Should I Pay My Mortgage Off Early?

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Should I Pay my Mortgage Off Early? This is actually a FAQ – a frequently asked question, so I thought I’d spend a little time on it here. Some other mortgage-related topics we’ve addressed are these:

A Mortgage Example

Let’s use a sample mortgage. $400,000 borrowed, at 4.5%, over 30 years. The monthly payment is $2026.74. That means over the life of the mortgage you will have paid $729,626.85 in principal and interest payments to repay that $400,000 loan – and, of course, $329,626.85 of that amount is interest.

You pay interest each month on the unpaid balance. In early years your payment is mostly interest, with very little principal repayment. In later years, situation reverses: you pay mostly principal, with much of...

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529 College Savings Plans Just Got Better!

 By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

 529 College Savings accounts just got better! 

A 529 college savings account is one in which money is invested for a beneficiary’s future college expenses.  The account grows without taxation, and funds are eventually distributed with no federal taxation for the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses.  The growth never gets taxed!*  This is a huge benefit. 

 The states each sponsor a 529 plan.  Florida’s is the Florida Pre-Paid.  A parent goes online during open enrollment in the autumn and chooses an option:  tuition only, or tuition and housing.  Once enrolled, the parent pays a monthly fee.  The benefit is that the child goes off to college with all tuition paid for!  Fees and expenses are not covered, and those can be considerable.  The prepaid plan is best suited for a conservative investor.

 Most states 529 plans are of the mutual fund...

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What is a Stretch IRA?

by Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

The Secure Act of 2019 changed the rules for non-spouse beneficiaries of inherited IRAs.  The rules now are simply that the beneficiary of such an IRA has 10 years to distribute it in its entirety.  No required minimum distributions are necessary during this time. 

This is a big change from previous rules.  Prior to the Secure Act, the non-spouse beneficiary could "stretch" the IRA out of his own life expectancy.  Say granddad left an IRA to the grandson.  The grandson's life expectancy (from an IRS table) was 70 years.   The year after death the grandson would take the beginning of year balance and divide it by 70.  The following year he'd take the beginning of year balance and divide it by (70-1).  And so on.  The result was that the IRA could grow enormously during this time.  

If You are a Non-Spouse IRA Beneficiary, You Have Some Choices.

You can simply sell the assets and...

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What is an IRA?

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Here is something we hear on occasion at CameronDowning: “I’m not sure an IRA is for me. I hear it may be too risky.” The problem with this statement is that an IRA, or Individual Retirement Account, is not an investment. So what is an IRA?

An IRA is Technically an Account Registration

It holds investments, but is not an investment itself. You can put all kinds of investments within an IRA. Consequently, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, and even gold bullion are investment options within an IRA. You can be 100% in cash in an IRA, which by definition has no risk. We’ve also commonly seen annuities put in IRAs which is typically not a good idea, and I discuss why here.

So What Exactly is an IRA?

Getting the terminology right is important. Picture a candy wrapper holding chocolate inside. An IRA is like the candy wrapper. Likewise, there are different kinds of candy wrappers just like there are various kinds of IRA...

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Your Emergency Fund

 

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Your emergency fund is foundational to any financial planning. Here I discuss what it is (and what it is not), why you need to have one, and how much should be in it. 

At the Margin 

An economics professor once said that if you fall asleep in class and he calls on you to just reply, "at the margin," and you’ll likely have the right answer. The entire study of economics is about what happens at the margin: the next unit of production, the next unit of income, the next dollar of debt payment.  Think about it: bankruptcies happen when there’s just one dollar more due that you simply cannot pay. So in talking about an emergency fund, we’re talking about what happens at the margin of your financial life. You’re keeping cash set aside to make sure that you’ll never get to that point where you don’t have the next marginal dollar.

What’s an Emergency Fund For?

Emergencies happen in life:  this is...

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Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

 

Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

What kinds of insurance do you offer?

We broker life insurance, disability income insurance, and long-term care insurance. In obtaining Insurance coverage for our clients, We shop the market for the most suitable product at the best price.

Can I get auto or homeowners through you?

No – that requires another license which we do not hold. As part of a complete financial planning engagement, we will evaluate the client’s risk exposure in these areas, and recommend coverage changes as appropriate. We are glad to refer you to insurance agents who can assist you with these policies. BTW we neither pay nor accept referral fees from other professionals, nor do we accept any liability for their actions.

What role does life insurance play in a financial plan?

A crucial part. A life insurance death benefit can complete the overall plan in the event of an untimely death.

Tell me about life insurance for tax-free income.

The strategy is to purchase a...

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Why Should I Pay a Fee for Financial Advice?

 

by Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

From time to time I’m asked, Glenn: there are plenty of financial guys out there. They’ll do financial planning for free. So why should I pay you guys?

Good question, and not unexpected in these days of free resources online.  To answer it, let me give you a little background.

Back say, 50 years ago, if you needed professional financial advice, from whom could you get it?  

  • banker
  • stockbroker
  • insurance agent
  • accountant

What’s the issue about taking advice from these providers? It is the potential for conflict of interest. What do I mean by that? Well, the banker wants to open time deposit accounts and initiate loans. The stockbroker wants to trade stocks in your account. The insurance agent makes a living selling policies. The accountant, on the other hand, focuses on preparing financial statements and doing tax returns.  See my blog post about the advice industry here.  

Is There a Conflict of...

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Financial Planning Frequently Asked Questions

 

by Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Why do financial planning?

Short answer: because no one can hit a moving target. The financial plan informs all financial decisions: how to invest, what to save and where, and what insurance should I purchase or drop.

What should I expect when I come in to see you?

At the time you made your appointment you would have discussed your concerns with one of our associates.  After determining if you would be a good fit to work with us, you have been given a list of documents to upload for the financial planners to view before your meeting.

When you come in we’ll meet in one of the conference rooms at our Miami office. We’ll give you a bit of personal introduction and will be interested to learn how you came to us.

From there, we listen and ask questions.  We want a general snapshot of your financial position, and we’ll really want to understand your specific concerns and goals for our engagement.

Toward the end of this initial...

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Five Steps to Getting Financially Organized Before Retirement

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Getting financially organized before retirement can be a daunting task. There are many unknowns and it can be hard to know where to begin. For that same reason people often wait too long to address retirement needs and, unfortunately, don’t achieve the financial freedom for which they long. When people get serious about retirement, many start by analyzing their investment account(s) (or lack, thereof). Ideally, they’ll meet with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to get them on track.

Financial organization starts by identifying and prioritizing what is most important to you.  This is the beginning of a goals-based financial planning approach.

Step 1: Identify What is Most Important to You.

I start by asking clients to list what is most important to them and help them identify what they’d like to accomplish. Spending more time with family, traveling, volunteering, reading, relocating, starting a new...

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Healthcare Flexible Spending Account

by Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Do you have a Flexible Spending Account available to you through work?  These can offer tremendous tax savings.  As you do your research, note that FSAs are of two sorts:  The Healthcare FSA and the Dependent Care FSA.  

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)

A flexible spending account (FSA) is offered as an elective benefit by many employers.  This is part one of a two-part series. Here I describe the healthcare flexible spending account. You’ll find my post on the dependent care FSA here.

The Healthcare FSA

This account allows workers to contribute, through payroll deduction, to accounts that are designated for qualifying medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance. All amounts contributed are pretax and funds are not taxed when spent on qualifying health care costs – this is a big tax advantage. The FSA owner can use the funds for deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance for the employee’s...

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