529 College Savings Plan

Alabama 529 College Funding Plan

Secrets of the Alabama 529 College Funding Plan

It’s been a while since I’ve written a column espousing the advantages of using a college 529 plan to help fund a college education.  Recently I had a reader contest where I asked readers to submit their best money saving ideas to jump-start 2016.  One reader, Linda W., focused on this topic and it was full of great tips:

Years ago when our children were young, we wanted to open up a college 529 account for them. Alabama was so involved with their prepaid tuition plan that their 529 plan was lacking in growth. It was more beneficial for us to invest in an out-of-state plan and lose the tax benefits offered to those who invest in an Alabama 529.

But, we learned some tricks and this has helped us withdraw some of those funds!

Each year we roll $10,000 over into a College Counts 529 plan here in Alabama. That does two things, it allows us to take the maximum contribution off our Alabama taxes for married couples, saving us about $500, and it allows all the gains on our out-of-state deposits to now be tax-free in Alabama, (one of the few states to tax gains made in an out-of-state 529 account upon withdrawal of funds) because they will be withdrawn for use from an Alabama sponsored fund!

Yes, the funds are managed better, now, in Alabama, and we could let those funds sit in the account, but we usually roll over the funds and withdraw them in less than 30 days to pay college bills. The whole process to move the funds from out-of-state 529, to in-state 529, to the university (via a charge card with cash back for charging tuition and their grace period for making payments!) takes 30 days or less! But the savings are near $1,000!

And we always pay $4,000 college costs out-of-pocket, and not with our 529 funds, to snag the $2,500 cash given to us by the American Opportunities CREDIT (not a deduction which results in less in your pocket!). See federal tax instructions for eligible students, expenses and terms.

In these high tuition and fees time, it helps to maximize ones college savings and these tips might help others who have set up college funds out of state. We started early enough to be able to pull money out gradually for two kids, thus being able to only have to move $10,000 a year. But even rolling over more, if one needs it, and thus going over Alabama’s annual deduction limit, you still receive the benefit of tax-free withdrawals to pay qualified college expenses.

And if you have no savings for college at all, still open up an Alabama College Counts 529 as you can send your child’s tuition payment there, let it sit for a day, then pull it out and pay the university, or in most cases, your charge bill where you charged their tuition. This will count as a contribution to the 529 account and allow you to take the Alabama tax deduction! Just read up on the process of depositing and withdrawing so there are no surprises!

So there! My tips for saving a lot with a little effort!

Of course one should consult their tax advisor to confirm the benefits based on their individual status. But these have worked for me and the friends I have helped with their taxes!

 My comments:  The $10,000 State of Alabama income tax deduction that Linda refers to is based on a married couple filing jointly.  For single filers, the deduction is $5,000.  Also, when doing a rollover from a 529 plan, be aware that you are allowed only one rollover every twelve months so plan accordingly.

I would add that the 529 plan is, in most cases, the best way to save for college.  While you don’t get a federal tax deduction for contributions (and State of Alabama income tax deduction is limited to Alabama residents and limited in the amount of deduction each year), your money grows tax deferred and, when withdrawn for qualified education expenses, it’s tax free.  You should also be aware that there are two versions of the Alabama 529 plan; an Advisor version where you’ll pay commissions and a ‘self-help’ version with no commissions.  For more information visit College Counts 529 Plan.  Thank you, Linda for a very thoughtful commentary on 529 plans.


Your Goals for 2016

Your Goals for 2016

Take a moment to reflect on this past year. What are some accomplishments that make you feel particularly happy? Are there areas that you feel you could have done much better if you’d given them more focus? Michelangelo famously said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” My personal observation is that far too many people set their goals too low or they don’t have goals at all! Without goals, your destiny is left to the wind…to be blown this way and that by other people…often people who do have goals.

If you’ve never set goals before, here’s a simple guide:

