Kaplan on Your Money

November 3, 2018

Annuities can be good, bad or downright ugly. Which ones are good to invest in, and why? (And what is an annuity, anyway?).  In my previous article, I explained the kinds of annuities that are “bad” or “ugly” for investors: virtually all variable annuities, including indexed annuities (that are ...

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Annuities can be good, bad or downright ugly. How can you tell if your annuity is good, or if you should consider purchasing one? And what’s an annuity, anyway?.  In this two-part series, I’ll begin with a review of the “bad and ugly” annuities (most variable annuities). Next month I’ll review ...

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Here’s a smart way to make charitable donations that’s easy and cuts more of your taxes than the regular “write a check, take a tax deduction” route. The tool I recommend is called a Charitable Trust (sometimes also called a Donor Advised Fund). The time needed to set it up? As little as 5-10 ...

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Women have special financial needs that advisors overlook in two ways: 1) advisors don’t always acknowledge the different planning needs women have and 2) advisors don’t always communicate well with female clients – especially if the client comes to a meeting with her husband. It’s very common for ...

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Would you like to design your ideal retirement? Where do you begin? First of all, what does retirement mean to you? If you’re in a relationship, does retirement mean the same to you as it does to your partner? Do you know if your “ideal retirement” is affordable or just a pipe dream? In past ...

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Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security ...

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Let’s get real about retirement. Will you have enough to remain comfortable in retirement for 30 years or more?  Studies show this is a recurring fear many Americans have - and for good reason. Many Americans are completely unprepared to fund a comfortable retirement, and remain naive about the ...

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Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions ...

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Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” is a perfect metaphor for the way people go about investing their money. As you recall in the fable, the hare brags about his ability to beat the tortoise and is overly confident about winning. In the investment world, the hare is someone who thinks he or she is ...

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There are 6 mistakes people often make when engaging a financial advisor -- and all of them are avoidable!  Before listing the mistakes, let's put the issue of paying for financial advice into context. Health and money are two areas of life where everyone benefits from professional input and ...

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The financials industry spends a lot of time and money on preparing stock and bond market forecasts – especially at this time of year --  but are they “helpful” or “useless” when it comes to making investment decisions?  In my opinion, most of these forecasts have little predictive power. In other ...

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Here are 5 “no-brainer” moves you can make before year-end to strengthen your finances: 1. Taxes: NJ AND NY RESIDENTS ALERT: If Congress pushes through tax reform that eliminates state and local tax exemptions, many NJ and NY residents (along with MA and CA residents) will be hit with tax ...

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Note: Recently I gave a seminar on “It’s Greek to Me!” – Understanding Your Investment Statements at the Bernards Township Library in Basking Ridge, NJ. Here are a few of the items I touched on. When you look at your monthly investment statement, do you think “this looks like Greek to me”? Do ...

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Is it good or bad to have a lot of employer stock in your 401k plan? It depends. Some employees accumulate company stock quickly because their company match is 100% company stock. Other employees load up on company stock because they’re bullish on their employer (and don’t fear an Enron-type ...

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If you’re like most people, you’ll admit to some fascination with how the Rich and Famous live. Despite their relative wealth, they’re very human in terms of their strengths and weaknesses – specifically how they spend money, how they invest and how they give it away. Here are two Rich and Famous ...

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Are you a Near-Sighted or a Far-Sighted investor? If you’re a near-sighted investor, you probably check your investment balances frequently (even several times a day) and you feel good when your investments are higher…conversely, you may worry or feel regret when your investments are lower. If ...

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You have a financial advisor, but what kind is he/she? Take this brief quiz to see if you can tell the difference between a “Broker” and a “Financial Planner.” Receive 2 points for all “Yes” answers, and 1 point for all “No” answers: 1. My financial advisor has discussed my estate plans; he/she ...

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Are you familiar with the KISS (“Keep it Simple, Stupid”) concept? KISS helps you refine your elevator speech, write concisely…and the KISS concept can boost your financial health. How? By helping you focus on essential ways to strengthen your financial life.  After working with hundreds of ...

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Here are Five Easy Pieces of Investment Advice that can s-t-r-e-t-c--h your investment dollars. The first 3 “Pieces of Advice” are connected. It's a good practice to verify if your broker or advisor is following these tips or not (I’m always amazed to see how many money managers disregard these ...

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Are you invested in an IRA, 401k, 403b or Defined Benefit Plan? If so, good news! Have you noticed fees disclosure on your 401k or 403b statements, lower fees and the addition of low-cost index funds to your investment selection? I hope further improvements to retirement plans ironed out in 2016 in ...

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There are pros and cons to investing in the three main investment styles:  active,  passive and “evidence-based investing.” The benefits of “evidence-based investing” will be clearer after reviewing “active” vs. “passive” investing styles. 1. Active Investing through Mutual Funds: “Active” ...

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Is a lump sum offer from an employer a better choice than a pension annuity for life? The former provides an immediate up-front amount (say $300,000), but the pension annuity gives you a stream of payments for life (example: $1,350 per month). A number of employers dangle a lump sum offer to ...

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Brains and wine both improve with age (and any oenophile will tell you, a brain + wine -- in moderation --  can be good for you – but that’s a separate subject). When I discuss brain improvement with age, I’m referencing a growing body of literature studying the so-called “middle-aged brain” (the ...

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Are you tired of hearing about the pending retirement crisis –because you’ve heard about it so much, it’s boring and you think it doesn’t apply to you? You might be in your 70s or 80s before you realize all that “yadda yadda” about “planning” and “saving” actually did apply to you after all… Of ...

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 A hundred years ago people in the US were extremely old in the US if they lived past 65. What a difference living in 2016 makes! Reaching age 65 now represents just the 2/3 mark for many people expected to live to 95 and beyond. Health, exercise and medical advances all make this possible in a way ...

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Stock markets and some currencies clearly gave an initial resounding “thumbs down” last week to the recent Brexit vote to leave the EU.  Once Brexit was announced, shares and the British Pound plunged and there was immediate capital flight to low risk bonds – particularly US Treasuries.. Amid all ...

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Last month I wrote about key areas to help “Manage a Financial Life Well” in the face of the overwhelming volume of financial information and advice. Some examples I mentioned included having sufficient life/disability insurance, calculating how to best fund long-term care and how to make some ...

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Welcome to the Sandwich Generation – you belong if you’re “sandwiched” into supporting both adult children and aging parents .  Americans see themselves are more “independent” and sometimes less family-oriented than some other cultures but you still may be on the hook to support adult children in ...

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It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do to manage your life well – be it exercise, diet or making smart financial decisions.  If you feel overwhelmed, you're not alone.  I’ll be discussing the subject of "Managing Your Financial Life Well" on April 25 (Monday) from 7:30-8:45 ...

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On financial markets “It’s Déjà vu All Over Again” – to quote the late, great Yogi Berra. While he probably was talking about baseball, it applies to stock markets this past month - it feels like same old, same old, all over again. As we close out the month of January 2016, it’s clear the only ...

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