Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
May 16, 2013 4:44 pm
Having your finances in order is important for the sustainability of your future, regardless to where you currently are in life. However, organizing yourself to prevent or get rid of debt can be confusing. Many of us need a little help.
According to John Vento, author of Financial Independence (Getting to Point X): An Advisor’s Guide to Comprehensive Wealth Management, one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your pursuit of financial independence is selecting a qualified advisor whom you like and trust, and who can meet your needs.
When you’re in the process of choosing a financial planner, here are ten important questions to consider:
1. If this advisor was recommended by a friend or family member, do you have confidence in the person who referred you?
2. What education and credentials does this advisor hold to make him or her qualified to advise you? (The advisor’s website is a good place to find this information. You can also check with the licensing board for whatever credentials the advisor holds.)
3. What is the compensation model for the advice and service: fee-based, hourly, or commission? (Fee-based is a percentage of your money under management; hourly is based on time charges; and commission is transaction-based.)
4. What are the financial advisor’s areas of expertise and does this line up well with your needs? (The wealth management issues you’re facing should go hand in hand with the advisor’s areas of expertise.)
5. What standard of care will this advisor be held to: fiduciary or suitability? (The fiduciary standard, which is more rigorous and requires financial professionals to act in the best interests of their clients, is recommended.)
6. What is the extent of services that will be provided: Is it transactional or is it truly a trusted advisor relationship? (Transactional means compensation is based on commissions.)
7. Is the financial decision making customized to you or does the advisor take a one-size-fits-all approach? One-size-fits-all is not appropriate. An 18-year-old person’s goals and risk tolerance are much different from an 80-year-old retiree’s.
8. Does the financial advisor provide tax advisory services such as tax planning and preparation that are integrated into your overall financial planning?
9. What is the organizational structure of the advisor’s firm: Will you be dealing directly with the same advisor or a junior member of the team?
10. What is the financial advisor’s philosophy and approach to handling risk: Does this advisor make you comfortable?
May 16, 2013 4:44 pm
Reserve account. An account for money collected each month by a lender to pay for property taxes and property insurance as they come due.
May 16, 2013 4:44 pm
A: According to the AARP, older homeowners prefer to age in place, meaning they want to live in their homes safely, independently and comfortably, despite age or ability level. To do so, many require a few modifications in the home to enhance maneuverability, including the installation of a private elevator and the addition of a bathroom and bedroom to the main level. A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) may prove helpful. CAPS professionals are remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants who are trained in the unique needs of the elderly, Aging-in-place home modifications, common remodeling projects, and solutions to common barriers. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), together with the NAHB Research Center, NAHB Seniors Housing Council, and AARP, developed the CAPS program to address the growing number of consumers who will soon require modifications to their homes.
May 15, 2013 4:44 pm
Sure, virtually everybody knows their shoe size, but very few people are aware of their carbon footprint. And since I provide so many energy saving and efficiency ideas via these reports, it's about time to learn how to calculate exactly how big a carbon footprint you or your household is making.
Enter TerraPass -- the brainchild of Dr. Karl Ulrich at the University of Pennsylvania. Along with 41 of his students, Karl launched TerraPass in October 2004 as a way to help everyday people reduce the climate impact of their driving.
Now you can take action to mitigate your carbon footprint, whether it’s from driving, flying, or energy consumption. TerraPass claims its U.S. emissions reduction projects produce the best carbon offsets the U.S. has to offer. To learn how to calculate one's carbon footprint, click here.
There you will not only find a tool to calculate the carbon footprint of your household or business, but a way to learn how weddings, parties -- even business meetings contribute to harmful environmental impact. For a household, just input your zip code, clarify if you use gas or electricity and enter your average monthly bill.
The calculator tells you immediately the average monthly bill for utility costs within your zip code - so you learn immediately how your consumption stacks up against your neighbors.
Your 'score' comes with an estimate of how much you can spend for energy credits to fill in the hole your household carbon footprint creates. TerraPass carbon offsets support clean energy and other projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a portfolio consisting of clean energy, farm power and landfill gas capture.
May 15, 2013 4:44 pm
Today’s 50-something CEOs tend to have vague dreams of more fishing, traveling or sailing when they retire, but they don’t know when that might be so they haven’t begun planning for it.
That’s a mistake, say a trio of specialists: wealth management advisor Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo, CPA Jim Kohles, and estate planning attorney John Hartog.
“Whether you’re selling your company, passing it along to a successor or simply retiring, that’s a potentially irreversible life event – you’ve got just one chance to get it right,” says Ashoo, CEO of Pillar Wealth Management.
A 2012 survey of CEOs by executive search firm Witt/Kieffer found 71 percent of those aged 55 to 59 have no retirement plan, although 73 percent look forward to more recreational and leisure activities when they let go of the reins.
“A lot of baby boomers have the idea that they’re just going to work till they stop working,” says Kohles, chairman of RINA accountancy corporation. “If they hope to do certain things in retirement and maintain a certain lifestyle, they’re likely to end up disappointed.”