  • Write it down. A goal unwritten is little more than a dream. By writing it down, you create a ‘connection’ between your brain and the world around you. I think you’ll be surprised at how the world will bend over backwards to help you. Keep it simple: I use one index card for each goal.
  • Be specific. Fuzzy goals equal fuzzy outcomes. Be specific about what you want and when you want it. The best test of this is to have someone read your goal. If they are clear about what you want and when, then you likely have a well written goal.
  • Review them often. My index cards of goals rest on my office desk where I see them daily. As you review them, think of ‘why’ each goal is important to you. If you have a great ‘why’, you’ll find the ‘how’ becomes much easier.
  • Go bite size. With some goals, you can just go do them (spring clean your closet), but most require a series of steps (buying a home) or setting and completing routines (exercise). Break the bigger goals down into smaller parts…pieces that are easy to accomplish one at a time. At the beginning of each week, develop a short list of actions you can take this week that will move you towards one or more of your goals…then get it done.
  • Get leverage on yourself. One of the best ways to increase your odds of success is to solicit the help of an ‘accountability partner’, someone who you share your goals with and who agrees to hold you accountable for taking the action necessary to succeed. Ideally this is someone who also has goals with you as his or her accountability partner. Make a habit of checking in weekly for progress reports.
  • Celebrate. Most goals are marathons, not sprints. Learn to celebrate as you achieve certain ‘goal posts’ along the way. It will make the process much more fun.

Easy versus stretch goals

I like to divide my goals between what I call easy versus stretch goals. An easy goal is one that you know you can do, you just need to identify it and do it. For example, one of my easy goals is to reclaim my office space. After years of storing my tax files, my CPA finally decided it was time to ‘reclaim his office’ and deliver all my files to me! Now my office if full of files and it’s my turn. They require a little bit of organization and a place to go. Not hard…an ‘easy’ goal. A stretch goal is one that you expect to be a challenge to accomplish. It’s doable but will take a lot of effort, planning and discipline. One of my stretch goals for this year is to lose fifteen pounds of body fat. I’ve always paid attention to my nutrition and exercise but even small inconsistencies in good habits catch up with you over time. Now’s the time. I plan to launch this goal in a few weeks…giving me some time to get organized and hoping that at least a few of you will join me on a fitness quest of your own. I’ll pull together a group of experts, (nutritionist, physician, and personal trainer) to advise me (and you) and I’ll set up a Twitter account and web site so everyone who wishes to participate, has the basic tools you need as well as a group of accountability partners. I’ll keep you posted on my progress in my weekly column and via Twitter. Typically, I set two to three stretch goals and half a dozen easy goals.

Why financial goals matter. I realize that a lot of people feel that setting goals has gone the way of the rotary dial telephone. However, my experience is that people who don’t have goals also most often don’t have a lot of money. I wonder if there’s a connection?

Jump Start Your Finances in 2016

grop-profile-picYep, the holidays are a busy time of year full of distractions that can easily draw you away from your financial game plan.  You do have one, right?  Here is a basket of tips from my colleagues to give you a head start on your finances for 2016.  There’s even an opportunity for you to share your own financial tips with our readers in my column next week and win a prize.

Do meal plans; save money.  Write down a weekly/monthly meal plan before you go grocery shop.  Only buy what’s on your list, and then stick to what you planned for lunch/dinner.  It will also make you feel less stressed to be able to easily answer the looming “what’s for dinner?” question.  This will save you lots of money!  Use part of your savings to start a savings plan.  If you saved $5 per week for one year, your total savings for the year would be over $250 and you won’t even miss $5.00 per week!  – Andrea Messick

Be a smart shopper.  Challenge yourself to not make any unnecessary purchases.  Before buying an item ask yourself if the purchase will be worth it a year from now.  – Ramona Boehm

Leverage your pay raise.  Set aside a portion of any compensation adjustment to help fund your 401K or IRA / Roth.  – Greg Weyandt, CPA

Change a habit.  Stop a bad habit that negatively affects your health and your wallet i.e. smoking cigarettes and eating fattening foods.  – Marshall Clay, JD, CFP

Invest in yourself by getting in shape.  Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress, make you more productive at work, reduce sick days and improve self-esteem.  Plus you might meet your next client, referral source or employer while working out.  Accountability is the key to success.  Find a friend who has similar goals and commit to work out together as ‘accountability partners’.  You’ll be more likely to reach your goal and develop a special bond with the person as they reach their goal too.  – Michael Wagner, CPA, CFP

Leverage your year-end bonus.  Use your Christmas bonus to pay off credit card debt, start an emergency fund, or fund a Roth IRA.  – Callie Jowers, CFP

Rebalance your portfolio.  Take a moment to rebalance your company retirement account’s asset allocation to your target allocations.  This insures that you are not taking more risk than you intended.  Also, given a possible rising interest rate environment, consider paying down loan balances in advance?  – Woodard Peay, CFP, MBA

Build an emergency reserve…the easy way.  If you set aside just $5 every couple of days (price of a Starbucks), you’d have about $1,000 for an emergency reserve fund.  – Wendy Weber

