Monday, December 26, 2016

New Year Resolution... again?

This is the last time we talk in 2016, so I will keep it nice and short. And I first want to wish you a VERY HAPPY 2017!

As we are getting closer and closer to the end of the year, it is perhaps the best time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly for 2016. It is a time to make plans for the New Year – what most people call RESOLUTIONS. Well, this is also your chance to make a choice: the choice that this time you WILL do those things you have been promising yourself you will do.

Do you know how many people decide there are going to lose weight or get out of debt in the New Year? Though I don’t know the exact number, I just found a statistic that shows the top 10 resolutions for 2016, and “Spend less, save more” is number 3, behind only “Lose weight” and “Getting organized”. Wow, by comparison, “Falling in love” and “Spend more time with the family” are the bottom 2 in this top. Does this surprise you? For me the surprise is that I was right. I thought that the HARD WORK type of resolutions top the list.

The other scary statistic is that only 45% of Americans even set a New Year’s Resolution, while about the same number (39%) say they never do it. And what is even more scary is the fact that from those 45%, after 6 months, almost half (46%) even keep track or work towards achieving those resolutions.

All things considered, my wish for you is to make your MONEY RESOLUTION for 2017 your last attempt at achieving it. I want to talk to you in 2018 and beyond about how you are maintaining the great systems you set up, and not how you are starting to save.  And in order for this to happen, I would like you to start working on your financial goal NOW. Remember, the Chinese said “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is now”. 

What is your goal for 2017? Please share, and I promise to hold you accountable for it to be the last time you set that exact goal - because it will be accomplished.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving dinner conversation

If you just spent your holidays with your aging parents, you probably worried (or maybe even talked about) the set up for their final arrangements. Maybe you are already in charge of their affairs because they cannot take care of certain things by themselves anymore…

If you are one of the few lucky ones to know what is going on with your parents’ estate planning, and where their documents are located, I would like to congratulate your parents! Most of the people I have spoken to were not that fortunate when something happened with their loved one. This is a topic that we don’t usually talk about. However it is very necessary, since death is the only certainty we have in life. And whether we talk about it or not, someone still has to deal with it -  either us while we are still of sound mind and body, or a loved one, when we are not around anymore.

So, let me ask you: when was the last time you talked to your family about your estate or your wishes (should you not be able to express them)? And if you told them what you wanted in case you become incapacitated, did you put that in writing? And, most importantly, do they know where the paperwork is (if you have it)?

Most Americans don’t have their wishes written down. And, unfortunately for the families left behind, of those who have it in writing, many don’t tell their family where the paper are.
If you are a grown child of an aging parent who mentioned a long time ago that they want to be cremated, or that they don’t want to be kept on life support… maybe you can ask them if they still feel that way now. And maybe the next time you see them, you ask them to put it in writing. Also, make sure to ask where the papers are located.

When adult children move out, the parents move things around the house, and some of the things that get moved, are the important papers. Once you move out, you may not know where your parents keep their paperwork. It is always a good idea to check with your parents where their papers are now located.

If you are participating in the gratitude challenge from earlier this month, maybe something to be grateful for is the fact that you are still capable to take care of all your important documents and don’t have to leave your family to deal with everything in their time of grief. And then get it taken care of NOW.

Monday, November 14, 2016

What are you grateful for TODAY?

This is the month of Thanksgiving – the month of Gratitude. Not that we should not be grateful all year long… But in case you kind of forgot this year… let’s talk GRATITUDE today. It is not too late to start now. And if you read this post, I hope you take me up on the challenge I will issue at the end of it.
For now, let’s get started on what is the connection between money and gratitude. And how can your gratitude and appreciation for the things you have and the things you are able to do in life can translate in more money for you.

Tony Robbins often says “Where your energy goes, that grows.” That is true. We are beings made of energy and can influence the energy of our surroundings. Therefore, if you focus on plenty you will have plenty, and if you focus on scarcity, you will have scarcity. I know that I always say that my focus on sharing my thoughts is more on the practical side of money and I will get to that in a second. Though I need to make clear the fact that if you believe you have enough, that there is enough out there for you, then you will have it. Sometimes it may not seem like it, and that is the toughest time to believe. However, that is necessary for you to achieve.

