 5/29? - it's the perfect time to consider setting up one those tax-advantaged 529 plans, as they're called, to help sock money away to cover tuition, books and other education-related expenses at most accredited two - and four-year colleges, universities and vocational-technical schools.

"It's a way of keeping your son or daughter from being saddled with too much debt when it's time to jump start their careers," explained Melissa Ridolfi, vice president of retirement and college products at Fidelity Investments. "Plus, any investment earnings compound on a tax-deferred basis, and qualified withdrawals are entirely free from federal and state income taxes."

And now to the big question: How much?

Two factors are mainly at play:

* Public vs. private schools. The cost difference can be about as mind-boggling as "Avengers: Endgame's" record $357.1 million opening weekend domestic haul: an average of $21,370 a year at the former, according to the College Board's latest figures, as opposed to $48,510 at the latter.

* The percentage of the bill you plan to foot. If you were counting on scholarships and other grants to pick up all or most of the tab, you should probably rethink that unless your kid is either a bona fide child prodigy or football star. Sallie Mae's "How America Pays for College" 2018 report found that both categories combined paid for just 28 percent of college costs.

One guess where 47 percent of the costs came from. That's right, "family income and savings," with another 24 percent covered by borrowing.

In other words, as Ridolfi said, "any way you look at it, the family is on the hook to pay the lion's share of college expenses." Which probably helps explain why a recent Fidelity study found that parents are increasingly starting to save before their child even reaches the age of two.

To see where you stand, try using what Fidelity calls "the college savings 2K rule of thumb." Simply multiply your child's current age by $2,000 to figure whether your savings to date are generally on track to handle approximately 50 percent of the College Board's $21,370-a-year average cost of attending a four-year public college.

Or, especially if you want a more customized estimate - one that lets you play around with percentages and switch back and forth between public and private schools - the firm's free online college savings calculator takes the angst out of doing the math yourself.

Fidelity provides 12 savings ideas to help reach your own goal, and offers a choice of two different investment strategies in the 529 savings plans it manages - including an age-based portfolio of funds that automatically becomes more conservative as the beneficiary nears college age.

Hopefully, armed with all that info, you'll be sleeping better at night.

The Best-Kept Secret: 529 Education Savings Plans

Yes, we're talking 529 plans. They've been around since 1996 - longer than most Generation Zers have been alive - but a new survey from Edward Jones found that a whopping 67 percent of Americans don't have a clue that they provide a tax-advantaged way to save money for tuition, books and other qualified education-related expenses at most accredited two- and four-year colleges, universities, and vocational-technical schools. Worse still, that 67 percent figure is 5 percent higher than the first time the survey was done in 2012.

"It's a concerning trend," says Tim Burke, a principal at the financial services firm Edward Jones.

"Concerning" because of the current average price tag of a four-year degree, including tuition, room and board: $21,370-a-year at public schools, according to the College Board, and $48,510-a-year at private schools.

And just how do those surveyed think they're going to handle that freight?

* Personal savings accounts (38 percent). Alas, the national average interest rate on such accounts is a measly 0.09 percent. Try covering even the more than $1,200 the average college student spends on books and materials over the course of a year with that.

* Scholarships (35 percent). Is your kid a bona fide child prodigy or football star? Because Sallie Mae's "How America Pays for College" 2018 report found that only 17 percent of college costs were paid this way.

* Federal or state financial aid (33 percent). Pell Grants are the largest source of federally funded grants, and they max out at $6,095 for the 2018-19 academic year. That would cover about 28 percent of one year's $21,370 average cost at a public college - except that, as the College Board explains, "most students receive smaller grants because they are enrolled part time or because their family income and assets reduce their aid eligibility."

* Private student loans (20 percent). According to the Brookings Institution, parents who take out loans - not the financially strapped Millennials we've heard so much about it - do so to the tune of $16,000 a year on average, and nearly 10 percent are on the hook for $100,000. "College debt is increasingly becoming a parent problem, too," ConsumerReports.com just warned.

Given all that, you can see why Kyle Andersen, another principal at Edward Jones, says that "by relying on scholarships or federal or state financial aid that a student may or may not receive, Americans leave themselves vulnerable."

Which brings us back to 529 plans.

Kudos to the 18 percent of those surveyed who said they'd implemented this strategy, which Edward Jones and others call "an attractive and practical way to save." How so? Remember when we said they're tax-advantaged? That means that (unlike personal savings accounts) the earnings in these plans - typically comprised of a portfolio of funds - accumulate tax-free, and that qualified withdrawals are exempt from both federal and state income taxes.

The federal gift tax exclusion allows a contributor to give up to $15,000 per year, per beneficiary, or $30,000 for married couples. Though almost every state has its own 529 plan - with total limits sometimes reaching more than $500,000 - there's no "home-town restriction," so you might want to work with a local Edward Jones financial advisor to compare plans and review your situation.

Oh, one other thing less than half of those surveyed knew: 529 plans can also be used to pay for qualified K-12 tuition.

 

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