Consulate Journal
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As The Financial Consulate strives to serve as a leader in educating the public on personal finances, it is necessary that we be committed to expanding our own knowledge on a continual basis. The Consulate Journal allows members of our team to share their knowledge openly and give others the opportunity to learn about a range of topics from high-deductible health insurance to debt management. If there is a topic you would like to learn more about, please let us know below so that we may continue this collective knowledge gathering and sharing experience.

Categories: COMPANY BENEFITS ESTATE PLANNING LIFE PLANNING RETIREMENT PLANNING SOCIAL SECURITY TAX PLANNING ALL

Unoccupied or Vacant Homes

This article has two purposes: First, to highlight the typically unknown risk of owning a home that lacks full-time residents. Second, to explain the difference of what it means for a home to be either unoccupied or vacant. The nuances of these two words is explained in each specific homeowner policy, so this article serves merely as a […]

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Actively Passive or Passively Active?

There seems to be a lot of talk in the news these days about active investing and passive investing. It appears that a lot of people don’t really know the whole story. When people use the terms active investing and passive investing, they are usually talking about exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or index funds that track […]

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The Value of a Fiduciary

There has been much in the news about fiduciaries recently given that the Trump administration may be considering the delay or repeal of the Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary rule. As with most news features, it can be difficult to get the whole story and to determine what it means for you. The hope is […]

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The Most Underused Benefit in the IRS Tax Code

The IRS Tax code is not typically known for offering a free lunch. However, there is one type of account out there that many people have heard of but don’t fully understand how beneficial it can be. The Health Savings Account, or HSA. Let’s start by discussing what an HSA is not: a Flexible Spending […]

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Tax Preparation Versus Tax Planning

When having your taxes prepared—whether by using a tax program or a tax preparer—the expectation is to end up with the lowest tax bill possible. Unfortunately, such an expectation may be inaccurate. Most tax programs and tax preparers take data and diligently place the numbers in the right box to get the optimal tax response. […]

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Financial Services: The Next Evolution

The personal financial services industry is going through a major metamorphosis for the better, and it is creating a true profession. At present, the overwhelming majority of the financial industry is sales- and relationship-driven. The majority of advice that financial representatives provide to clients is guided by what the representative can sell to generate revenue, […]

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Transferring Ownership of Firearms in Your State: A Complicated Matter

No matter in what state you reside, gun control is a timely topic. Gun laws continually change, and if you are a gun owner, you have a responsibility to remain aware of the laws when it comes to your estate plan. This brief article is not intended to provide legal advice but instead encourages you […]

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Should You Carry a Long-Term Mortgage?

It’s not uncommon to consider paying off your mortgage when you get close to retirement or come into a large sum of cash. It’s also not uncommon for many financial advisors to recommend maintaining or even taking out a mortgage when the topic arises. Regardless of whether that advice is good or bad, it presents […]

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How to Avoid Senior Scams

The greatest financial scams are perpetrated on the most vulnerable group in America, aging senior citizens who are slowly losing mental capacity. The aging process invokes emotions of fear, consequently triggering emotions of anger or greed because the mental capacity to control these emotions with logic is impaired. Emotions are the trigger switches that sales people use, […]

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Effective use of Company Benefits

Companies of all sizes, no matter how big or small, are likely to provide some form of company benefits. However, not all benefits best fit the employee’s needs, so it is important to understand how to integrate benefits within an overall financial plan. For the employee, the first considerations are about Medical Insurance: Are you […]

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Ten Budgeting Mistakes You Need to Stop NOW!

1. Guessing Monthly Costs. When you develop your budget, you will need to estimate some expenses if you are uncertain about actual costs; however, over the next few months, you should refine your estimates so that you know what you are spending instead of guessing about these costs. A budget is not about guessing or […]

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The State Can Take Your Money

I bet you thought that this column was going to be about taxes—fooled you! Just when you thought that the government could not get any more intrusive and over-reaching, we now learn that Pennsylvania is the first state to make it easier to deem retirement accounts abandoned, allowing them to be turned over to the […]

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How to Plan for your Parents’ Long-Term Care Costs

Could you be on the hook for your parents’ long-term care expenses? The answer is YES! In about 30 states, including Pennsylvania, there are laws called filial reasonability or filial support laws, which may obligate children to help defray their impoverished parents’ long-term care expenses. Most of these laws include civil enforcement, but several states […]

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Simple and Solid Roth IRA Advice

Age 59½ is a key age for both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, because at age 59½, you may withdraw from either a traditional or a Roth IRA without incurring a 10% penalty. With a Roth IRA, however, you are required to have the account open and active for at least 5 years […]

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Minimize Stress During Tax Time—File an Extension!