When you believe it, then you can achieve it – may IT be money, a career or any personal goal. So that is why it is important to not just do the mechanics, but also get our brains and our feelings involved. When we start the day off with a good thought and happiness for the things that will come our way, we get more things that can make us happy. When we are grateful for what we currently have in our life – and we all can find at least one thing that we like and we appreciate – we will attract more things that we like and appreciate.

Zig Ziglar always said that if you want to lose weight, you cannot think like a fat person. Your brain does not understand the word NO, so it will bring into your life more of the things you are thinking about. So you cannot think like a poor person, and I believe we are all rich in our lives. You may say that is not the case with you but I know that money is not the only thing that measures the riches. And I will be the last person to tell you that you should not focus on money – after all, this is a blog about MONEY. All I’m saying is that you need to start somewhere.

Think about the things you have in your life that you are grateful for, and not the debt or the bills or the worries. Think of the good you will do with the money coming into your life, and be grateful you are here today to have a chance to work towards that good. And more good will come your way.

So my November challenge for you is to write down 3 things you are grateful for. And not just one time but every morning before starting your day, for the rest of the month; or the rest of the year if you are even more courageous. And then, come back and leave a comment with the 3 things that are on your list that day, or the most frequent ones. I would like to know and be your cheerleader.    

Monday, November 7, 2016

Money Mondays Episode 6

Check out the new episode to learn more about a topic you might find scary... Budgeting. We are helping you make friends with your budget, so you can achieve your goals and take confident steps toward your financial serenity. Emerald Sparks shares her money story, and you can learn how a young woman was able to buy her first car while in college, without having to take on a car payment. Can you learn anything from her story?

Monday, October 31, 2016

SMART Goals for Financial Freedom

There are 2 ways to work towards your financial freedom:
1.    Figure out how much money you need annually to live comfortably, to at least maintain your current standard of living. Then, take that number and divide it by 0.4% to find out the total amount of money you need to have set aside. When you invest this money (once your reached your number) and generate at least 4% interest, it will generate the income you need.
2.    Figure out how much money you need annually to live comfortably, to at least maintain your current standard of living. Then, work on building assets that generate enough money annually to provide that amount without you holding a job. These assets can be: real estate investments, businesses, investments.

Visualization of your goals is important, and so is planning. You either plan your work, and then work your plan; or you fail to plan, and then you plan to fail. The reason why planning your finances is probably your most important plan, is that all your dreams and goals will be in some way connected to money.

Writing down your goals and having a vision board will help you find ways to achieve your goals; your brain will come up with ways to lead you to what you most desire. Which also means you must be very certain that your really desire those things you claim to want. Part of the planning and mapping of your goals will include coming up with the money to achieve some of your goals. Of course some goals like happiness and health don’t have a price tag. Others like a trip, college education or a new house or car, come with a price tag that must be known.

It may seem simplistic to say that if you know how much something costs you can start working on achieving that. However, even though it is simple, that is how it is done. I’m not saying it is easy – otherwise everyone would achieve their goals. But it is simple – in 3 steps: see it, map it and plan it. All that is left is the hardest part: doing it.

When setting your goals, keep in mind that they must be SMART in order for you to reach them: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. In order for you to achieve your goals, they have to fit in this SMART description. So if your goals are vague - ie. I want more clients, I want to make lots of money - you need to redefine those goals. It is not good enough to want more money; your brain does not work on anything so vague. So think instead: How much money? ("a lot" is not a number - therefore it is neither Specific, nor Measurable) When do you want to have the money by? (give yourself a deadline) And, perhaps most importantly, make sure your goals are Relevant: do you really want it? Is it Relevant to you?

If you are a successful business woman, whether you own the business or lead a corporation, you probably rely on a board of advisers. You may call them mentors, business partners or directors. They are your sounding board when it comes to ideas regarding business growth and what is the best way to implement new ideas to achieve the objectives. But how about your financial life? Do you have a board of directors to run your ideas by? Do you have an accountant who knows your like and your story to help you lower your taxes? Do you have an investment adviser who looks out for your best interest in a fiduciary capacity?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Money Mondays episode 5

We talked about different types of insurance, and which ones are necessary to have and which are nice to have. And if you listen to Regina's story, you can learn how all the best laid plans can go awry and sometimes you have to pick yourself back up and keep going.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Money and dieting?... Well, they have something in common!

