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Make Positive Life Changes

Many people dream about suddenly getting a large sum of money. You win the lottery. Perhaps you receive a significant inheritance. But few think about how they will handle the responsibility of their newfound wealth. Lupe Camargo recalls a young woman who came to her for help. The woman had not handled money well in the past and feared she would make poor choices with a recent inheritance. They discussed small steps she could take to make positive life changes that would have lasting impact on her finances and her family’s well-being.

In this moving, five-minute video, Lupe shares the impact this experience had in her own life and career, as well.

By |2019-08-14T13:59:43-07:00December 9th, 2019|Advisors, Financial Planning, Video Blog|

Price of Free Trial Subscriptions

There is a price of free trial subscriptions.

Subscription services are everywhere – from streaming on our electronics to groceries at our doorsteps. They’re convenient. They give us stuff we want, usually with a free trial. Who doesn’t like free? Of course, there is a price of free trial subscriptions. Because a credit or debit card is required to sign up, Americans lose a surprising amount of money to free trials. That’s the hook.

“[It’s] convenient if you actually enjoy the service and plan on using it again in the future,” said Courtney Moore in a recent report for Fox Business. “But a number of Americans get trapped and lose money to auto-renewing subscriptions when these trials expire.”

About 46 percent of us subscribe to at least one online streaming-media service (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Sling), according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. About 15 percent of online shoppers subscribed to an e-commerce service in the past year, mainly subscription boxes (i.e. Ipsy, Dollar Shave Club, BarkBox); 35 percent have three or more. The monthly fee for popular subscription services is about $10 or less, which seems reasonable (by design). But that adds up over time and with multiple services. People get busy and often forget to cancel the subscriptions they no longer use. When they do remember, the process for cancellation can be cumbersome or even deceptive.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns: Some dishonest businesses make it tough to cancel, hiding the terms and conditions of their offers in teensy type, using pre-checked sign-up boxes as the default setting, and putting conditions on returns/cancellations that are so strict it could be next to impossible to stop deliveries and billing.

A recent Bankrate report found that nearly 60 percent of consumers had been charged against their wishes for a subscription service. If you’ve been wrongly charged, or if a provider refuses to cancel your subscription, report it to the FTC and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

 

By |2019-12-03T13:36:20-07:00December 2nd, 2019|Current Affairs, Financial Planning|

Secondary Education Tax Credits

In the past, I’ve written about Arizona tax credits that support local schools and nonprofits. Such credits enable you to make charitable donations using money you would otherwise pay in Arizona income taxes. But did you know there are also a number of federal income tax credits that benefit you directly with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill? That means a tax credit valued at $1,000 actually lowers your tax bill by $1,000. Here are details about two secondary education tax credits that are especially advantageous.

American Opportunity Credit

This allows you to claim the first $2,000 you spend on undergraduate expenses for tuition, books, equipment and fees. It also lets you claim 25 percent of the next $2,000 of expenses (for a total of $2,500). Parents can claim the credit if they paid for the student’s education expenses and that student is listed as a dependent on their tax return. Otherwise, the student can claim it. Full or reduced credit is given if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) was less than $80,000 or $90,000, respectively ($160,000 and $180,000 for joint filers).

This credit is especially valuable for students because it’s refundable. That means you can still receive 40 percent of its value (up to $1,000) and receive a tax refund even if you earned no income in 2019 and owe no income taxes. Because this credit is available for a maximum of four years, the largest benefit will be years when there are $2,000-to-$4,000 of expenses.

Lifetime Learning Credit

This is ideal for graduate students or anyone taking classes to develop new skills, even if you already claimed the American Opportunity Credit in the past. It’s available to undergraduate, graduate and non-degree or vocational students; and there’s no limit on the number of years it can be claimed.

Students can claim 20 percent of money paid toward tuition, fees, books and supplies needed for coursework, up to $2,000. The credit has a lower MAGI threshold ($67,000 for individuals, $134,000 if filing jointly) and is not refundable.

Read www.irs.gov/credits-deductions-for-individuals to learn more, or talk with your tax advisor about whether you qualify for these or other beneficial tax credits.

By |2019-11-20T08:34:42-07:00November 25th, 2019|Financial Planning, Taxes|

529 Education Savings Accounts and Grandparents

529 education savings accountsGrandparents often want to assist their grandchild with college. But they don’t know the best ways to help. In this brief video, Jim Mailliard talks about grandparents and 529 education savings accounts.

These investment vehicles are state-sponsored college savings plans. They invest money on behalf of participants, much like mutual funds invest shareholder money. Earnings grow tax-deferred, and withdrawals can be used for a variety of qualified education expenses.

 

By |2019-08-14T13:59:43-07:00November 12th, 2019|Advisors, College Planning, Video Blog|

Deductions Versus Credits

tax deductions versus creditsThe last quarter of the year is upon us, and that means it’s time to think about end-of-year tax planning. Income tax deductions and credits both reduce your tax bill, but it in different ways. Knowing the difference between deductions versus credits can help you maximize your savings.

Tax deductions: These are specific expenses you’ve incurred (e.g. health insurance, business charges, charitable gifts) that you can subtract from your income before calculating your taxes. Depending on your situation, it may be more beneficial to take a standard deduction than to itemize your expenses. Talk with your financial planner or tax advisor if you’re not sure.

Tax credits: These give you a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill. That means a tax credit valued at $1,000 actually lowers your tax bill by $1,000. A few examples include education, energy and dependent care credits. Next month, we’ll go into more detail about specific tax credits that may be available to you.

Click here to read more detail on deductions and credits at the official IRS website.

To read other Perspective Financial articles on tax planning, click here.

By |2019-10-15T12:18:38-07:00November 4th, 2019|Taxes|