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Financial Advisor

Jun 19, 2020 In a nutshell, a financial advisor helps people manage their money. Typically, there is an investing component to their services, but not always. Some financial advisors - often accountants or lawyers who specialize in trusts and estates - are wealth managers. One of their primary functions is protecting their clients' wealth from the IRS. Other financial advisors are called money managers or investment advisors. They often have business school or finance backgrounds - and maybe previously worked for an investment bank, hedge fund or brokerage. Then there are the financial advisors who bill themselves as financial planners. Generally, their emphasis is on educating clients and they provide risk management, cash flow analysis, retirement planning, education planning, investing and more. As you can see, financial advisors have many different specialties - and it can be easy to end up with an advisor who doesn't suit your needs. To help you find the right advisor for you, SmartAsset created a  free financial advisor matching tool. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area. For more about what financial advisors do, their certifications and how much they cost, read on. Read More...

Mar 05, 2021 Tax season began on Feb. 12, and millions of Americans are eagerly expecting a tax refund. They might be in for a tidy sum: the IRS says that the average tax refund in 2020 was more than $2,500. With the COVID-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc on many households' finance, some taxpayers will use their refund on essentials - to pay their bills, to pay down debt or simply to sock away money for an emergency. Others might think about investing it in their future. Let’s take a look at a few smart things you can do with your tax refund in 2021. A financial advisor can help you invest your tax refund or otherwise put it toward your financial plan.  Read More...

Mar 02, 2021 Retirement presents special challenges, financial and otherwise, to retirees. Fortunately, they don't have to face those challenges alone. Retirement specialists are financial advisors who focus on counseling retirees and those approaching retirement about the best way to use their current and future assets to live comfortably after their working years are over. Consider hiring a retirement specialist to help you plan for the time after you finished working. Read More...

Mar 02, 2021 Earning the certified pension consultant (CPC) designation demonstrates that an employee benefits professional has mastered the ability to plan, set up, manage and maintain company-sponsored retirement plans. CPC holders may work as insurance agents, financial planners, pension actuaries or company plan administrators. There are several other certifications that also offer pension expertise. You can read about them below. A financial advisor can help you plan for your retirement so that you have enough money to live well after you conclude working. Read More...

Feb 27, 2021 As people get older, they may face a multitude of challenges relating to many spheres of life including work, health and relationships. In addition, starting in middle age and lasting through retirement, aging citizens wrestle with how best to manage, preserve and ultimately transfer the financial wealth they have accumulated through a lifetime of labor. Many of these seniors benefit from the advice and guidance of well-trained financial advisors who have earned respected professional designations. The chartered advisor for senior living (CASL) designation indicates an advisor who specializes in helping aging clients navigate those challenges. Read More...

Feb 27, 2021 Managing an investment portfolio calls for mastery of a challenging set of skills including understanding portfolio theory, allocating assets between debt and equity, decoding mutual fund investment policies, managing taxes and planning for retirement. The accredited portfolio management advisor (APMA) credential signifies that a financial professional has received graduate-level training in these skills and others. Read More...

Feb 27, 2021 One of the limitations of using tested investment theory to provide people with rational financial advice is that people aren’t necessarily all that rational. Investors tend to get worried when the market is down and sell cheap at the bottom, locking in losses. On the flip side, they tend to buy in at high prices when the market is rising, so the only way to record gains is if the market keeps going up. Financial advisors often are challenged to encourage clients to follow the rational course when emotions drive them otherwise. That's where the behavioral finance advisor (BFA) accreditation comes in.  Read More...

Feb 26, 2021 Dave Ramsey is a well-known personal finance celebrity with a long-running radio show, multiple best-selling books, online tools, educational courses and a large following. Endorsed local provider (ELP) is a designation Ramsey’s organization offers to help financial professionals who have been vetted by his organization connect to people looking for personal financial services. Whether you're facing investment or estate planning challenges, a financial advisor can provide critical insight and guidance. Read More...

Feb 26, 2021 There is more to financial advising than passing out stock tips. Well-rounded financial advisors go beyond selecting securities and asset classes to take into account all the factors that can affect the client’s objectives. They can help clients plan for retirement, manage their estates, provide for children’s educational needs, save for a home purchase and more. The wealth management certified professional (WMCP) designation indicates that a financial advisor has studied all these topics and can provide comprehensive financial consultation aimed at helping clients achieve their financial goals. Read More...

Feb 26, 2021 The Certified Personal Risk Manager (CPRM) program was created for professionals who offer insurance and risk management services to  high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). Candidates develop their risk management expertise, learn technical information about creating comprehensive risk management and insurance programs, and cultivate the necessary skills to acquire and manage client accounts. Let's break down what you need to know about this certificate. A financial advisor can help you gauge a comfortable level of risk for your investments and create an investment portfolio for your financial goals.  Read More...

Feb 26, 2021 Deciding how and especially when to claim Social Security benefits can be one of the most financially significant moves a person makes. Yet the rules used to calculate how much a beneficiary can receive from Social Security are complicated, making it difficult to calculate the optimal approach. A financial advisor with a designation as a registered social security analyst (RSSA) is trained to use specialized financial software to help with this important decision. Let's break down what you need to know about this certification. Read More...

Feb 26, 2021 Managing an investment portfolio requires a solid grasp of theories, strategies and practices to design, assemble and oversee a package of financial assets for the specific objectives of individual or institutional clients. Chartered portfolio managers (CPM) meet these portfolio requirements and carry out other investment decisions for their clients. CPM certificates are held by financial advisors and other financial professionals. Here's what you need to know about this certification.  Read More...