Have you ever thought about your dreams coming true? If money were no object, where would you be now? What would you do? What are you passionate about? And would you do that for free?

If you want to honor your passion, think about it every day, imagine yourself living your passion and let your brain live it as if it were true. And then, while your subconscious mind works on a plan to bring your passion to life, start looking at your finances and make a plan.

If you think your situation is hopeless, you are not the only one. If you have debt you can’t even see yourself paying off, you are not alone. I understand it is not pretty, or sexy, to be thinking about the debt; but I can promise that ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

If you were ill, you would go see a doctor and follow her instructions to get well, right?! Well, if your financial self is ill, you also need to follow someone advice on how to get well – only this person is a money doctor, and not a people doctor.

Finding a financial coach, a prosperity mentor, a financial adviser is the first step in working on a solution for any and all your money problems, challenges and frustrations. And just like a personal trainer, this coach’s job is to help you get on a workout schedule, also known as budget. And not just to show you what your budget should be, but also to hold you accountable to stick with it in the long run.

If you ever wanted to look like a supermodel, then you should know that takes a lot of dieting. Well, in finances, that is the equivalent of budgeting. And just as a supermodel makes a lot of money at the end of years of dieting, you will have a lot of money at the end of years of budgeting.

Now, I’m not suggesting a long and depressing fast. I’m merely talking about some smart planning, and sticking to the plan. And the first step in that plan is having a SMART goal written down. 

(in 2 weeks we will go over what a SMART goal is - stay tuned) 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Money Mondays episode 4

We talk about protecting yourself and your family. We talk about responsibility. And then Bunny Young shares her money story with you - a story from the heart with a lot of heart, and money lessons that can serve you well, on the way to your Financial Serenity.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Money Mondays episode 3

This show introduces you to Dr Samantha Madhosingh and her money story - and it is a genuine treasure. We also talk about retirement and how to prepare for it. One more step towards your Financial Serenity.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Whether to enter into a prenuptial agreement or not is a very personal decision. Each individual and couple is unique. Therefore, you should base your decision on your own unique circumstances. Review the pros and cons of prenuptial agreements and then read through the steps below to help you decide if a prenuptial agreement is right for you.

Pros of a Prenuptial Agreement

Some of the benefits of a prenuptial agreement include:
  • Documenting each spouse's separate property to protect it as separate property.
  • Supporting your estate plan and avoiding court involvement to decide property distribution.
  • Distinguishing between what is marital and what is community property.
  • Documenting and detailing any special arrangements between you and your spouse.
  • Avoiding extended court proceedings, which result in the time of expensive divorce attorneys.
  • Reducing conflicts during a divorce.
  • Establishing procedures and rules for issues that may arise in the future. 
  • Assigning debt, such as credit cards, school loans, and mortgages, to the appropriate spouse to avoid both spouses sharing debt liability.

Many people fear that discussing these matters, or even bringing up the word prenuptial agreement, will cause turmoil in their relationship. Often times, just the opposite is true. One of the main irreconcilable differences leading to divorce is finances. Talking to your spouse ahead of time regarding finances, property, and marital asset management can avoid a lot of these disagreements. You both can get on the same page in the beginning so that the issue does not pop up and cause an argument later. Furthermore, discussing these issues nurtures healthy communication. Even if you and your spouse decide a prenup is not for you, discussing the mentioned issues is a very good idea.

Cons to a Prenuptial Agreement

Although nuptial agreements carry a lot of benefits, there are some downsides that you should consider before creating one.

  • It's not romantic. If you fear that discussing a property and finance distribution and the possibility of a separation or divorce will dull your relationship in some way, then a prenup may not be right for you.
  • The timing may not be right. The beginnings of a marriage are typically a time of marital bliss, when many of the issues involved in a prenup are not even a thought. You may be at a point in your lives where you don't yet know the answers to some of the issues in a prenup. The truth is these issues will come up eventually, whether during the marriage or if you divorce. If you think the timing of discussing these issues is bad, or you just don't have a basis for formulating decisions or answering questions, then the timing may not be right for you. 

