Your First Home Purchase Part I

 

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

So you’re getting ready for your first home purchase.  Congratulations! This is the first in a two-part series that should be helpful to you. Your First Home Purchase Part II is all about the criteria lenders use when evaluating your application. 

Down Payment and Qualifying for a Mortgage

In buying your first place you’ve got two main considerations: Coming up with a down payment is #1.  #2 is being able to qualify for a mortgage loan. This post assumes you're on track to save your down payment, and that you're looking into credit and mortgage qualification issues.  Specifically, you’ll learn how to get a good credit score in order to qualify for a mortgage.

Good Credit is Accurate Credit

Your first mission is to make sure that your credit report is accurate. I say project, because it may very well be just that – a mission. There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Each...

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Paying Off Student Loans

 

by  Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Student loans are often top of mind for many people in the early stages of a professional career. You’ve made an investment in yourself by getting a great education, and now you’ve got to make enough money to build a life, but also to repay those loans.  The main piece of advice we give most of our clients with student loans is not about numbers. It’s about overcoming the feeling that this debt is very heavy burden. So if you’re in that camp, we have some thought to share:

Own it – These Student Loans are Your Responsibility!

Taking out these loans was ultimately your choice, so own it. You DID in fact have other options – you could have gone to a cheaper school, or stretched your education out as you worked your way through. Whatever the case, ultimately it is your signature on the loan form. Take responsibility.

Don’t Let Student Loans Tyrannize You – Make a Plan and Enjoy Life

Student loan...

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Don’t Get Distracted by Financial Headlines – Stick to Your Financial Plan

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

We’ve all seen the financial headlines:

“Sell everything and buy gold!”

“Time to take profits off the table!”

“The market is poised for a big upswing – get in now!”

“Make 16% guaranteed with tax lien certificates!”

“Buy my real estate flipping system and control your own rental empire!”

…I’m getting an Excedrin headache.

The Trap of Financial Headlines

If you’re like many people, reading the financial headlines every day can make you crazy. Yet you continue to watch in order to stay informed. You want to be in the know about financial markets so you follow CNBC, Money Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and others. Some outlets are better than others. There is so much economic uncertainty in the air, so you invest time and energy reading, or listening, to these “experts” to get a sense of what you need to do with your money.

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You Are Generous. Give Creatively.

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Charitable Giving

As a financial adviser, I am privileged to work with many wonderful people who give generously. These are people who want to leave a legacy. These are clients who want to leave money behind which will continue to accomplish the good works the donor did during his or her lifetime. You may see or hear the names of prominent donors – sponsors of a university building or underwriters of Masterpiece Theatre – and think, Well, yes; I’d love to endow this or that organization or charity, but I’m simply not in that league.

Leave a Legacy

Even if you don’t have a lot of spare cash kicking around, you may still be able to leave a legacy. One of the best ways to do this is with life insurance. For a manageable annual premium, you may be able to leave hundreds of thousands of dollars to your favorite organization. It works like this:

Decide which non-profit you’d like to see flourish.

Typically, this is a...

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The FRS Investment Option

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

FRS participants have a choice among two retirement plan options:


The investment option, which is a defined contribution plan (DC)
The pension option, which is a defined benefit plan (DB)
In previous posts, I covered both the FRS Pension Option and the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program). In this post, I’m presenting the FRS Investment Option.

The salient feature of any DC plan is the amount of contributions that can go into an individual’s account. On the other hand, with a defined benefit plan (also known as a pension plan) there is a pension formula. The inputs are usually based on years of service and average or final compensation. The formula calculates a pension amount that is guaranteed over the pensioner’s lifetime or lifetimes of the pensioner plus spouse. Here, though, I’m focusing in on the FRS investment option, which is the FRS defined contribution plan.

How Much Money Goes In?

ERISA statues define...

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72 Is the New 70½

by Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

All the rules for Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) changed with the SECURE Act of 2019.  In this piece I go through the changes.  

Important Ages

There are two important ages in retirement financial planning: 59 1/2 and 72. The former marks the age when you can distribute from your retirement account – IRA or 401k – without paying a 10% penalty on the distribution. The IRS, with this penalty, gives us all a reason to keep our long term savings in place for its intended purpose – retirement income.  (Actually, there are several other important ages.  Look at them here.)

The second date is now age 72, and this is the age at which you must begin taking your RMDs from your retirement account. This is a change; the date used to be April 1st of the year after the year in which you turn 70 1/2.  More specifically, if you were born anytime after July 1st of 1949, the new law DOES apply to you.  Born...

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Some Thoughts on College Funding

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

As many of you know, I am a CFP® instructor with Zahn Associates and have been for many years.  As I write I'm reviewing the material for General Principals of Financial Planning, which I’ll be teaching again soon. Part of that course is college funding.

In the context of the material, this section teaches the time value of money calculations. For example, if the client has a newborn who absolutely will be attending Harvard at age 18, how much new annual saving is necessary assuming 5% inflation and 8% earnings? Siri tells me that the full freight now is $78,200. 

Ready for the answer? Sitting down? $18,743.42/year. Something most new parents can do, right?

I personally feel that if I have brought a child into the world, I have a responsibility to that child to give him or her the best start possible, and that includes a solid education. Yet college funding numbers look stratospheric. In this example, one year of college may...

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Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP)

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

The Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) is available to Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension plan participants. As a DROP participant, you earn your salary while your monthly pension is paid into the FRS Trust Fund. You earn interest at the rate of 1.3% on those DROP funds. This money adds up quickly. If your pension payment is $5000/month, your ultimate DROP payment will approximate $310,000!

This is a rich retirement – there’s nothing remotely like it that we’ve see in private industry.

Before you participate in DROP, you earn one month of retirement service credit for each month you work. When you enter DROP, you are considered to be retired and your pension is frozen at that level. You will still benefit from the cost of living increases, however.

Who is Eligible to Join DROP?

To participate in DROP, you must be vested and eligible for normal retirement (based on your years of service or age). You must be an active...

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Life Insurance Part 1 – A Little History

by Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

The fundamental reason to buy life insurance is that someone else is depending upon you for a living.  Plain and simple.  It is risk transfer:  in exchange for premium dollars, the insurance company will make a payout at your demise.

The life insurance industry is one that responds to market demands.  In Part I of this series I’m going to give you a little history.  What kind of policy should you buy – term?  whole life?  In Part II I'll discuss the other jobs life insurance can do for you, and talk a little about underwriting. In Part III I'll examine some common reasons for procrastination.  

Yearly Renewable Term Insurance

Original insurance contracts were for one year only – term policies, in other words, which renewed each year.  As the insured ages, year-by-year the premiums would rise, reasonably enough, as one’s mortality age comes closer.  So fundamentally we...

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Finally! The Government Pays YOU!

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

This blog post is actually the first of a trilogy having to do with Social Security.  The second is about the Taxation of Social Security Benefits, and the third is, Will Social Security will be There When I Retire?  

The Social Security benefit program is officially called OASDI – Old Age, Survivor, and Disability Insurance.  As the name suggests, it consists of two parts – the disability income part, and the retirement income part.

Funding for Social Security

The program is funded by payroll taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA):  7.65% of your gross pay, matched by your employer, on your earnings up to $137,700 in 2020.  This means that, on that same amount, your employer withholds $10,534.05 from your pay, and matches that amount equally.  Technically, the social security amount is 6.2% and the Medicare amount is 1.45%, and these total to 7.65%.  If you earn more than...

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