Feb 26, 2021 Financial advisors who want to acquire and display expertise at helping businesses set up and run effective and appropriate retirement plans for their employees can study for a Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist (CRPS) certificate. The designation shows that an advisor has completed a course of education and passed a final exam testing knowledge on implementing and administering company-sponsored retirement plans. Read More...

Feb 26, 2021 When conventional married couples go through divorce or the death of one of the spouses, it can be complicated to sort out the financial and tax issues. Same-sex couples who are not married do not enjoy many of the protections given to married couples, so dealing with financial and tax issues is even more uncertain. A person equipped with a designation as an Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA) has specialized training to help unmarried LGBTQ partners ensure that the interests of both partners are protected in the event the partnership ends in death or divorce. One of the best ways to preempt problems related to a partnership ending is also to consult a financial advisor. Read More...

Feb 23, 2021 The number of Americans pulling in seven figures a year is on the rise. IRS data shows that less than three in 1,000 taxpayers earned over $1 million in 2018, up from less than two in 1,000 back in 2013. Those who have the good fortune of clearing the $1 million mark in annual income, or those looking to be strategic about reaching this threshold, may find it useful to consult a professional financial advisor. SmartAsset wanted to find out where millionaires are growing the fastest, so we identified the states with the largest increases in million-dollar earners. Read More...

Feb 19, 2021 Buying or selling a home usually involves a fair amount of paperwork. A warranty deed is one of the more important documents you may encounter during the process. Warranty deeds are used to verify that there are no obstacles, such as outstanding liens, that could block the transfer of a property from the seller to the buyer. If you’re buying a home from someone you don’t know or selling a home, it’s important to understand how warranty deeds work and when they’re used. Whether or you decide you need a warranty deed or not, a financial advisor can provide excellent advice as you move through the home-buying process. Read More...

Feb 19, 2021 Investing in dividend-paying stocks can be a strategic move for generating income from your portfolio. A dividend represents a percentage of company profits that are paid out to shareholders. Dividend Aristocrats represent S&P 500 companies that have a track record of raising their dividend payouts annually for at least 25 consecutive years. As a result, Dividend Aristocrats can be some of the most attractive investment options for income-seeking investors. Whether it makes sense to add these stocks to your portfolio can depend on your individual investment goals, timeline for investing and risk tolerance. For hands-on guidance about whether Dividend Aristocrats fit into your investing strategy, consider enlisting the services of a trusted financial advisor. Read More...

Feb 18, 2021 Living wills and living trusts can both be useful tools for estate planning. Though they sound similar, they each serve a very different purpose. A living trust is something you might consider for managing the transfer of wealth and assets to your heirs. A living will is used in medical care decision-making. When creating a comprehensive estate plan, it’s important to understand how a living will vs. living trust works and when each one can be used. With so many options for creating an estate plan it makes sense to work with a professional financial advisor who really knows the lay of the land. Read More...

Feb 17, 2021 Retirees are on the move, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Though just 17% of the U.S. population is 65 and older, relocation company United Van Lines reports that seniors in that age group completed 29% of all its moves in 2020, one percentage point greater than in 2019. Moreover, about 20% of all surveyed movers listed relocating for retirement as their primary reason for pulling up stakes. But those leaving the workforce are gravitating in droves to certain places compared to others. With that in mind, SmartAsset examined data from states and cities to uncover where retirees are moving the most. Read More...

Feb 10, 2021 Tax time is taxing, especially if you owe money to the IRS. Complex questions can lead taxpayers to seek out a tax preparer or a professional financial advisor to minimize their tax liabilities. But with this year's delayed filing season officially under way on Feb. 12, those who underpaid on their taxes throughout last year stand to get slapped with a hefty tax bill. Some places, though, are much worse off than others when it comes to the tax sticker shock they can anticipate. That’s why SmartAsset decided to examine which states have the largest tax bills. Read More...

Feb 05, 2021 A financial advisor can help you shape your investment strategy so you can reach your long-term goals. But financial advisors aren’t all alike when it comes to their expertise and experience or the type of advice they’re qualified to offer. When choosing a financial professional to work with, it’s important to understand whether the person or firm you’re considering is a registered investment advisor (RIA) or a broker-dealer. Whether it makes sense to work with an RIA or a broker-dealer depends on your needs, objectives and preferences. Here's what you need to know about these two types of professionals. Read More...

Feb 05, 2021 Making the transition from working life to retirement presents a number of challenges ranging from how you’ll pay your living expenses to how you’ll occupy your time. The Certified Professional Retirement Coach is a professional designation that indicates a retirement advisor has been trained to identify and help clients figure out ways to overcome these challenges.  The CPRC designation is overseen by The Retirement Project, an organization created by financial planner and writer Robert Laura. In addition to the CPRC certificate, The Retirement Project offers workshops, guides and other resources that help people plan financial and other issues as they relate to retirement.    Read More...

Feb 05, 2021 Estate planners help people figure out how to pass assets to their heirs without losing too much to taxes, while also planning charitable bequests and addressing other matters relating to estates. It’s a complex task, involving a labyrinth of Internal Revenue Service regulations, court rulings and federal and state laws. Financial professionals who work with estates are often accountants, attorneys and financial planners, and many add specialized credentials as estate planners. One of these is the Certified Specialist in Estate Planning (CSEP) designation.   Read More...

Feb 05, 2021 Nationwide, when it comes to wealth and personal finance success, Black Americans generally have less. Census data from 2019 shows that the median Black household income is 33% lower than the overall median household income and the Black homeownership rate is 22 percentage points lower than the general homeownership rate. Data on wealth accumulation depicts even starker disparities: Black families' net worth is 87% lower than that of white families and 33% lower than that of Hispanic families, according to the Federal Reserve's 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. Read More...