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows taxpayers to file for a 6-month extension if they need more time to prepare their tax returns. You can obtain a tax extension for any reason—the IRS grants them automatically and without penalty as long as you complete the proper form on time. Both Maryland and Pennsylvania accept the […]

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Old Life Insurance Policies: Life or Death

You may have purchased a life insurance policy 5, 10, 20, even 30 years ago under the impression that you purchased a “whole life” insurance policy. The life insurance industry unfortunately has become so complex that it is highly unlikely that you actually bought a whole life policy. “Whole life” may have been your thinking […]

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Roth IRA Conversions—When Should I Convert?

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) come in two varieties—the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA. The traditional IRA allows you the opportunity to claim a tax deduction on your income tax return for contributions made to the IRA, and you must pay income tax on withdrawals from the IRA. The Roth IRA does not allow you […]

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Giving and Happiness

An article that I read in Investment News attributed happiness among seniors to their generosity and indicated that relationships serve as a powerful source of fulfillment and happiness. In our lives money can serve as a useful tool, but money alone cannot buy happiness. Of course you can find temporary joy in a new purchase, […]

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Cash Flow versus Budgeting

To me personal budgeting is a lot like dieting. If I diet and blow the diet, I eat even more. If I set a budget and then blow the budget, I spend even more. [Psychologically I already feel badly so why not just drown myself in the sorrow of my defeat.] We know that people […]

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The #1 Question of 2015

Every year a hot topic surfaces in the world of personal finance. In 2015, “How do I protect my identity?” has been at the top of the list. The answer normally involves paying for a monthly service to monitor credit and identity. And while we might not try to talk a client out of a […]

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Children Fighting Over Estates

No parent dreams of their family being torn apart when their estate is settled.  Rather, they hope the passing of life is a time of solace and family unity providing comfort after the loss of a parent. In recognizing that the division of assets can cause greed and other negative emotions resulting in hatred and division […]

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Annuity Advertising; Misleading at Best

During the past five years the #1 question I am hearing from clients and prospective clients relates to an annuity commercial most of us have seen or heard. The annuity promises a bonus up-front of 6-8% on your initial investment and a yearly guaranteed rate of return of 7%. If when you hear this promise, […]

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Want to manage your tax rate in retirement… Start while you’re saving!

While it’s hard to say what the tax laws will be in 30 or 40 years, it is likely that distributions from different types of retirement accounts will still receive special tax treatment. In addition to ensuring the investments in your retirement nest egg are well diversified, you should also consider diversifying your retirement account […]

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The Greatest Gift to Your Children

Most parents want to give their children gifts, but what gift would you consider to be the greatest gift? Ideas like cash, a new car, a big family trip, or a really cool shared experience (like skydiving) might come to mind. All of these may be fun for a while, but none of those ideas […]

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The IRS Will Not Call You…

I began contemplating this article after two of my tax clients (both widows) called me to ask if they should reply to messages on their answering machines that they owed the IRS taxes. Two more clients, both married couples, received similar messages since then. In addition, last year two clients called me after receiving phone […]

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What’s a Digital Estate?

If you are not a lawyer or financial planner and haven’t heard of the term “Digital Estate”, you’re not alone. This new buzz term has been causing a great deal of confusion lately, even for those in the industry because as a new estate planning concept, we are still figuring out how to handle it. […]

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To Extend or not to Extend

By Bob Boehner It seems every year most people want to have their taxes filed by April 15th and nobody wants to file an automatic, no questions asked, extension till October 15th. I wonder, do you feel you are doing something wrong if you do not file by April 15th? Many believe if you extend […]

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I Love to Save You Taxes

As a Comprehensive Financial Advisor, among my services are risk management, investments, estate planning, retirement planning, cash flow management, debt analysis and tax planning. The one that energizes me the most is reducing your tax obligations through perfectly legitimate tax strategies. This joy comes from one simple fact and that is, “The Tax Laws are […]

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Roth IRA Conversions – When Should I Convert?

By Sue Slowinski Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) come in two varieties—the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA. The traditional IRA allows you the opportunity to claim a tax deduction on your income tax return for contributions made into the IRA, and you must pay income tax on withdrawals from the IRA. The Roth IRA does […]

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A Cautionary Tale of Two Widows

The thing that encourages me the most about being a fee only advisor, without the ability to sell commission- based insurance or investment products, is that we can focus on providing the best advice for the client. Too often I see people buying insurance in a way that, in my opinion, is not a process […]

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What Social Security Will and Will not Tell You

Social Security is a very well run organization, contrary to most people’s belief. They are highly ranked as a customer friendly organization, but they are not designed to assist the beneficiary of Social Security in receiving the maximum benefit from the government program. Here are just a few simple wills and will nots of SS: […]

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The End of Social Security, NOT!