You can always wait until after you are married, when you may know a little more about the management of your household. An agreement made after you're married is called a "postnup". These are enforceable, but be sure to consult an attorney before creating one, because the legalities and enforcement of postnups do vary from prenups.
  • There may be state laws that cover all of the issues you want to address, without a prenup. Different states have laws that determine how property is distributed in the case of a separation of divorce. These laws may be perfectly ideal for you. If so, there is no need of going through the trouble of creating a prenuptial agreement. On the other hand, there may be certain issues in your situation that are not covered by the law, and would nudge you towards clarifying the issue in a prenup.
  • A prenup cannot include child support or child custody issues. The court has the final say in calculating child support. The court determines child support based on a "best interest of the child" standard, with several factors at play. A court would never uphold a provision of a prenuptial agreement that dealt with child support.
  • A court can set aside any provisions it finds to be unfair or not in the interest of justice. For example, courts have set aside provisions that do not allow a spouse any share of the other's bank account, if the account holder contributed greatly to that bank account during the marriage. The most commonly set aside provisions are alimony agreements and alimony waivers.
  • A prenup cannot include personal preferences, such as who has what chores, where to spend the holidays, or what school the children should attend. Prenuptial agreements are designed to address financially based issues. Judges grow uncomfortable when they see private domestic matters included in a contract, and will often view the document as frivolous, striking it down.

Analyzing your specific situation

Now that you have reviewed the pros and cons, think about your specific situation to decide if a prenuptial agreement is right for you.

Take The Prenuptial Agreement Questionnaire
  • Do you own real estate?
  • Aside from real estate, do you have more than $50,000 in assets?
  • Do you earn more than $100,000 a year in earned income?
  • Do you own any part of a business?
  • Do you have more than one year's worth of retirement benefits?
  • Do you have employment benefits such as stock options or profit sharing?
  • Do you or your partner plan to go to school for an advanced degree, while the other works?
  • Does a part of your estate name beneficiaries or heirs other than your partner?

If you or your partner answered yes to one or more of these questions a prenuptial agreement is in your best interest. If you answered no to all of them, a prenup is probably not needed, but could still be used to protect your current or future assets.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

5 Smart Ways to Spend Your Money and A Big Wedding Is Not One!

Your wedding day should be one of the best and most important days of your life, so it makes sense that some people choose to spend a lot of money on it. But often, there are many aspects of a wedding that people don’t even think about (a wedding cost estimator can help you anticipate costs).

While the wedding day is important, many people wonder at the end of it how it went by so fast and where all the money went. You have to determine with your partner whether you want a big (or even a small) and expensive wedding, or if you want to put the money elsewhere. If you decide to go for the wedding, you can still save money by following these tips. However, if you decide that you want to use your money elsewhere, here are some ideas.

1. Put the money toward savings (or keep it there)

If you have no emergency fund, you need to think about whether paying for a big wedding is a dangerous financial move. If your parents or other family members are giving you money for your wedding but you have no emergency fund or very little future savings, ask if you can use the money for that purpose. Many family members want to be a part of your big day, and you can always consider having a less expensive, simple reception without spending lots of money on a lavish wedding. If your parents want to help you start your life together, it’s possible that the best way they can do that is to help you get on solid financial ground.
If the money is your own, and you or your partner have been saving for a wedding, you should still discuss your options. Ten, twenty, or even five thousand dollars spent in one day can be quite a shock – you may find that the dinner and dancing isn’t worth the price tag.

2. Pay down debt

Another way you can start your marriage off right is to be debt-free, or at least, reduce your debt. Reducing your debt will free up more money for other parts of your budget, and it will also take a huge weight off your shoulders. Consider paying off your debt, or at least paying some of it, instead of having a big wedding. If you are really attached to a wedding, try to use some of the money to reduce your debt and some of it to pay for the wedding itself. It’s easy to buy into the dream wedding fantasy or to compete with friends or family members, but remember that after your friends and family go home, you will be the one stuck with the bill.
If you don’t have much money saved for the wedding, you might be considering going into debt in order to pay for one. This is usually a bad idea, because you will be paying for your one day of fun for a long time, and you might even rack up credit card debt.