Feb 02, 2021 GameStop’s (GME) share price convulsions are riveting Wall Street and the rest of the U.S. financial establishment. Between Jan. 11 and Jan. 26, 2021, shares of the Grapevine, Texas-based company rocketed more than 1,600%, and in the middle of that ascent briefly tumbled 43%. Then, after closing out January at $328.24 - up from $18.84 at the start of the month - it began February with a nosedive. By Feb. 2 it had tumbled to under $100. What we have witnessed is an unprecedented clash between some of America’s financial titans who bet big on GameStop’s demise and a coterie of retail investors convinced that GameStop shares represented value. Here’s what happened, how it happened and how to respond. Read More...

Jan 21, 2021 President-elect Joe Biden announced this week that when he takes office on January 20, 2021, he wants to roll out the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to help offset the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the economy and left many Americans struggling to pay their bills and support their families. Though there have been two bills passed since the pandemic spread widely in early 2020, Biden announced he wants to pass another bill quickly after he takes office to give more help to the families and businesses that are still having a difficult go surviving this economic downturn. If you want help making sure you are able to protect your finances during the pandemic and beyond, consider working with a financial advisor. Read More...

Jan 13, 2021 When families are wrestling with the challenge of paying the costs of higher education, a certified college financial consultant (CCFC) can help. CCFCs have gotten specialized training in education funding, including tax consequences, credits and student loans.  Most of the people who CCFCs are certified financial planners or chartered financial consultants. By virtue of their own education in financial planning, they are already well-qualified to deliver general financial advice. The CCFC training gives them more insight into the particular issues surrounding education finance. Read More...

Jan 13, 2021 As you assess your short- and long-term financial goals, it may be helpful to compare the value of your assets to that of your liabilities. That's where net worth comes in; this value can ultimately help you determine whether you should reduce monthly spending, set up a retirement savings account or adjust your tax withholdings. The two primary types of net worth are total net worth and liquid net worth. In this guide, we define liquid net worth and show you how to calculate it. A financial professional can offer advice on investing, retirement planning, financial planning and various other areas of finance. Find a financial advisor today.  Read More...

Jan 11, 2021 Working with a financial advisor can help you craft a plan for paying down debt, saving and investing to build wealth. But financial advisors aren’t all alike when it comes to the approach they take for offering advice. Advisors that rely on holistic financial planning use a comprehensive strategy that includes your values, goals and experiences with money. Rather than focusing on planning for individual life stages or using a product-based approach, holistic financial planners take every aspect of your financial life into account. Read More...

Jan 04, 2021 Saving for retirement in a 401(k) at work or a traditional individual retirement account can help you build wealth for the long term while enjoying some tax advantages. Beginning at age 72, you’re required to take minimum distributions from those accounts, which means you won’t be able to defer paying taxes on earnings indefinitely. That could mean a sizable tax bill if you’re in a higher tax bracket in retirement. If you’re wondering how to avoid taxes on RMD payouts, there are some strategies you can use to minimize taxation. A financial advisor can offer significant benefits as you work to avoid taxes. Read More...

Dec 30, 2020 In late December, President Donald Trump signed a bill sent to him by the U.S. Congress creating a $900 billion stimulus package to deal with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn. This is the second stimulus bill passed in response to COVID-19, following the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed earlier in 2020. Among other provisions -- such as individual stimulus checks and more Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses -- the bill includes a boost to unemployment designed to help those who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19. The unemployment program isn’t terribly complicated, but it is worth understanding exactly how it works. If you’re looking to protect your savings during this uncertain economic period, consider finding a financial advisor. Read More...

Dec 30, 2020 The death of a spouse can be emotionally and mentally trying on many levels. There may also be financial stress if a spouse leaves behind credit card debt, outstanding loans or other monetary obligations. You may be wondering: Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt after death? In most cases, the answer is no, you’re not obligated to pay off the debts of another person. But there are some scenarios where that’s the exception, rather than the rule. A financial advisor can help you sort through what is and is not your responsibility and how to best discharge the responsibilities that are yours. Read More...

Dec 30, 2020 It’s not uncommon for people to receive sizable inheritances, but it’s less common for them to make the most financially advantageous decisions about what to do with their newly acquired assets. If you inherit a significant amount, such as $50,000, a strategy for wisely handling a windfall is likely to include making a long-term plan that considers your age and goals, starts with a well-stocked emergency fund and employs tax-advantaged investments if available. Consulting with a financial advisor is a great way to develop a realistic long-term plan and lay out some strategies for reaching your goals. Read More...

Dec 30, 2020 While ordinarily inheriting a home is a financial windfall, for someone receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments it can present a problem and potentially a serious financial negative. This is due to the fact that there is a cap on the financial resources SSI recipients can have. Inheriting a home can easily put an SSI recipient over that limit. That may mean an end to getting payments from SSI. However, there are ways around this that can allow an SSI recipient to inherit a home and still qualify for benefits. Keep in mind that a financial advisor can help you sort through your options as you decide how to handle a residential inheritance. Read More...

Dec 30, 2020 Texas is a community property state, which means that all assets and property either partner in a marriage acquires during the marriage is jointly owned by both spouses. Anything a partner brings to the marriage is generally considered separate property as long as the assets are not commingled. A prenuptial agreement – called a premarital agreement in Texas law – is a legal document used to manage these potential issues by keeping as separate property what would otherwise be jointly owned or, in some cases, vice versa. Read More...