Use the “back door” Roth IRA strategy.  If your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds the Roth Contribution Limits for 2015 make a nondeductible IRA contribution (no income limitations) then convert to Roth (also no limitations).  CAUTION: if you have other IRAs you will have to prorate for taxes.  To avoid this tax problem, see if your company 401k plan will allow you to roll-up your existing IRA into your plan.  Be sure to discuss this strategy with your tax advisor before implementing.  – Hugh Smith, CPA, CFA, CFP

Track your money.  Try uploading all of your accounts into a website like www.Mint.com.  If you are really diligent, you may track spending and create a budget.  If not, you can at least track your net worth to see if you are trending up, treading water or spending down your assets.  – Foster Hyde, CFA, CFP


My Challenge to You! 

  1. Take action now.  Choose two or three of these ideas to implement now.  Creating financial success is about doing the little things right, consistently, over a long period of time.
  2. Join the game.  Email me (Stewart@welchgroup.com) your own ideas to share with my readers.  If I use your recommendation, I’ll send you a signed copy of my soon-to-be-released book, “THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire”.  Be sure to include your mailing address.

Caution!  Do you own an inherited IRA?  Michael Wagner, CPA and partner in The Welch Group, reminded me that those of you who have inherited IRAs must also take a Required Minimum Distribution from that account before December 31st, 2015 or face a potential 50% federal penalty.  I’ve made numerous references to RMD requirements for those of you who are age 70 ½ or older but had never mentioned the requirement for those of you with inherited IRAs no matter what your age.  While most brokerage firms automatically notify age 70 ½ or older customers of both the requirement and the amount of the RMD, most provide no notice (or amounts) for inherited IRA customers.  You’ll have to figure the amount due…typically based on your life expectancy using the IRS tables

End of Year Tax Tips & Savings

End of Year Tax Tips & Tax Saving Strategies

Year-End Tax Tips & Tax Saving Strategies

As 2015 quickly comes to a close, now is the time to sit down and consider year end tax tips and saving strategies that you might implement in order to reduce your April 15 tax bill.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #1:

Tax Loss Harvesting. The stock market is relatively flat for the year but most investors will find both winners and losers within their investments. Take a moment before year-end to review your portfolio for rebalancing realizing that up to $3,000 of realized losses in excess of realized gains can be deducted against ordinary income taxes.

End of Year Tax Tip #1:

If you are married, filing jointly, and your taxable income is less than $74,901 ($37,451 for single filers), your tax rate on long-term capital gains is 0%. Use this as an opportunity to eliminate the tax on gains on appreciated stocks. If you like the stock, wait 31 days and repurchase it thus establishing a higher cost basis.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #2

Charitable gifts. Another way to reduce your income taxes is to make gifts to qualified charities. This can be in the form of cash, securities or personal items. If you’re thinking of gifting securities, it’s generally best to give appreciated securities instead of cash since you are giving away the ‘tax problem’ associated with the appreciated stock. If you still want to own the stock you can repurchase it immediately using your cash…meaning no thirty-one day waiting period applies. If you’re interested in the charitable tax deduction but have not decided on the specific charities, consider setting up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). This guarantees you’ll receive the full deduction this year but allow you to dole your gifts out over the next several months or years. For more information about your local DAF, contact:

  • In Birmingham: Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (205) 327-3800.
  • In Huntsville: Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County (256) 535-2065.
  • In Mobile: Community Foundation of South Alabama (251) 438-5591.

End of Year Tax Tip #2:

Note that to receive a full deduction this year, gifts of cash cannot exceed 50% of adjusted gross income while the limitation on appreciated assets, such as stocks, is thirty percent.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #3

Retirement plan contributions. If you have not maxed out your contributions to your company 401-k you can use the remaining paydays to increase your investment and income tax deduction at the same time. You’ll need to contact your human resources department for their assistance in adjusting your payroll deduction. This year you can contribute up to $18,000 to your 401k or similar plan. If you are age 50 or older this year, you can contribute an additional $6,000 for a total of $24,000.

End of Year Tax Tip #3:

At a minimum, calculate and capture your company’s matching contribution!

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #4

Roth Conversion. If for some reason your tax rate will be low for this year, consider converting all or a portion of your IRA to a Roth IRA. When you convert a traditional deductible IRA to a Roth IRA, you create ordinary income.