I laugh every time I hear someone say “Social a Security is not going to be there when I retire…that it is bankrupt… nothing but a Ponzi scheme that is doomed”. Well, it is a Ponzi scheme, but with two very unique components. First, the people who prosecute Ponzi operators are the creators of Social […]

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I see the Light of Retirement

I see the Light of Retirement You are scheduled to retire on July 1st 2015, and the excitement is building, but before you get too excited make sure you have your bases fully covered. Before retiring consider 4 key issues, to include: medical, income, debt, identity. Medical planning is probably the most important issue to […]

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Surviving the Chopping Block

Regardless of the positive trend of the U.S. economy, the threat of being a victim of company downsizing keeps many Americans awake at night pacing, wondering; Am I next? Can my family survive the loss of income? How can I keep myself from the chopping block? Unfortunately, in most cases, there’s not much an employee […]

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Roth IRA’s

Stated simply, if you have cash in banks or assets in taxable brokerage or mutual fund accounts, but you do not have a Roth IRA, you are missing a tremendous opportunity. This article can end on the power of that one statement, but the advantages of the Roth IRA warrant further explanation. First, if we […]

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Medical Bill Woes

According to a CNN report, 49.9 million Americans were without medical insurance in 2010. To seal the gap between those insured and uninsured the government signed the Affordable Care Act that requires every American to be covered by medical insurance or Medicaid. Unfortunately the complexity of the Act has many scratching their heads about coverage […]

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The Foundation of all Financial Planning

When first entering the practice as a personal financial advisor I thought I understood financial decision making. It was easy: 1 plus 1 equals 2; add another 1 and we get 3. Financial Planning was logical and straightforward economics. If someone was in debt, the solution was to have them spend less and pay debt […]

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Your Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights assures and protects therights of every American citizen. But did you know that you have a second Bill of Rights, one that protects you as a taxpayer? What’s more, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights contains ten crucial items, just like the original it was modeled on. Larry Gibbs, first documented these […]

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Using Debt Properly

One of the most common financial questions we receive at The Financial Consulate is, “When is it best to borrow money versus using existing savings?” Oftentimes those in the business of providing financial advice will recommend borrowing money whenever you can get a relatively low interest rate. Unfortunately, people may not be aware that this […]

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The Elements of Estate Planning Most Missed

Many equate estate planning with creating a will. So, when you finally get around to writing your will– a task most of us prefer avoiding rather than addressing, you feel satisfied that you took care of everything. Unfortunately, though, you are far from finished with estate planning when you complete your will. Two essential elements […]

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A Crash Course in Tax Carry Overs

Filing a tax return is like skydiving for the first time; it’s nerve-wracking, exhilarating and dangerous. After the parachute deploys—Whew, the ripcord worked— you’re free to enjoy the view. Similarly, after filing taxes some may lose sight of what’s to come—Hello, landing! They don’t think about the contributions they’re making throughout the year or how […]

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The Cost of Estate Planning Procrastination

As a comprehensive financial advisor, I have reviewed over 70 wills written by some of the best attorneys around the country. Yet, inevitably, there are mistakes in the overall estate plan. In no way are the attorneys at fault; rather, the culprits are typically time and money. For example, family estate documents prepared by an […]

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Enjoying Your Work

Given that the average human being spends more time working than in almost any other activity, it is critical that we enjoy our work. Joy is the foundation of a healthy, prosperous and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, most surveys say that 60-70% of workers dislike their jobs and are looking to get out of Dodge. I […]

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Beat the Odds: How to Maximize Your Social Security

The ebbs and flows of the U.S. market are worrisome particularly to those approaching full retirement age (FRA). Today, most retirees must rely solely on meager savings and Social Security benefits to keep them upright through retirement. Securing one’s financial footing may seem like a game of chance these days, but knowing how to roll […]

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Filial Support – Children of Elderly Parents Need to Know What It Is

Filial…that which is due of a son or daughter. We all know that a parent has an obligation to a child, but did you know that a child has an obligation to an aging parent as well? Not too long ago, there were no government programs such as Medicare for medical expenses, Social Security for […]

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The crucial importance of creating a Digital Estate Plan

In late 2004, a roadside bomb in Fallujah tragically took the life of twenty year old Marine Lance Corporal Justin Ellsworth. And it fell to his family to conduct the painful process of wrapping up his estate. But his father, a police sergeant named John, ran into an unfortunate problem…because Justin’s e-mail provider, Yahoo, wouldn’t […]

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