3. Put the money toward a downpayment

The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $25,200. Most people try to put down at least 20 percent of the cost of their new home when they take out a loan, although this isn’t always possible. If you choose to put the money you have saved toward a downpayment instead of an expensive wedding, you will see many advantages. Obviously, the more money you can put down when you pay for a house, the lower your mortgage bills will be each month.
Putting down at least 20 percent will also save you on interest payments (and may actually get you a lower interest rate), and you will be able to skip the mortgage insurance. Also, a large downpayment may protect you later if you have to sell your house and the market goes down, because you don’t want to find out that you owe more than your home is worth.

4. Go on a nice honeymoon

Many people pay for the wedding and the honeymoon, and this can really add up. The average cost of a honeymoon is $4,466. This is much less than the average spent on a wedding, but isn’t a small amount of change. Some people use the money that they get from their wedding to help finance their honeymoon, but unless you are having a huge and expensive wedding that brings in tons of gifts, or you have a lot of very generous friends and family, you probably won’t escape without paying for some of the honeymoon yourself.
One idea is to consider just going on the honeymoon and escaping the wedding costs altogether. Or, as mentioned before, have a small and intimate event instead of an expensive one. Weddings are definitely romantic, but the honeymoon can be, too, because it is a chance for you and your partner to be alone, and it will probably cost you a lot less than a big wedding.

5. Buy something you need

If you and your spouse have two unreliable cars, you might want to spend your money on a newer, more reliable car; that way, if one car breaks down, you will at least have one car you can depend on. Or perhaps neither of you have very much kitchen stuff, but you are moving into a bigger home and you need appliances and new place settings. You could add these items to your registry, but the amount received via gifts will almost never add up to the amount you will spend on the wedding. The same is true of furniture or other household items. If you want to save money, you’re better off purchasing the items yourself and skipping (or reducing) wedding costs.
While these ideas do show you how you could spend your money if you choose not to have an expensive wedding, the choice is really up to you. For some people, the wedding day needs to include family and friends, and if that is the case for you, then you should make your day special. On the other hand, if you are worried about going into debt or if you are having a wedding just because you think it’s what other people expect from you, you might want to reconsider how you are spending your money.
For additional assistance and planning help contact me here, let's schedule an appointment and learn more about your spending habits and saving needs.

Monday, March 21, 2016

We all want to be remembered, to feel that we’ve contributed something to the world. For some, this can be a driving force leading to great accomplishments and extraordinary contributions to mankind. But for most of us with more modest goals, what pushes us is the desire to leave a legacy.

Your legacy is putting your stamp on the future. It’s a way to make some meaning of your existence: “Yes, world of the future, I was here. Here’s my contribution, here’s why I hope my life mattered.”

There are many ways you can leave a legacy. The most obvious, of course, is bequesting an inheritance to your survivors through your last will and testament.
But your legacy is about far more than material things.

Your neice or nephew will be teaching their daughter or son how to make that family dish, and will flash back to the time you taught them that same technique. That’s also a legacy.

Most of what we leave our children and grandchildren are memories – of who we are and what mattered to us. We provide this legacy by being with our loved ones and through our relationships.

But you can do more than just serve as a good role model. You can take a more active approach to leaving a legacy. Here are four ways to do it:

Provide a family history Researching your genealogy is a wonderful way to let your kids and grandkids understand where you and they came from.
Track your brood with specialized genealogy websites, like and Then invite the next generation to add their branches of the family tree in the future.

Add your personal story to the genealogy record by including anecdotes and feelings. Describe your relationships with your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and children.

Doing this will enrich the bare facts and timeline, providing color so your heirs and survivors can know what it really felt like to live during your years. That’s a legacy no one else can provide.

Give to charity Another way to leave a legacy is by contributing money or the equivalent to a charitable cause that reflects your values.