End of Year Tax Tip #4:

If it turns out not to be a good deal, you are allowed to ‘reverse’ the conversion any time before filing your 2015 tax return including extensions (potentially as late as October 15th, 2016). That gives you about ten months from now to determine if it was a good deal.

End of Year Tax Tip #5:

“Properly aligning your Medicare medical and prescription coverage can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars,” says Kimberly Reynolds, CFP® of The Welch Group. Visit www.Medicare.gov for more information about the various plan choices.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #5

Get a State Income Tax Credit and Give a Scholarship. You may be aware of the benefits under the Alabama Accountability Act but I’ll bet you didn’t know they raised the limits for individual tax credits. In past years, you could receive up to a $7,500 State of Alabama income tax credit if you also gave a like amount to a qualified Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO). For 2015, they have raised the tax credit amount to $50,000! By choosing to do this you are redirecting a portion of your tax dollars directly to scholarships that allow children of low income families to transfer from failing public schools to non-failing public schools or qualified private schools. The tax credit is limited to one-half of your tax liability. For example, if your Alabama tax liability is $10,000, you could give up to $5,000 to a SGO and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of $5,000. For more information and an easy step-by-step guide visit www.alabamakids.net.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #6

Review your tax withholding. In an effort to avoid making Uncle Sam a ‘tax-free loan’ many taxpayers minimize income tax withholding only to find they owe an under-withholding penalty at tax filing time. Check your status now and, if necessary, increase withholding for the balance of the year. Also, if you pay your taxes quarterly, you run the risk of underpayments. Generally, most taxpayers will avoid this penalty if they either owe less than $1,000 in tax after subtracting their withholding and estimated tax payments, or if they paid at least 90% of the tax for the current year or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the prior year, whichever is smaller.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #7

Income and expense shifting. Review your income and expenses and, to the extent possible, shift them between this year and next in order to maximize your tax benefits. For example, if you expect your tax rates to be lower next year pay your January 2016 mortgage payment in December of this year giving you an ‘extra’ interest deduction. Where possible, business owners should pay early 2016 expenses before year end. While state income taxes are not due until January 15, 2016, paying them in December will get you a federal tax deduction in 2015. Also, if possible, postpone year-end bonuses until early January. Finally, consider making some of your 2016 charitable contributions before year-end. If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year, do the opposite.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #8

Make Gifts: If you have assets that you want to gift to family members then you are allowed to give up to $14,000 ($28,000 for couples) to as many people as you wish without paying gift taxes. This reduces your estate for estate tax purposes and shifts future income and appreciation to the family member who may be in a lower tax bracket.

End of Year Tax Tip #6

Instead of you selling highly appreciated stock and giving a cash gift to your children, give your children the stock and have them sell it. If they are married, filing a joint tax return and their taxable income is less than $74,901 ($37,451 for single filers) the tax on the long-term gain is zero. If you love the stock, use your cash to buy shares to replace the gifted shares in your personal account.

  • Caution: Beware of the ‘kiddie tax’ for dependent children.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #9

Make Loans: Consider making loans to family members. The Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) is very low right now. You can make loans to children to help them buy a home, start a business or invest in assets with a higher potential return than the required interest rate charged. For December, the rates are as follows:

  • Short-Term (under 3 year term) 0.56% annually
  • Mid-Term (3 years to less than 9 years) 1.68% annually
  • Long-Term (9 years or longer) 2.61% annually

End of Year Tax Tip #7

We believe the Federal Reserve will begin raising rates soon, so now is the perfect time to implement this strategy.

End of Year Tax Saving Strategy #10

Avoid buying mutual funds at year-end in taxable accounts. You can end up with a nasty tax surprise since all mutual funds must declare 90% of their gains before year-end. You could end up invested for a short time, have no gains but get hit with a taxable distribution.

Because everyone’s facts and circumstances are different, you should meet with your tax advisor now to determine what other strategies might help cut your tax bill this year.


What are the Required Minimum Distribution Rules for my IRA?

“Avoid This 50% Tax Penalty in 2015”

This is one penalty you’ll want to avoid.  If you (or someone you know!) are age 70½ or older this year, don’t forget that you must take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your retirement accounts before December 31st of this year.  The federal penalty for failing to do so is 50% of the amount of the distribution you should have taken.

There are a couple of exceptions to the rules:

  • If you turned 70½ this year, you can postpone your 2015 RMD until April 1, 2016. If you do wait, you’ll also need to take your RMD for 2016 by December 31st, 2016.  In other words, you’ll have to take two RMDs in 2016.
  • If you’re still working (assuming you don’t own more than 5% of the company), you can postpone RMDs on your 401k (or similar company retirement plan) until the year you actually retire. But you must still take RMDs for other retirement plans such as IRAs or prior employer 401k plans.

