Category Archives: Financial Planning

Why Choose Fiduciaries?

A 30-second read by the Baron Team:  Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs) are fiduciaries. We are legally bound to put our clients’ interests above our own.  As a fiduciary, we are required to act with undivided loyalty to the client, which includes disclosure of compensation.

Not all advisors have the same legal responsibilities as a fiduciary, but can still call themselves financial planners, advisers, or consultants. Those who aren’t RIAs are not subject to the same fiduciary standard of care and are not required by law to put the client’s interests above their own. You have to ask – and should, so you’ll understand what possible conflicts of interest may arise when their real allegiance is to their firm, rather than to you.

At Baron Financial Group, we don’t accept commissions or incentives to sell investment vehicles. We provide fee-only financial planning and investment advice to serve your best interests. As fiduciaries, we are required by law to place your interests above our own.

To learn more about what a fiduciary is, click here to view our “What is a Fiduciary?” blog post.

If you have any questions about our role as fiduciaries or our services, please feel free to reach out to your Baron Team.

5 Financial Actions to Consider at Year-End – 2017 version

A 90-second read by Anthony Benante:  What 5 things should you be thinking about at the end of the year when it comes to your finances?

1. Review your personal budget and commit to a savings plan for 2018

a. On January 1, write down the balance in your checking account. Do this on the first of the month for the next three months. After you incorporate your income for the period, as well as take note of any cash withdrawals from other accounts, you can get a general sense of what your monthly spending is.

b. We work directly with our clients at Baron to help understand how their budget and all of their financial assets work together.  If you would like a budget sheet (either electronic or hard-copy), let us know. 

2. Review your long-term investment strategy

a. Is the long-term strategy in place for you still right for your specific circumstance? Are you going to be making any large purchases coming up in the New Year? Are you thinking about revisiting your risk tolerance – becoming more aggressive or conservative?

b. At Baron, we use a customized approach to design client portfolios.  We not only consider potential return, but also risk, as well as how the investments complement each other.  Having a long-term investment strategy is critical for investing success and provides a guide for when markets act unexpectedly or make a major directional move.

3. Rebalance your investment accounts

a. Rebalancing brings the portfolio into alignment with the original target weights of each asset class. It also helps to reduce long-term portfolio volatility.

b. Client portfolios at Baron are rebalanced on a contingent basis.  This means the actual holdings are regularly compared to the recommended strategy.  Triggers are in place to help identify when investments deviate too far from strategy and trades are placed. This keeps client portfolios close to their strategy.  Most individuals do not follow this disciplined approach. 

4. Review your tax situation for the year and take advantage of tax trading in your investment accounts, if possible

a. Understanding how your investments may impact your tax circumstance is important.  The last trading day for 2017 is Friday December 29th.  That is the last day you can make any changes to your portfolio for your 2017 tax return.

b. Throughout the year, we review Baron clients’ tax situations and see if any strategic trades can be made to help reduce tax burdens.  As year-end approaches, we look to minimize tax impacts when possible.  However, our main focus is adhering to portfolio strategy, while minimizing taxes when possible.

c. A new tax  bill has been passed and there will be changes for 2018.  Check in with your accountant or tax preparer to see if they recommend any changes prior to year-end or to your tax plan for 2018.

5. If you are 70 ½ or older, or if you have inherited a tax-deferred account, make sure you understand how required minimum distributions (RMDs) apply to you

a. If either of the above applies to you, you will need to take an RMD.  Contact your advisor or custodian to help understand the amount and how to take your RMD.  It is important to take your required minimum distribution in order to prevent any penalties from the IRS.

b. At Baron, we advise our clients on the timing, the structure (lump sum or regular distributions throughout the year) and the correct dollar amount needed to be withdrawn from retirement accounts requiring RMDs.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Baron Financial Group team.

 

Baron Financial Group Attends Autism New Jersey’s 35th Annual Conference

We recognize that the financial planning challenges faced by families with special needs members are significant. When it comes to planning for the special needs community, the need for financial professionals who have comprehensive knowledge and experience is essential to meet the specific challenges of these families. We take great pride in helping families address today’s needs and plan for those that are likely to follow.

Nicholas Scheibner, CFP®, of Baron Financial Group, attended Autism New Jersey’s 35th Annual Conference on October 19th and 20th in Atlantic City. Sessions included government benefits, transitioning period for children out of school, and Special Needs trusts.

Autism New Jersey is the state’s leading autism advocacy organization, supporting families and professionals through their four service pillars:

  • Information
  • Education & Training
  • Public Policy
  • Awareness

“Autism New Jersey advocates, with a strong and unified voice, for appropriate and effective policies and services that will benefit children and adults with autism living in New Jersey. Autism New Jersey is a nonprofit agency committed to ensuring safe and fulfilling lives for individuals with autism, their families, and the professionals who support them.”
                                                        -Autism New Jersey 

 

Please contact the Baron team to learn more about our services for families with special needs.

Medicare Webinar: Prepare for the 2018 Medicare Open Enrollment – Oct. 15th – Dec. 7th, 2017

Medicare is health insurance for individuals who are 65 and older, under 65 with certain disabilities, or those who have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).

The 2018 Medicare annual open enrollment period will begin on Oct. 15, 2017 and run through December 7, 2017. Baron Financial Group’s informative webinar, presented by independent Medicare Consultant Mary Jean Cullen (MedicareAssist, LLC), discusses how Medicare works and what you need to know prior and during your Medicare years. This presentation was first held at the September 13, 2016 Wine & Wealth event for Baron Financial Group clients.

You can learn more at Medicare.gov, the official U.S. Government site for Medicare.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Baron Financial Group team.