Planning for the transition from CEO to retiree should incorporate everything – including what happens to your assets after you’re gone, adds John Hartog of Hartog & Baer Trust and Estate Law.
“Many of my clients worry about what effects a large inheritance will have on their children – they want to continue parenting from the grave. You can, but should think hard about doing that,” he says.
The three say smart planning requires coordinating among all of your advisors; that’s the best way to avoid an irrevocable mistake. With that in mind, Ashoo, Kohles and Hartog offer these suggestions and considerations from their respective areas of expertise:
1. Ashoo: Identify your specific lifestyle goals for retirement, so you can plan for funding them. To determine how much money you’ll need, you have to have a clear picture of what you want, Ashoo says. Do you see yourself on your own yacht? Providing seed capital for your children to buy a business? Pursuing charitable endeavors?
Each goal will have a dollar amount attached, and you (or your advisor) can then determine whether it’s feasible and, if so, put together a financial plan.
“But you can’t just create a plan and forget it. You need to monitor its progress regularly and make adjustments to make sure you’re staying on course, just like you would if you were sailing or flying,” Ashoo says. “We run our clients’ plans quarterly.“
It’s also imperative that you don’t take any undue risks – that is, risks beyond what’s necessary to meet your goals, he says. “You may hear about a great investment opportunity and want in on it, but if you lose that money, you may not have a chance to make it up.”
2.Kohles: Don’t sell yourself short when selling your business. “If you’re banking on money from the sale of your business, know that it’s unlikely you’ll have investors just waiting with the cash for the chance to buy it when you’re ready to sell,” Kohles says.
Buyers are more likely to offer to pay over time from the company’s future earnings -- which leaves the retired CEO with no control over the business and utterly reliant on the new owners to maintain its profitability.
A good alternative is to establish an S corporation combined with an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), Kohles says.
“You’re selling the company to the employees while retaining control until you phase yourself completely out,” he says. “The ESOP doesn’t pay income taxes – the employees do when they retire. And you don’t pay taxes on the money or the stock that you contribute.”
3. Hartog: What do you want your kids’ inheritance to say? If you have children, this decision can change their lives for the better – or the worse.
“How your assets are disposed of should reflect your values,” Hartog says. “A lot of people prefer to think in terms of taxes at the expense of values. I advise against that.”
For children, incentive trusts can encourage, or discourage, certain behaviors.
“If you’re concerned your adult child won’t be productive if he has a lot of money, set up a trust that will make distributions equal to what the child earns himself,” Hartog says.
“Or, if you want to be supportive of a child who’s doing something socially responsible, like teaching in an impoverished area, you can set it up to pay twice his salary.”
There are many creative ways to establish trusts, Hartog says. Plan about five years out and change the trust as life events dictate.
May 15, 2013 4:44 pm
From $20,000 to $65,000 a year – that’s the tuition cost for one year of college, says John McDonough, a money expert who helps retirees and parents plan for their families’ futures.
“For the 2012–2013 academic year, the average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261. A moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289,” says McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions. “But for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school. Either way, your kid’s higher education can easily shoot into six figures after four years.”
Along with worrying about rising tuition prices, parents also fear for their own futures if their retirement savings are drained by children’s college costs, McDonough says. Only 14 percent, for example, are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, he says, citing a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
“Families feel they’re faced with conflicting goals, but there are numerous ways to pay for college while investing in your future retirement,” says McDonough, who offers insights for parents to keep in mind while planning for their child’s education:
• The ROI of a college education: At a time when so many American families are financially strapped, college is an especially stressful topic because parents know higher learning will help their kids succeed. College graduates earn 84 percent than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Here is how earning breaks down over one’s life time, based on education: a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime; $2.3 million is estimated for a college graduate; those with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.
• Move retirement assets to qualify for grants: Most parents know about the 529 savings account, but that’s not necessarily the best or only option. Reallocating your retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, can better position a child to qualify for grants and scholarships. This legal and ethical maneuvering may be the single most important factor when considering how to pay for college.
• Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider independent and objective analysis of your future college student. Assessment might include a personality profile and a detailed search for a future career. Also think about a more nuts-and-bolts approach, including scholarship eligibility, SAT and ACT prep courses, review of admissions essays and an in-depth analysis of chances for enrollment in a student’s top four choices of colleges.
• Make a checklist of financial aid forms: In order to maximize a fair price of higher education, remember there is plenty of data to review. McDonough recommends a checklist with a timeline and notable deadlines. Be ready to troubleshoot the “alphabet soup” of data forms: FAFSA – Free Application For Federal Student Aid; CSS profile – College Scholarship Service; SAR – Student Aid Report; and more. Think about this process as a second job, or find professional help you can trust.
May 15, 2013 4:44 pm
Quit-claim deed. A conveyance by which the grantor transfers whatever interest he or she has in the real estate without warranties or obligations.