Dec 28, 2020 Working with a financial advisor can help you shape your financial plan when it comes to things like budgeting, saving, investing and retirement planning. In exchange for expert advice, you can expect to pay a fee for your advisor’s services. One thing you may be wondering is whether you can deduct some or all of the fees you pay your financial advisor on your taxes. Prior to 2018, financial advisor fees could be deducted as a miscellaneous investment-related expense. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, however, introduced some significant changes to what you can and can’t deduct as an investor. Read More...

Dec 28, 2020 Credit cards, student loans and other types of debt can be a hurdle to reaching your long-term financial goals. If managing your finances on your own is getting overwhelming, you might seek out a financial advisor for debt help. While financial advisors may be more often associated with things like retirement planning or college planning, they can also help you create a strategy for debt repayment. If you think you may need professional advice on managing debt, it’s helpful to understand what a financial advisor can do for you. Read More...

Dec 30, 2020 Following President Trump's signing of the second coronavirus stimulus bill into law on Sunday evening, December 27, small businesses around the country may have another chance to apply for forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. This program began with the first coronavirus stimulus package, passed in March 2020. It allows companies who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic -- whether that means having had forced shutdowns or simply a general downturn in business because the economy has suffered -- to get money from an approved lender to cover payroll and other expenses. If certain conditions are met, the loan ends up being fully forgiven and paid for by the federal government. Read More...

Dec 21, 2020 Family financial planning can help you create a comprehensive strategy for managing your money as you move through different life stages. It starts with the basics – setting up a budget, paying down debt and saving – but a family financial plan can also include things like investing for retirement and setting aside money for college. Creating a long-term plan for your family finances is something you can do yourself but it’s also something you might need a financial advisor’s help with. Here’s more on how financial planning as a family works. Read More...

Dec 21, 2020 If you receive an inheritance while you are getting federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, it could make you ineligible to receive any more benefits. Federal law requires you to report to the Social Security Administration if you are beneficiary of an inheritance – even if you refuse to accept the inheritance. Failing to report an inheritance can result in financial penalties and cause your SSI payments to stop for up to three years. However, there's a legal way to control and benefit from an inheritance and still keep getting SSI payments. Here's how that is done. Read More...

Dec 21, 2020 Assets inherited by one partner in a marriage can be considered separate and owned only by that partner. However, inheritances can be ruled as marital property jointly owned by both partners and, therefore, subject to division along more or less equal lines in the event of a divorce. The difference is how and whether the inherited property is shared between the spouses. If it is kept strictly separate during the union, it is likely to be considered still separate if the union dissolves. Read More...

Dec 21, 2020 Inheriting valuable property such as a home, securities, bank accounts and retirement accounts from a deceased relative can be a major financial windfall. But converting inherited property such as a home into cash by selling it may require following a complicated and sometimes lengthy procedure. Taxes have to be considered, as do laws governing handling the wishes of joint beneficiaries should there be more than one. Special rules may also apply when someone inherits an asset such as a retirement account. Read More...

Dec 21, 2020 Inheriting a residential property like a house marks the end of a life and the beginning of deciding what to do with the property and implementing that plan. The considerations in handling a house inheritance include taxes, financial issues like a mortgage and relationship concerns. While inheriting a house can be a boon financially and emotionally, handling the transaction to best advantage calls for some study and care. Here’s what to keep in mind if you inherit a house. Read More...

Dec 21, 2020 Buying commercial real estate can diversify an investment portfolio and provide potentially greater returns than residential properties. Commercial buildings, including office, retail, warehouse and industrial factories, commonly carry higher prices and require more ongoing costs to manage than residential properties. However, commercial landlords are usually dealing with businesses, which avoids most of the late-night and weekend annoyances of dealing with residential tenants.  To buy commercial real estate, investors should follow these steps. Read More...

Jan 07, 2021 On Sunday evening, December 27, President Trump signed into law the $900 billion second stimulus package for COVID-19 relief that will provide $600 checks to individuals, $300 in enhanced unemployment checks some $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP loans) for small business relief and additional funding for schools, small businesses and vaccine distribution. Given that expanded unemployment benefits lapsed on December 26 for some 12 million Americans, this follow-up to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides much-needed assistance at a vital moment. Though Trump did sign this bill, he did so only after forcefully pointing out that the personal stimulus isn't enough for people struggling, leading House Democrats to seize on the moment and call a vote for increasing the individual checks to $2,000. While this likely can't pass the current Republican-held Senate, the Democratic Senate pickups in Georgia mean that the party will hold both houses of congress and the presidency soon -- though the Senate is by a razor thin margin, with vice president Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie. There is some thought that this could mean bigger stimulus checks will come soon. Read More...

Feb 04, 2021 Eight million Americans could still qualify for first and second rounds of stimulus checks and may have not yet received their money. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on January 22 that tasks the Treasury Department with getting relief to millions of eligible recipients who did not get financial assistance. If you expected a stimulus payment, let's break down what the  $900 billion economic relief and government funding bill paid out, why you may have not gotten your stimulus check, what you can do to claim it and how it can impact your taxes. This is a developing story. We will continue to update the article as soon as more information becomes available. You can find information about President-elect Joe Biden's additional $1,400 stimulus payment in our article about third stimulus checksRead More...

Jan 02, 2021 The Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey shows that during the first week of December 2020, business expectations were depressed nationwide. While less than 2% of small businesses have closed during COVID-19, 52.9% of small businesses nationally expect they won't return to normal levels of operation for at least six months or ever. Read More...