You could create a meaningful gifting plan so your kids and grandkids will receive money while you’re alive, allowing you to watch them benefit from your generosity.
Wealthier people can create a charitable foundation or a trust that provides ongoing distributions, so the gift has more lasting value.

For example, you can endow a scholarship to your alma mater for future students. Most colleges have development offices to help you set up this program. Many require at least $25,000 for an ongoing trust, but that money doesn’t have to go to the school right away; it can be left in your will.

Write a legacy letter Think about everything you’d want to tell your loved ones and your survivors if you knew you didn’t have long to live then put it all in a letter to them.

I’m not talking about the kinds of things you want the executor of your will to know such as your funeral and memorial wishes, your Social Security number, where your financial accounts are held and your digital passwords. No, your legacy letter is a way to speak directly to your loved ones and say all those things you wish you had told them earlier. Tell your grandson how much it meant to you to be at his birth and how sad you are that you won’t be able to watch him grow.

This letter can be a way to ensure your spouse or partner knows how much joy your relationship brought and that you hope he or she will find happiness after you’re gone.

Prepare an ethical will An ethical will is the logical extension of a legacy letter. With an origin going back to centuries of elders orally conveying their values to the next generation, an ethical will lets you share the meaning of your life, beliefs and life lessons.

There are no strict rules governing an ethical will because it’s a nonbinding document. Unlike a traditional last will and testament, an ethical will doesn’t lay out who will receive your possessions. You can, however, use it to explain why certain possessions will go to specific people.

It can be done in writing, as an aural recording or on video. You might want to make a kind of scrapbook, with pictures and anecdotes annotating them. For example, the note next to the picture of your daughter graduating from college could say something like:

It’s your way of still being in the room, which is the point of leaving a legacy. With assistance in understanding the differences in a Last Will and Testament VS. a Trust contact me and we can go over the best options for you Legacy!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Life Insurance for the Today's Mom

Do you remember your dad going off to work while mom stayed home to manage the household and take care of the kids?
While times have changed — women now make up 49 percent of the workforce (an all-time high) — many women still stay at home to care for children and run the house.
While we can't put a dollar value on what a mom means to her family, the value of her work is definitely measurable.
In today's dollars, the estimated cost of all the services stay-at-home moms provide is more than $118,000 a year.
The bottom line: Whether she's a stay-at-home mom and wife, or brings home a large share of her family's income, the reasons women need life insurance are the same as those for men.

Stay-at-Home Moms Are Providers, Too

Stay-at-home moms may not be breadwinners, but they're providers who make significant contributions to their families' well-being.
If a stay-at-home mother dies, her husband might need to hire someone to help with household responsibilities including: taking care of kids, helping with homework, paying bills, doing yard work and many other responsibilities.
And child care is a significant expense. Costs fluctuate across the country and among children's ages and care types (day care center, in-home care, etc.), but the national average annual cost of child care for a youngster under 5 years old is about $9,300.

Life Insurance Can Help Working Moms Replace Incomes

Today, many working moms are either the sole or primary source of income for their families. If a family depends on a woman's paycheck, life insurance can help replace that income if she dies during her working years.
It's easy to see why couples with children may need insurance, but it can also apply to couples without children if the wife's passing would be financially difficult for the husband.

Many Women Could Use More — or Even Some — Life Insurance

Women have some catching up to do with men when it comes to life insurance coverage. Statistically speaking, fewer women than men have life insurance, and women have insurance policies with lower dollar coverage than men. And 43 percent of women have no life insurance coverage at all.
Working and stay-at-home moms alike could use life insurance to:
  • Pay final expenses — Life insurance can help pay funeral and burial costs, debts and medical expenses not covered by health insurance.
  • Create an inheritance — If a woman has no other assets, she can create an inheritance by buying a life insurance policy and naming loved ones as beneficiaries.
  • Pay federal and state "death" taxes — Life insurance benefits can help pay estate taxes, so a husband or children will not have to liquidate other assets or take a smaller inheritance.
  • Create a source of savings — Some types of life insurance create a cash value that can be borrowed against or withdrawn at the owner's request.
For more information on the right coverage for you contact me by email to learn more.