May 15, 2013 4:44 pm
A: There are many ways to finance a remodeling project. If you have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income, you can refinance your mortgage and borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs. Refinancing is a good option if you can get a mortgage interest rate at least two percentage points below your current home loan rate. Other options include a second mortgage, a home equity loan, or an unsecured loan. Less popular options: margin loans, which are taken against securities you own, and loans from retirement plans, life insurance policies and credit cards.
May 14, 2013 6:42 pm
If Grandma handed you a moist tea bag to take the sting out of a minor burn, she probably had no idea why it worked – but doctors at a recent community forum confirmed that the home-grown remedy may be just as effective as some over-the-counter creams.
“Soak a towel in cold tea,” confirmed Pennsylvania doctor Marie Savard, MD. “The phytonutrients will reduce inflamed blood vessels.”
The panel of medical experts put a seal of approval on seven other useful home remedies:
Mosquito bites – Crush a low-dose aspirin and dissolve it in an ounce of water. Apply the paste and the salicylic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce redness and itchiness.
Healing wounds – Reduce scarring as the wound heals by keeping it covered with petroleum jelly and a bandage for three to five days. Keeping the skin soft as it heals is better than allowing it to scab over.
Queasiness – Whether it’s motion sickness, morning sickness or a little stomach bug, try drinking the fruit syrup from a can of peaches. It works as well as some expensive over-the-counter nausea remedies, which are mostly composed of sugar.
Food poisoning – Try ingesting some black tea and a few slices of burned toast. The tannic acid in the tea and the charcoal in the toast should neutralize the toxins and soon have you feeling better.
Hangover – a cup of tomato juice mixed with a splash of Tabasco sauce will stimulate the liver and provide the antioxidants your body needs to replenish.
Congestion/bronchitis – Medicated vapor rub applied to the chest can help. Or boil a pot of water, let it cool for a minute, then pour it into a bowl and mix in a teaspoon of vapor rub to melt. Lean over it with your head about a foot from the steam. Use a towel to form a tent over your head and inhale for five minutes.
Toothaches – Cloves really work. Keep a bottle of eugenol (clove extract), purchased at the pharmacy, in your medicine cabinet. If a toothache strikes, soak a cotton ball in it and apply directly to the tooth to ease the pain until you can see a dentist.
May 14, 2013 6:42 pm
Spring is finally here, and it's a beautiful time of year to spruce up your property and get it ready for the warmer weather. For many people, this means creating an outdoor environment that is inviting and fun to use during the warmer months. This is just as important if you're planning on selling your home as if you're going to be living in it.
Nicer weather means that people want to spend more time outdoors working, playing, socializing, and even eating. Most homeowners invest some time preparing their yards and gardens for warmer days, and the same rules apply when prepping your home for sale. Buyers will be tempted by the accessibility and appeal that you enjoy in your yard.
Making your yard and the outside of your home enticing doesn't have to be expensive. All it takes is a little elbow grease and a few key investments – most likely the same investments you make every year as the weather warms up. Here are a few small fixes and embellishments that you can use to your advantage when making your outdoor space appealing:
Clean it up. Your outdoor space can give prospective buyers the impression of an additional "room" when viewing your home. And as with any other room in your home, you want everything to be in order. Stow lawn tools and outdoor toys in a garage, shed, or storage bench when you are not using them. Clean up anything that has gotten grimy during the cold winter months. Wash windows and clear gutters. Rent a power washer from a local home supply store to clean off siding, decks, patios, and fences that look dirty.
Make quick fixes. Replace or repair anything that has taken a beating. Paths and patios should be free of chipped or cracked tiles or paving stones. Shore up fences that are damaged or leaning. Repaint any trim or decking that is in bad shape. Make sure all of your outdoor lighting is working.
Make your landscaping stand out. While you don't necessarily want to plant a huge vegetable garden that will require maintenance (and for which you may not reap the benefits), well-placed and carefully maintained plantings are an easy and attractive way to make your home stand out. If you don't have the time to maintain flower beds, add a few pots and planters brimming with bright blooms. Hanging baskets of flowers are available at virtually any home store or nursery, while small pots of fresh herbs are pretty and you can take them with you when you move. As always, stay on top of weeding and keep grass trimmed and bushes and trees pruned. Investing in some fresh mulch will give your yard a clean appearance.
Add charm. A prospective homebuyer will likely be drawn to the allure of dining al fresco, so if you have a grill or barbecue area, make it inviting with some attractive outdoor furniture. If you have a pool, open it and maintain it. Keep the water sparkling and inviting, and store pool toys out of sight. And don't forget how your property will look during evening hours. Outdoor lighting comes in all shapes and sizes, and much of it is very affordable. Invest in some fixtures that highlight your property's best features. And keep lawn ornaments to a minimum. Remember that buyers want to imagine themselves in your home, so it's best to give them room to imagine their own belongings in your outdoor space.
With summer just a few weeks away and winter just a memory, it's time to get out and enjoy the nicer weather. The best part of preparing your lawn and yard for sale is that you can enjoy the benefits while you are waiting for an offer to come through.
Susie Shortsleeve is a REALTOR® Weston, Mass.