Dec 17, 2020 Fiduciary deeds are just one of several types of deeds used in property transfers. This type is used to transfer property such as real estate when the owner can’t sign a deed for legal or other reasons. Fiduciary deeds are commonly employed when settling estates and the original owner of the property is deceased. Anytime a fiduciary deed is used, it is being granted by a fiduciary, such as an executor, who has the authority to sign in place of the owner. Learn what using this type of document can accomplish and its limitations. Read More...

Dec 17, 2020 The holiday season is a time when many professionals send gifts and cards to their clients to thank them for their business and support. Within the financial advisory and planning industry, these gifts often foster stronger advisor-client relationships. They serve as tokens of appreciation for clients’ continued trust and confidence in their investment strategies and decisions. Read More...

Dec 16, 2020 Requesting financial aid often feels like it requires a mile-high stack of paperwork. And as if the endless form-filling isn’t enough, just getting the right type of aid can be confusing. A financial aid advisor can help students and their families navigate the complicated financial aid process and help them get the funding they need. To better understand the services these advisors can provide, here’s a breakdown of what they offer. Read More...

Dec 16, 2020 Retirement savers and participants in 401(k) plans may soon face a  new Department of Labor (DOL) policy, presenting them with either more investment options or just unnecessary costs, depending on one's perspective. In December 2020 the DOL issued its final rule regarding an exemption to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) that would let financial fiduciaries be paid for advice on rollovers by third parties so long as they act in savers’ best interest. However, before it takes effect the so-called "fiduciary prohibited transaction exemption" is likely to be toughened by the incoming Biden administration. Here's an overview of the development along with possible pros and cons of the newly released exemption. Read More...

Jan 05, 2021 Financial professionals who recommend clients buy a security or financial product are held to ethical standards that can be enforced by law. One such standard is known as the suitability rule, which is described in Rule 2111 of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). It requires that every recommendation by investment broker-dealers must consider a client's age, objectives, experience, risk tolerance and other traits so recommendations are suitable for a specific client. Recently, though, that standard has been raised for working with certain clients. Here's what you need to know about this rule and how the change may affect you. Read More...

Dec 10, 2020 The U.S. stock market hit record highs leading up to Thanksgiving in 2020. Two days before the holiday this year, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes broke 30,000 and 3,600 points, respectively. While some stock analysts and investors are concerned that these prices belie a frothy market soon set to pop, others speculate that highs will continue over the next month. In the investing world, the uptick in stock market performance at the end of the year is commonly referred to as the Santa Claus rally, gifting investors jolly gains in their portfolios. Read More...

Dec 09, 2020 Finding the best investment advisor depends on understanding a few terms of art. Two particularly key terms retail investors are likely to run across when looking for an expert to help with investments are “fiduciary” and “suitability.” The terms describe the standard of care and behavior that investment professionals are expected to follow when dealing with investors. Although they sound similar, they describe quite different standards. Investment experts who follow the fiduciary standard are required to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. Those who conform to the suitability standard just have to make sure their recommendations are suitable, given the client’s age, goals, resources and other factors. Learn the distinctions between the two here. Read More...

Dec 03, 2020 The  self-employment (SE) tax is the equivalent of the tax regular employees and their employers pay. It’s the way self-employed people, freelancers and independent contractors contribute to the Social Security and Medicare funds. With a tax rate of 15.3% applying to everything self-employed workers earn, SE tax can add up to a lot. In some cases, SE tax is more than income tax. That means reducing SE tax is an important financial consideration for self-employed taxpayers. Here’s how to do it. Read More...

Dec 02, 2020 As you prepare for marriage, you’re probably thinking about everything but a prenuptial agreement. However, even people in rock-solid relationships sometimes choose to sign a prenuptial agreement or prenup. Every state, including California, has prenup laws. In this guide, we review what you need to know about creating a prenuptial agreement in California. For hands-on expert guidance tailored to your personal situation, consider enlisting the services of a trusted financial advisor. Read More...

Nov 25, 2020 When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you should receive written notification from your school of choice explaining how much aid you qualify for and what type. A financial aid appeal letter is a written request asking your school to increase the size of your aid package when it’s not enough to cover your costs of attendance. Writing a letter to appeal your financial aid package doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your school will make more aid available to you. But it could help you secure more funding to help pay for higher education costs. Here's how to approach this challenge. Read More...

Nov 25, 2020 When working with a financial advisor, it’s important to understand what services they provide and how they’re compensated. Reviewing your advisor’s Form CRS, also known as a client or customer relationship summary, is a good place to start. This form offers an overview of what to expect when working with an advisor. Advisors and other financial professionals are required to provide clients with a copy of their Form CRS and update it regularly. If you’re working with a financial advisor or plan to, it helps to know what’s included in this form and how to read it. Read More...

Nov 20, 2020 A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that couples contemplating marriage use to lay out financial and other obligations that would come into play in the event of divorce or the death of one of the partners. Prenups are primarily intended to protect assets that are owned at the time of the marriage. Any property acquired after the ceremony is typically considered jointly owned marital property. The equitable distribution of joint property will be determined during the divorce proceedings. Prenups can also protect assets one of the signers may acquire in the future. However, the prenuptial agreement needs to be carefully written for that to be the case. Consider enlisting the services of a trusted financial advisor to help you create a prenup that best fits your needs. Read More...

Nov 19, 2020 Credit card issuers can charge you additional interest for making purchases while carrying balances on your credit card. This fee is known as purchase annual percentage rate, and it varies depending on your provider. In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about purchase APRs. A financial advisor can help you effectively manage debt while working toward your long-term savings goals. Find a financial advisor today. Read More...