What Does Working with a Fee-Only Advisor Mean for You?

An Advisor who is compensated by only YOU, the client:

Working with a Fee-Only advisor means that the advisor is only compensated by the fee that they charge, not by any commissions. The fee could be charged hourly, or it could be calculated as a percentage of a client’s assets under management (AUM), or even a retainer model. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is the country’s leading professional association of Fee-Only financial advisors and they define a Fee-Only financial advisor as “one who is compensated solely by the client with neither the advisor nor any related party receiving compensation that is contingent on the purchase or sale of a financial product.” 

Working with a Fee-Only advisor means that the advice you receive is not motivated by the need to sell any products or influence from outside interests. The advice is objective and tailored to meet your specific needs.

An Advisor who works in YOUR Best Interest:

Continue reading What Does Working with a Fee-Only Advisor Mean for You?

Important information regarding Equifax data breach

You may have read that hackers broke into the Equifax database and stole personal information tied to 143 million people.  Ongoing updates from Equifax about this incident are available at equifaxsecurity2017.com

Baron Financial does not use Equifax for any services, but we are sharing this information for educational purposes.

Equifax is one of the three main credit reporting agencies.  They collect and maintain individual credit information and sell it to lenders, creditors, and consumers in the form of a credit report.   

What you should consider doing now:

  1. Order a Credit Report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  2. Freeze Your Credit Reports (after ordering a copy).  A freeze stops thieves from opening new credit cards or loans in your name, but it also prevents you from opening new accounts. So each time you apply for a credit card, mortgage or loan, you need to lift the freeze a few days beforehand.  Equifax said it will waive all fees until Nov. 21 for people who want to freeze their Equifax credit files. 
  3. Regularly Monitor Your Financial Accounts, Credit Cards and Loan Accounts for any suspicious activity

Something else to consider: Sign up by November 21 for the free Credit Monitoring offer from Equifax (equifaxsecurity2017.com). Some experts have offered differing opinions on taking advantage of this service.  However, we did want to make you aware of the offer.

Continue reading Important information regarding Equifax data breach

What is the best way to plan for your assets to remain within your bloodlines?

A 60-second read by Nicholas Scheibner:  When planning your estate, it is important to divide all of your accounts into two groups:  accounts with designated beneficiaries and accounts with no designated beneficiaries.  Examples of accounts with designated beneficiaries are 401(k)s, IRAs, transfer of death (TOD) accounts, and other retirement accounts. The designated beneficiary on an account bypasses your will.  For example, if your will states that all of your money is to pass on to your child, but your 401(k) primary beneficiary is an ex-spouse, your ex-spouse will inherit the money from your 401(k).  It is crucial that you review your beneficiaries on your accounts to make sure they agree with your desires.

Continue reading What is the best way to plan for your assets to remain within your bloodlines?

Class of 2017: It Isn’t Too Early to Start Thinking about Your Retirement

A 60-second read by the Baron Team:  Congratulations 2017 college graduates! Throw that mortarboard as high in the air as you can and before it circles back down to earth, start thinking about saving for your retirement. You are most likely going to be responsible for setting yourself up for a successful retirement, so your best bet is to invest early and often.

Invest in yourself first. Most people think investing is the key to wealth, but while certainly important, you have to have some money first to invest. So as soon as you begin your first job out of school, start saving as much as you can for retirement.

Continue reading Class of 2017: It Isn’t Too Early to Start Thinking about Your Retirement

The Pros and Cons of VA Loans

A 30-second read by Nicholas Scheibner: The federal government has provided qualified veteran home buyers with a few mortgage-buying options to help purchase a home.  Below are some of the Pros and Cons for Veterans Affairs (VA) loans.

An important note VA loans are for primary residences only.

To determine if you are eligible for a VA loan, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/purchaseco_eligibility.asp

The first step in getting a VA loan is to obtain a certificate of eligibility from the VA: http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/purchaseco_certificate.asp

Pros:

  • 0% down payment, if desired
  • No Monthly Mortgage Insurance
  • Can generally qualify for a larger mortgage than a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan

Cons:

  • The only person that can co-sign is a spouse
  • An additional fee is rolled into the loan. Depending on the situation, first time use of a VA loan could be anywhere from 1.5% – 2.4%.  The next home mortgage could be anywhere from 1.25% – 3.3%.

Baron Financial Group consults with independent mortgage professionals in order to explore options available to clients.  If you are thinking of purchasing a new home, refinancing a mortgage, or consolidating a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit), lean on us to help you through the process. Please contact your Baron Team if you have any questions.

What documents are safe to shred? What must I keep?

A 30-second read by Victor Cannillo: Whether you are tired of piles of papers cluttering up your home or are trying to go “paperless,” it is important to know what documents you should keep and which you could shred.

Below we list some of the important documents the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you should always keep:

  • Birth certificates/ adoption documents
  • Social Security cards
  • Marriage licenses or divorce decrees
  • Tax returns
  • Passports or citizenship materials
  • Familial death certificates
  • For items like your home and car, you want to hold on to any automobile titles and home deeds for as long as they are in your ownership.
  • To see more, click here.

Shredding Timeline-The FTC recommends that you wait:

  • 7 years before shredding any tax-related receipts and cancelled checks.
  • 1 year before shredding bank statements, medical bills, etc.

Items such as credit card statements can be shredded right away once paid. To help reduce capital gains tax, retain home improvement receipts until your home is sold.

To view the FTC’s safe shredding timeline infographic, click here.

In addition to decluttering your home, shredding documents with personal information can help prevent identity theft.  Just remember to keep the listed documents above for the suggested amount of time.

Feel free to reach out to us for any other questions.