Here is a life insurance calculater to see the best rates for you!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Celebrating International Women's Day

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
International Women's Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900's - a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women's Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women's network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women's Day. Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.
"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights," says world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem. International Women's Day is all about celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action - whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women's Day has been occurring for over a century - and is growing annually from strength to strength.
2016 and beyond

The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation may feel that 'all the battles have been won for women' while many feminists from the 1970's know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements. IWD is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. Many global corporations actively support IWD by running their own events and campaigns. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google often changes its Google Doodle on its global search pages to honor IWD. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status.
So make a difference, think globally and act locally!
Make everyday International Women's Day.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cash Gifts and Your Taxes, Understanding Your Limits and Federal Obligations

How Much Yearly Can You Gift Someone Without Them Paying Taxes on It?. Although taxpayers can give unlimited annual gifts to qualified charities without paying federal income taxes on their gift transfers, they cannot give unlimited gifts to private individuals. The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers to give limited annual gifts to relatives or other private parties without paying income taxes on their transfers. Furthermore, recipients of their gifts are exempt from federal income taxes, regardless of the amounts they receive. The IRS treats gifts and inheritances similarly.
  • Overview

    The federal gift tax laws allow taxpayers to give away property within annual exclusions without subjecting either gift donors or recipients to federal income taxes. Although the IRS taxes all income, including wages, commissions, exchange of services, bonuses, real, personal property, and prizes as income, it provides a limited exception for taxpayers to give gifts without triggering income tax liabilities for either party. Because of the federal tax benefits given to recipients and donors of gifts, the IRS strictly limits its definition of a tax-free gift. According to the IRS, a gift includes personal or real property and cash, as long as the donor does not receive anything in return and does not expect anything from the recipient.
  • Gift Tax Limits

    Congress establishes the gift tax limits annually. Effective Jan. 1, 2009, and current as of 2015, taxpayers are subject to a $13,000 gift limit. The maximum gift allowance before a donor becomes responsible for paying gift taxes prior to giving the gift is $13,000 annually. The $13,000 limit applies to each individual receiving a gift. Thus, a taxpayer can give equal gifts of up to $13,000 for each of her five grandchildren annually without paying income taxes on their gifts. Furthermore, her grandchildren will not have to pay gift taxes on their gifts, regardless of the fair market value of their gifts.
  • Increasing Gift Allowance

    The IRS allows married taxpayers to aggregate their gift limits. In other words, husbands and wives who file taxes as married taxpayers filing jointly can give joint gifts of up to $26,000 annually per recipient. For example, a grandmother and grandfather can give each of their five grandchildren $26,000 annually without paying taxes.
  • Real and Personal Property Gifts

    Taxpayers who give cash gifts can easily determine whether their gifts exceed the annual gift tax limit. However, for taxpayers who give real or personal property gifts, establishing the value of their gifts is more difficult. Under the tax code, taxpayers who give personal or real property gifts may have to obtain professional valuations by certified appraisers to determine the fair market value of their gifts. The IRS requires that appraisers establish fair market value of the gifts they are valuating by considering the price that a willing purchaser would spend to buy the gift. Furthermore, although taxpayers are not initially subject to income taxes on their gifts, they may have to pay income taxes if they later sell their personal or real property gifts.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cohabitation and Living Arrangements, What are the rules for love!