Nov 19, 2020 Independent contractors are professionals hired by individuals (or companies) to perform a service. Each one has different classifications under the IRS, which also means different tax obligations. However, it can sometimes be difficult to make the distinction between an independent contractor and an employee. In this guide, we take a closer look at what it means to be an independent contractor.  Read More...

Nov 18, 2020 Access to credit lets small business owners acquire inventory and equipment, hire new employees, weather seasonal fluctuations and expand. Establishing and building business credit is an important task for any business that isn’t prepared to pay cash for anything it needs. The job calls for filling out some paperwork and a strong focus on paying back any borrowed funds. Fortunately, becoming creditworthy is within the capability of most small businesses if they approach the job in the right way. Read More...

Nov 11, 2020 When planning for a marriage, couples may not consider the possibility of divorce. However, many financial experts recommend that everyone get a prenup in case a divorce occurs. According to the  U.S. Census Bureau, the marriage rate is 16.6 out of every 1,000 women aged 15 or older. Simultaneously, the national divorce rate is 7.7, which is a significant percentage in comparison. Therefore, considering a prenup might help you avoid the financial devastation that comes with divorce. But how much does a prenup cost? The cost of a prenuptial agreement can vary by state, as each state typically has unique laws. Here's a breakdown of the cost you can expect during the prenuptial agreement process. If a prenup seems like something you should pursue, consider matching with a trusted financial advisor. Read More...

Nov 11, 2020 Controlling costs is a central task for all businesses, and the job starts with tracking and reporting expenses. A plethora of well-designed expense report apps can help with this essential task. The best simplify collecting data by scanning receipts and importing transactions from debit and credit card statements. They can automate reporting as well as verifying charges and reimbursing employees. Cloud-based apps provide mobile access via smartphones while improving data security. Expense report apps targeting small and midsize businesses are also affordable. Here are the best apps for tracking expenses. Read More...

Nov 11, 2020 Figuring out how to pay for college can be one of your biggest financial challenges, whether you're a student or a parent who's preparing to send one of your kids to school. According to CollegeBoard, the average cost of tuition and fees for in-state students attending public four-year universities and colleges was $10,440 for the 2019-20 academic year. The cost for out-of-state students climbed to $26,820, while students attending private colleges paid $36,880 per year on average. With the costs of higher education continuing to climb, researching all the options for covering college expenses can help to ease the financial pressure. Contacting a  financial advisor who understands the ins and outs of paying for college can also ease such financial pressure as well as saving time. Read More...

Nov 17, 2020 About three in four American adults (73%) said they donated money to a charitable organization in the past year, according to an April 2020 Gallup poll. That's a new record low, beneath even the charitable giving rate of the Great Recession era. Though the coronavirus pandemic, with its elevated unemployment, may have made Americans less likely to steer their money toward altruistic causes, the generosity they do spread is something financial advisors strongly recommend to reduce their clients' tax liabilities. Of course, not all places in the U.S. are equally philanthropic, so SmartAsset crunched the numbers to uncover where in the country Americans are most charitable. Read More...

Nov 06, 2020 Mutual funds can offer a streamlined way to build an investment portfolio. Rather than purchasing individual stocks or bonds, you can buy mutual fund shares to gain exposure to multiple investments in a single basket. Evaluating the quality of mutual funds means looking at different factors, including its expense ratio, the fund manager's track record and its past performance. Trailing returns can tell you how a fund has performed over a set time frame, though they aren't a guaranteed indicator of a fund will perform in the future. Read More...

Nov 04, 2020 Several reasons play a role in when and why the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) might temporarily close its markets, but the primary "culprit" behind the closings are national holidays. There are 12 main holidays on which NYSE closes its doors, and the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq also follow these stock market holidays. We take a closer look in this review. Interested in investing but not sure where to begin? A financial advisor can offer guidance on the ins and outs of the stock market. Find a financial advisor today.  Read More...

Nov 04, 2020 Just as there are several states with no income taxes, there are also multiple states forgoing sales taxes. These states don't impose state-level sales taxes, meaning you won't be assessed an additional fee when purchasing a retail good or service. This can make a huge difference in how much you pay for retail items, since rates can range as high as 7.25% in California, according to research from Tax Foundation. The following five states currently have no statewide sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon. We take a closer look at those states in this guide.  Read More...

Nov 04, 2020 One of the most important decisions when starting a business is the business structure. The choice of business entity significantly affects matters like liability, taxes, control, financing and regulation, according to the Small Business Administration. While it’s possible to change the business structure after founding a company, doing so could have unintended tax consequences and even require the business to be dissolved. That's just one of the reasons choosing a business structure is something that should be carefully considered, with the help of expert financial advisors. Read More...

Oct 30, 2020 Running a small business can take up a significant amount of time and energy. You may be wondering if you should hire a business financial advisor to help stay on top of your business and personal finances. A financial advisor can offer advice and guidance on things like succession planning for your business. And he or she can also help you create a financial plan that includes saving, paying down debt and investing for retirement. If you're on the fence about whether to hire a business financial advisor, here's more on what this expert can do. Read More...

Oct 30, 2020 The number of times a business sells and replaces its stock over a given time period is its inventory turnover ratio. The inventory turnover ratio, also sometimes called stock turns or inventory turns, helps retailers monitor and manage inventory. The inventory turnover ratio can direct timing and size of reorders, identify slow-selling products to mark down for quick sale and inform individual item purchasing decisions. Here's how to calculate it and interpret the results. Read More...