People often ask me, “Why does the government have a law requiring RMDs?”  The simple answer is, “Because they want their money!”  Your RMDs are taxed to you as ordinary income and Uncle Sam would rather get his tax money sooner rather than later.

I find many age seventy-plus clients do not need the money from their retirement accounts.  Here are some of the options you might consider:

  • If you are still working (and don’t own more than 5% ownership of the company), see if your company retirement plan allows you to roll-up your IRA into the company plan. By doing so, you’ll effectively postpone RMDs until the year you retire.  Many professions such as law, insurance, and accounting lend themselves to remaining ‘active’ as employees well beyond normal retirement age.
  • After setting aside funds for payment of taxes on your RMD, invest the money tax free bonds or bond funds so as to avoid (or minimize) income taxes on interest earned.
  • After setting aside funds for payment of taxes on your RMD, invest in dividend-paying stocks (or similar stock mutual funds) which typically have much lower income tax rates than investments producing ordinary income. Federal income tax rates on dividends are typically 15% but can be as high as 23.8% while the maximum rates for ordinary income are 39.6%.
  • Transfer your RMD directly to your favorite charity. In past years, Congress has extended the law allowing RMDs to be paid directly to a charity.  While they have not yet extended the law for this year, many expect them to do so.  Ask your IRA custodian to have your RMD check made payable to your favorite charity of charities.  If Congress extends the law you’ve simplified the reporting process.  If they don’t extend the law, you’ll report your RMD on your tax return and take an offsetting charitable deduction on your return as well.  Consult with your tax advisor before implementing this strategy.

Caution #1.  If you have multiple IRA accounts, you can calculate your RMD based on the total of all accounts and take your RMD from any one or combination of those accounts.  For any 401k plan (or similar type plans), your RMD must be both calculated and taken from each plan separately.

Caution #2.  I often hear people say, “I never pay any taxes until they are due!”  However, when it comes to your IRA account, we’ve found that in many cases, your smartest move is to withdraw some funds from your IRA each year before your RMD date if you can get it out in a lower tax bracket than your expect to be in once you reach age 70½.  The best way to determine this is to do a ‘trial tax return’ before the end of the year to determine your estimated effective tax rate and compare that rate to your estimated effective tax rate at 70½. Your tax advisor can easily help you with this.

Finally, even if you have not yet reached age 70½, I bet you know someone who has.  Be someone’s hero and give them a copy of this information.


Holiday Giving without Breaking the Bank!

Low Cost Holiday Gift Ideas

It’s easy to spend a small fortune giving gifts over the upcoming holidays even if you find great deals on sale.  Last week, I asked readers to share their best low-cost gift giving ideas, and here are some of my favorites:

  • Bake and Freeze. My mom always made biscuits at least 2-3 times per week. Several years ago she made the comment that she wasn’t able to make them anymore. The biscuit board was too heavy. It took more effort and stamina than she had. It made my heart sad to hear it. For the last several Christmases, I have made homemade biscuits for her to keep in her freezer. She was able to take out and enjoy however many she needed. I did the same with cornbread. This was a gift, from the heart, that she always enjoyed. Sometimes gifts aren’t about the money spent; but about meeting the needs of others and giving from the heart.  Donna B.
  • Personal Gift Card. Make up an original and clever gift card that offer 1-2 hours of personal service.  Use your imagination for the services you’d offer but here are some to get you started: Cut the grass; rake leaves; buy groceries (labor not cash); drive car pool for a week; walk the dog for a week; wash dishes for a week (family gift); do laundry for a week (family gift); wash car.  Don T.
  • Use Travel Points. If you travel a lot, the hotel chain you use will give you points, which can be redeemed for several items — INCLUDING gift cards.  You are likely being reimbursed on your expense account for the rooms anyway, so your cost is ZERO.  Redeem points for gift cards.  A stack of $50 gift cards will allow you to complete your “shopping” from your computer, let everyone on your list shop for something they REALLY want, and you are now the “favorite uncle.”   Perry G.
  • DIY Picture Frames. If you are a crafty individual there are plenty of tutorials on how to make picture frames. That is usually a go to of mine. That way it is homemade. You can’t beat something built with you in mind!
  • BOGO Grocery Shop. Treat co-workers, teacher, etc. with doughnuts or bagels for a breakfast treat when your local grocery store has a buy one get one free (BOGO) deal going on.  Kelly D.
  • Gift Family Heirlooms. People in my family have always given special heirlooms on Christmas. My grandmother gives each of the girls in the family a piece of jewelry she already has. It makes her happy to see us enjoy something that meant a lot to her. My mother has copied cherished family photos and given them as gifts to us, so that we can have those memories in our own home. (An example is a picture of my grandparents at age 17 and 18, a few months after they were married).  Callie J.
  • Personal Services (revisited). Offer to babysit so the parents can enjoy a night out without worrying about their children.  Wash their car…this is a job most people do not enjoy doing!  Run errands for people who are short on time.  Ramona B.
  • Give Time with Friends. Instead of buying gifts, spend time together with friends or family volunteering for a charity. There are plenty of opportunities and giving back will help you appreciate what the holiday season is really about.  Maggie E.
  • Make your own ornaments: Crafting stores usually have plain, clear glass or plastic ornaments which are fairly inexpensive.  You can paint or even “stuff” the ornament ball with old pictures, a quote, glitter, or something specific to the person you are gifting to and create a one of a kind ornament for them.   Andrea M.