While experts say couples living together should have the same discussions about living arrangements as married couples, they advise unmarried individuals co-habiting take extra financial protections.
Before moving in together, couples should determine if they have shared lifestyles, calculate a budget and agree on who pays from what expenses, says Anna Behnam, an advisor for Ameriprise Financial. Leave emotion out of the decision-making process. “Have a black and white discussion for how you’re going to manage your assets and expenses.”
It’s also important for couples to have an exit plan in case the relationship sours, recommends Randy Kessler, founding partner of Kessler & Solomiany. “You are an individual, even in a relationship.” Agree on the terms of cohabitation and have legal agreements about anything owned together, like houses or cars: any name not on the asset means that person doesn’t’ have a legal right to it.
Experts offer the following tips to establish financial guidelines and budgets for couples getting ready to live together.
“The couples that partner together and discuss their finances are better able to meet their long term goals,” says Sandy Vaughn, financial solutions advisor and assistant vice president at Merrill Edge. Get everything out in the open.
Each party should divulge any assets, debts including credit cards and student loans, credit reports and FICO scores. It’s also a good idea to exchange net worth statements, says Tracy Stewart, certified public accountant and personal financial specialist in College Station, Texas. “Even if you’re not getting married, full disclosure is important because if the couple’s in a serious relationship and they want the relationship to thrive, open communication is key. No secrets, no surprises.”
Once a financial picture is established, decide who will pay for what. “If you make more or less than your partner, you have to be very open and clear and listen to each other,” says Stewart. Don’t be shy about talking about having the higher-earner pay more in rent, but make sure everyone is comfortable with any agreements. “Otherwise, look for a cheaper place that you can both afford 50/50. The one who makes more will be able to save more.”
Experts advise having monthly conversations about bills and goals. Once staying on budget becomes a habit or lifestyle, the talks can become less frequent.
Find a New Home
Both renting and buying comes with legal obligations.  
Be on the title, not the debt. “If you’re buying a house, it’s OK to put your name on the title but not the debt,” says Kessler. A person doesn’t have to be on the title to co-sign a mortgage. The mortgage is an obligation to repay a loan and co-signing a loan doesn’t provide entitlement to a property. “If you’re buying a house together, have an understanding of what happens to it if you break up and put it in writing,” says Kessler. Anyone making payment should keep good records of what they spend on the house and mortgage.
“Sharing assets is a different relationship—you’re making a financial and legal commitment to each other,” says Behnam. “Set up the title properly and consult an attorney on that. Have a will in place so your share of the house goes to whomever you choose.”
Decide if you want your name on the lease. “[Having your name on] a lease gives you the right to be there and the obligation to pay,” says Kessler. If one name isn’t on the lease, that person can be evicted in the event of a break up.
Have extra savings. If both are contributing to the mortgage or rent, this money can cover your partner’s share if he or she stops paying for some reason, says Stewart. “If you have an emergency fund, you can carry yourself forward if you can’t move that fast or don’t want to move that fast. It gives you flexibility.”
Create a Household Budget
Track household expenses in a spreadsheet and decide who’s paying for what, says Stewart. Be accurate with spending and base a budget on the prior 12 months—don’t forget to include restaurants, vacations and extraneous expenses. “Make sure you’re on top of the bills and that the mortgage and rent is paid on time,” says Stewart.
Track Purchases
While breaking a lease may be easy, says Behnam, it’s hard to divide up joint purchases, whether they’re assets owned outright like furniture or emotional assets like pets.
“Keep a record of what you’ve bought,” says Kessler. “Keep the receipts for things you might fight about—couches, TVs and dogs.” Writing that something is a gift gives the recipient full rights to it if a breakup occurs.
For items purchased together, decide who keeps it before or during the purchase, says Behnam. “Don’t start itemizing household assets but have an understanding. If there’s a breakup, there’s going to be enough fighting so don’t make it about a TV or sofa.”
Don’t Pay for Partner’s Debts
“Before you get married, you shouldn’t be responsible for paying someone else’s debt,” says Vaughn. “Co-signing loans doesn’t ever turn out well. If a bank isn’t going to give someone a loan, you should say no also because you’ll put yourself in a bad situation.” Having a joint credit card could negatively impact one party’s finances or credit if the relationship turns sour.
Kessler warns about paying the other person’s tuition since only one person will reap the benefits of the training and degree. “Unless you’re going to be married, don’t bail each other out,” he adds
Keep Accounts and Credit Cards Separate
Having separate checking accounts is the safest and cleanest way to split finances in the event of a breakup.
For couples with a joint account for household expenses, Behnam suggests each person only deposits what he or she is responsible for at the beginning of the month.
“It’s not about how much you love the other person, it’s about protecting yourself,” says Kessler.
For help with a scheduled plan or assistance with managing financial goals send me an email, I would be happy to assist you and your partner.
A special thanks to Fox Business for the research on Money and Cohabitation.