Oct 30, 2020 Current liabilities are short-term business debts that are due to be paid before the end of the current fiscal year. These upcoming charges are reported on a company’s balance sheet. Current liabilities include obligations such as accounts payable and amounts due to suppliers, employee wages and payroll tax withholding. Because they describe upcoming requirements that the company’s financial resources will have to fulfill, balance sheet figures for current liabilities draw close attention from business managers, creditors and investors. Read More...

Oct 30, 2020 Private label products are purchased by a retailer from a manufacturer and sold under the retailer’s own brand. Private label brands, also known as store brands, compete with national name brand products, often primarily on price but also sometimes on features and quality. Sellers of private label items can specify product features in detail. For buyers, private label products offer the opportunity to pay discount prices for items that approximate or equal the quality of name brands. Private label products represent a significant share of sales in physical stores and are becoming more important for online commerce. Read More...

Oct 29, 2020 If you need working capital for your small business over a period of three years or less, a short-term business loan could be right for you. Short-term loans help businesses acquire needed equipment, hire new staff and address cash flow challenges. They are available principally from banks and online lenders. Short-term loans generally are easier to apply for than long-term loans and it can take less time to obtain approval. However, they also have higher interest rates and larger monthly payments and may include prepayment penalties. Read More...

Oct 29, 2020 Say you have a $10,000 loan and are considering how to pay for it. You have two choices to make. One way would be to increase the amount you pay or the frequency of your payments. However, a second way would be to place your payments into a fund dedicated to paying off the debt once the fund is full. The latter is called a “sinking fund.” Here’s how it works. Read More...

Oct 29, 2020 A mixed economy is an economy that incorporates elements of both free market transactions and government control. While a mixed economy generally allows private property and prices, it also will typically have sectors or industries controlled or subsidized to a greater or lesser degree by a central authority. Most, if not all, modern economies are some form of a mixed economy. Read More...

Oct 27, 2020 Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are both legal documents that address what will happen to marital assets if a married couple divorces or one of them dies. Both agreements describe similar matters, including division of financial assets and payment of alimony. In addition, they may also concern retirement benefits. The main difference between the two is that a prenuptial agreement, often referred to as a prenup, is signed before the couple’s marriage; a postnuptial agreement, often referred to as a postnup, is signed after the marriage. However, there are additional differences between the two as well, including some significant pros and cons. Read More...

Oct 23, 2020 Some people plan where every dollar of their budget goes. This method is called zero-based budgeting, and it involves allocating every dollar of income to your expenses, debts and savings. In other words, the goal of this method is that your monthly income and your expenditures are equal so that subtracting the latter from the former gives you zero. If you’re looking for a budgeting strategy that gives every cent you earn a "home" or you've been having trouble making a budget then here's what zero-based budgeting is, how it differs from traditional budgeting and why it may work for you. Read More...

Oct 22, 2020 A “K-shaped” recovery is when different sections of an economy rebound from a recession at different rates. This can apply to many different forms of economic analysis, but in practice, it most often means that low-income households lag behind high-income households in regaining lost wealth and earning power. Here's what you need to know about these kind of recoveries and some examples of the phenomenon. Read More...

Oct 14, 2020 Choosing the right investment strategy matters when trying to build wealth in your portfolio. Some investors favor growth, for instance, while others look for value in the markets. If the latter approach sounds like your style then investing in a value fund could make sense. Value funds invest in companies that have the potential to generate returns for investors long-term. Knowing how they work can help with choosing the right value funds for your portfolio. If you want expert guidance in selecting value funds that fit into your overall portfolio, consider matching with a financial advisor in your area. Read More...

Oct 14, 2020 Target-date funds can offer a streamlined solution for retirement investing. These mutual funds feature an asset allocation that automatically shifts over time as you get closer to your target retirement date. Each target date fund's allocation shift is determined by its glide path. This track is different for every target-date fund, and it can determine how much or how little risk your portfolio is exposed to over time. When investing in target-date funds, it's helpful to understand how the glide path works to make sure it aligns with your retirement goals. Read More...

Oct 12, 2020 Trade credit is an arrangement that allows a business to acquire goods or services from another business without making immediate payment. This ability to buy now and pay later is an important financing tool for businesses, especially those too new or small to obtain bank loans. Trade credit is essentially a short-term loan without interest. When discounts for faster payment and penalties for late payments are taken into consideration, however, trade credit can still cost the buyer more than other kinds of financing. Read More...

Oct 12, 2020 Accounting rate of return is a tool used to decide whether it makes financial sense to proceed with a costly equipment purchase, acquisition of another company or another sizable business investment. It is the average annual net income the investment will produce, divided by its average capital cost. If the result is more than the minimum rate of return the business requires, that is an indication the investment may be worthwhile. If the accounting rate of return is below the benchmark, the investment won’t be considered. Read More...

Oct 12, 2020 Interest coverage ratio, or ICR, is used to evaluate a company’s ability to pay the interest it owes on its debts. There is no generally agreed upon standard for what makes a healthy ICR across all industries. A higher value is generally better, however, and a value of less than 1 suggests a company may have difficulty meeting its interest obligations. Lenders and bond investors may be particularly interested in assessing companies’ ICR. Read More...

Oct 08, 2020 SmartAsset’s editorial content has been recognized as a winner at the 2020 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards! Our COVID-19 series, “Helping Consumers and Businesses Weather Economic Changes,” won the award in the Consumer, News/General Interest category. Additionally, the content series was an honorable mention in the Consumer News Coverage category, alongside coverage from Popular Science and Harvard Business Review. Read More...

Oct 07, 2020 The strength of a company isn’t just about how much money it makes. Investors also want to know how efficiently a company uses its assets, over a set period of time, based on its size and compared to its peers. While investors expect larger companies to generate higher net income or profit than smaller companies, the same revenue stream for a smaller firm may show a business that can do more with less. Something called "return on assets," or ROA, is how investors figure that out. Here's what you need to know about this key metric. Read More...