All Great Ideas!  If you have a group of money-saving-oriented friends that typically exchange gifts, consider declaring this season a ‘re-gift’ season.    Agree to gift something of a certain estimated value that you own as a re-gift.  Be careful it’s not something they gave you!


Christmas Shopping Strategies

Michael Wagner appearing on Fox News discussing Successful Spending Strategies for Christmas Shopping.




Five Tips for Budgeting for Holiday Gifts

Holiday Money-Saving Tips

This past weekend, I dropped in at a retailer and they were playing Christmas music!  The holiday season seems to begin just a bit earlier each year but it is a good reminder of how important it is to have a holiday spending plan in place so that you don’t start the new year in a financial hole.  Coming up with holiday gifts for the people you care about doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.  You just need to be creative.

Here are four tips you can use to budget for holiday gift giving:

  1. Set a goal. Let’s start with your number one overarching goal: Create no new debt!  The last thing you want to do is to start 2016 with credit card charges you can’t pay off in full.  Take a moment to review your current financial situation and set a ‘dollar amount’ goal.  How much can you afford to spend (paying cash) this holiday season?  It’s ok to use credit cards as long as you have the cash to pay off the new purchases in full once the bill arrives.
  2. Start saving now. Hopefully, you’ve already saved up some money for gift-giving this holiday season but you still have a few paychecks before the deadline.  Think of other ways to raise cash such as holding a garage sale, selling that boat that’s been sitting in the back yard, or selling unwanted items on eBay.  It’s a great time to clean house because what you no longer want may be on someone else’s Christmas list!
  3. Make a list. Make a list of the people you plan to give a gift and keep the list with you.  This will give you a head start on your shopping as you never know when you’ll run into a great deal!  Having the list readily available will allow you to ‘match’ a great bargain to someone on your list right there on the spot.
  4. Shop with purpose! Whether you go ‘brick and mortar’ or on-line, you now know how much you’re going to spend and who you’re going to spend it on.  As with year’s past, I expect to see lots of bargains.
  5. Pool your resources.  “Consider pooling your money with someone else to give a gift with a big impact while keeping your cash outlay relatively small. Examples include planning with your siblings for a gift for your parents or planning with your coworkers for a gift for the boss”, says Beth Moody, CFP®.  I particularly like the ‘boss’ idea!

Bonus Tip: Give something back.  The economic turmoil of the past few years has spawned financial hardship on many families.  Use this holiday season to teach your children the importance of giving to others who are in need.  There are many ways to accomplish this:  donate clothing, food, money or you can spend some time working in one of the many shelters located in your home town.


Christmas Shopping Strategies

Michael Wagner appearing on Fox News discussing Successful Spending Strategy for Christmas Shopping.Michael Wagner appearing on Fox News discussing Successful Spending Strategy for Christmas Shopping.




Earn 50% in One Month—Guaranteed, check your 401k Contributions

MONEY TUESDAY – Stewart Welch with the Welch Group joined us with a look at how to early 50-percent return in one month! Would you be wary of someone promising you a 50 percent return on a twelve-month investment? How about a one-month investment? Stewart assumes/hopes your early warning antennas are blaring in your head as well they should be. But there might be a way to actually make this happen for a number of really smart people. To determine if you are one of the lucky onesDesktopSW