Oct 07, 2020 National economies can be run from the top down, so to speak, in what is sometimes called a command economy or they can be run from the bottom up in what is sometimes called a free market. In the former, a centralized authority, typically the government, decides what should be produced, what services should be offered and what the prices should be; in the latter, pricing and production decisions emerge from a myriad of interactions between individual consumers and businesses. While these two are indeed opposites, some economies feature a mix of central command and free markets. Here’s how a command economy works and how it differs from the alternative. Read More...

Oct 07, 2020 Maintaining a budget is one of the first steps in achieving good financial health. There are different ways to make and keep a monthly budget, including writing it out by hand, using a spreadsheet or logging your expenses in a budgeting app. Going the mobile app route can save you time and make budgeting easier if you're automatically tracking how money moves in and out of your bank account. But what's the best low-cost or free budget app to use? Here are some of the best budgeting apps to help you manage your money in 2020 and beyond. Be sure to work with an expert financial advisor to see how you can maximize growth for your savings. Read More...

Oct 07, 2020 Running a business or pursuing certain professional career paths often means having the right insurance in place to protect yourself against liability claims. Indemnity insurance is one type of business and professional insurance you may consider purchasing. This type of coverage is similar to other insurance products in that you pay premiums into the policy and the policy pays out money when someone successfully files a claim. If you've never heard of indemnity insurance or you're unsure whether you need it, here's a closer look at how it works. An expert financial advisor in your area can also help you determine whether indemnity insurance fits into your overall financial plan. Read More...

Oct 07, 2020 Capital budgeting aims to highlight the risks and rewards of a business's major investment proposals to determine if the ideas are really worth it. To do this, capital budgeting attempts to quantify the anticipated costs and benefits of each acquisition or project under consideration. Often, when two or more capital investments are being considered, capital "budgeters" assign a numerical value to each option and rank them in order of preference. Here's how the process works. Read More...

Oct 07, 2020 When you need professional advice on how to manage your investments or create a financial plan, there are numerous experts who can help. Financial analysts, for example, spend their time diving into economic and stock market data to help create reports and recommendations about what to invest in. You may work with an analyst directly if the person is also an investment advisor or financial advisor. Or you may work with a financial analyst indirectly if the person is employed by the bank, wealth management firm or investment advisory firm that manages your money.  Read More...

Oct 07, 2020 The section of the Internal Revenue Service code that describes the requirements for nonprofit entities, including public charities and private foundations, is known as 501(c)3. This section explains the benefits of nonprofit status, including most notably the ability to deduct contributions to a charity from an individual's or business's federal income tax return. Section 501(c)3 specifies that nonprofits must engage only in certain sorts of activities and can’t steer financial or other benefits to private individuals. Organizations recognized as charitable organizations under this section of the tax code are also restricted from political activities and lobbying. Read More...

Oct 06, 2020 A SWOT analysis, which is an acronym for a business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, helps business managers think in new ways, sometimes about things they would prefer to avoid considering, such as the business’s weaknesses. When performed before starting a venture or as part of regular strategy development in an existing enterprise, SWOT analysis helps business owners develop effective strategies. Read More...

Oct 06, 2020 Liens are bad news, at least if you’re on the receiving end. A lien is a legal claim placed on someone’s property, whether personal or business. It’s issued to settle a debt or enforce a judgment, or as a guarantee to secure payment on the same. Courts will often issue liens when the debtor either can’t or won’t pay in cash. Here’s what you need to know about liens, whether you're a lender or a debtor, and how they work. Read More...

Oct 06, 2020 A free market economy is one in which prices and earnings are set between private actors and determined by market forces such as supply and demand. These economies can have greater or lesser degrees of government regulation, but it is uncommon for a government or other third party to impose predetermined values on services, goods or labor. Here's what you need to know about free market economies. Read More...

Oct 05, 2020 If you’ve ever wondered how you would make your life insurance premiums if you were unable to earn an income, then you need to know about the waiver of premium rider. When an insurance policy features a waiver of premium rider, premium payments will be waived if you become disabled or seriously ill. The waiver of premium rider can help protect your family’s financial future if you become unable to work. Consider working with an expert financial advisor to determine if a waiver of premium rider makes sense for you and to chart out how your insurance strategy fits into your holistic financial plan. Read More...

Oct 05, 2020 In life insurance, insurable interest refers to what level of loss you'd experience should a specific person become incapacitated or die. It's important because it helps prevent insurance fraud. If you aren’t sure whether you have insurable interest in someone, this article will cover what insurable interest is, how to prove it and examples of when insurable interest does and does not exist. Read More...

Oct 05, 2020 The financial independence, retire early (FIRE) movement has grown in popularity as more people seek a way to escape the rate race well before normal retirement age. Financial independence can look different to everyone, depending on what it means to you and what kind of lifestyle you're hoping to achieve. If you're interested in becoming financially independent, then creating a plan is the first step. If you want hands-on assistance doing so, consider enlisting the help of an expert financial advisor. Read More...

Sep 30, 2020 Filing taxes may not be your favorite chore, but it's a necessary one to ensure that you stay in the good graces of the IRS. Deciding which tax filing status to choose matters for determining which tax breaks you might be eligible for and ensuring that you're paying the right amount in taxes. There are five tax filing status options to choose from but picking the appropriate one isn't always clear cut. If you're filing taxes for the first time or you think your filing status may be different this year because of a life change, here's what you need to know. Read More...

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