Happy Holidays from all of us at Oxford Planning Group.
We wish you peace and time spent surrounded by loved ones.
Thanksgiving - a time for gratitude, memories and for caring about others. At Oxford Planning, we have much to be thankful for. We are blessed with a great family, friends, clients, associates and a wonderful community with so many great people.
We hope you enjoy the spirit of this holiday. Additionally, we hope that your favorite team wins, that you enjoy watching the Thanksgiving Day parade and that your favorite dog wins the Westminster dog show.
Thank you all for your continued confidence in our firm. We are here to support your needs and you always come first to us.
Today we stand tall and proud in honor of our Veterans who have served tirelessly and bravely to maintain and protect the freedoms that we are accustomed to.
At Oxford Planning Group, we are focused on our client’s futures and we thank our Veterans for making these futures possible. We strive to take advantage of the gifts we have been afforded and work hard every day to help our clients achieve their goals and to make their best financial decisions.
This recent election day will be remembered by many as highly contested political races. These political races reflect the passion and diverse beliefs held by our countries’ citizens. Now as the election has ended, it’s our hope that we will support our leaders as best we can, continue to push forward for what we believe in and stay active in our communities.
After all, the freedoms we live with reflect the hard work and service of our Veterans. Outside of the United States, many are not so fortunate, do not have as much freedom and live in countries plagued by corruption.
So today, on Veterans Day, let’s remember to celebrate our veterans, both Democrats and Republicans, who have served our great country. We thank you for your service.
It seems like such a simple question, but whether to pay off your mortgage or to build up an investment account may not be a simple answer.
First, all mortgages come with a minimum payment. Either Principal and interest, or in some cases interest only. Either way, there is a minimum amount that must be paid each month. The question of whether to invest or to pay off your mortgage only applies to any amount you have available above your minimum payment.
We are currently in a rising interest rate environment. Rates currently remain fairly low, but as they rise further, it’s important to decide at what interest rate investing any extra payments no longer makes sense. Generally, a mortgage rate of 6% or lower may make sense to invest the extra payments instead of paying down your mortgage. This is based on the 6% rate netting to an even a lower rate based on an individual's tax bracket, deductions for mortgage interest and an assumption that over a long-term period the equity market has exceeded this lower net rate. There is in fact no one size fits all answer for everyone.
Risk tolerance is a big consideration. Let's say you have a mortgage and you are making minimum payments. Over time, you build up an investment account of $50,000 that would have otherwise been used to pay down you mortgage. How would you feel in the event of a market correction? It's critical that you think of these types of results in deciding whether to invest or not. Truthfully, most people really don’t know how they would feel in the event of a market correction unless they have experienced it.
For this strategy to be successful, your portfolio will need to have a net return (after taxes on dividends and capital gains) that is higher than your mortgage interest rate after your mortgage tax deduction.
Calculating the math related to this transaction is only a part of this decision. Evaluating how you feel about having a higher mortgage and money at risk or having an ever-decreasing mortgage is just as important.
Oxford Planning Group, LLC can help you walk through this process. What's right for you? We are here to help. We are Focused on Your Tomorrows.
Many life events can create a need to downsize your home. As families grow older and children move out of the house or area, parents often want to live in a smaller home or a home closer to their children and grandchildren. No matter the reason, downsizing has the potential to provide a simpler and lower-maintenance lifestyle. As you think about downsizing your home, consider these benefits:
Financial – If downsizing your home pre-retirement, lowering your mortgage payment by purchasing a smaller home could increase the funds that you save toward retirement or pay toward outstanding debt. Also, by selling your home and downsizing, you may be able to put down a large down payment or purchase a smaller home with cash, thus reducing or eliminating your mortgage payment.
Utility Savings – Downsizing not only has the potential to lower your mortgage payment; it can also lower home expenses. By purchasing a smaller home, you will likely use less electricity, resulting in a lower power bill. Additionally, purchasing a home with a smaller yard, or a condo with no yard, can save on the expenses of landscape maintenance and pest control.
Less upkeep – In addition to lower energy bills, a smaller home means a smaller area to clean and furnish. With less property, you will most likely have less yard work as well as fewer repairs and renovations. This will hopefully provide you with more time for your family and the things you love.
While downsizing your home has many benefits, make sure to run the numbers. Look at costs associated with selling the primary home, which may include preparing the house for sale, the real estate agent’s commission, moving costs and the cost of the new home. Also, while moving into a smaller home usually means a smaller mortgage payment, location and cost of living can have an effect.
With summer winding down, now is the time to revisit your long term financial plan and to review them for any necessary adjustments. Touch base with your financial advisor and make sure you’re on the right track to meeting your financial goals.
1. Re-evaluate income and cash flow. Raises, job changes and unexpected home costs are just a few of the factors that impact your income and cash flow. Re-evaluate current income to plan monthly expenses and savings as well as making the most advantageous retirement savings decisions. Monitor your spending patterns and current budgeting practices within the scope of your long- term savings strategy.
2. Family Security. This is one of the most important decisions you can make to invest in your family’s financial security. Examples may include proper insurance coverage and polices in place to reduce or eliminate financial risks when faced with sudden or unexpected loss. Security may also include starting or re-evaluating college savings plans (planning ahead for your kid’s futures relieves some of the financial burdens and gives them a head start entering college or the workforce.)
3. Proactive tax planning. With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, you may need to adjust your tax projections. By remaining proactive about your tax planning, you will determine how much money you’ll need for upcoming tax payments. Taxes are such a significant annual expense, it’s important to understand the best strategies to reduce your taxes and avoid expensive mistakes that could cost you. Effective tax planning allows you to make smarter financial investments, helping save you money in the long run.
Financial planning is ongoing, and we’re here to help!
Like many college graduates, you may now have student loans that are becoming due.
Knowing how to prioritize your payments and other savings can make a big difference to future success.
It’s not unusual that there are many demands for the money you may have available. Building emergency reserves, disability insurance, savings for future home purchase, saving for a wedding and funding retirement plans are just a few of the items that commonly compete for dollars as graduates consider how to pay down their student loans.
Hopefully the student loan is the only debt that you have as you graduate. If that’s not the case, all your debts should be reviewed collectively.
We generally recommend putting any extra loan payments towards the loan with the highest interest rate. But there may be reasons for a different plan of action depending on your individual circumstances.
So, if you’re just getting started (or you have a child who is just getting started), there’s a lot to think about.
First, know your budget and stick to it. Basically, live within your paycheck so that you can make better progress toward your goals. Once you have a solid budget, what’s left? This is the money you can use to build emergency savings, to fund disability insurance, to take advantage of company retirement plans and to pay off loans.
Now you must figure out how to prioritize. Disability Insurance should be considered to protect your income. Outside of this everyone should have emergency reserves to cover unexpected expenses or to cover brief periods of lost pay between jobs or if laid off. Historically it was common to recommend 4 – 6 months of expenses as a good nest egg to cover the unexpected. I think this is good initially when you are starting from scratch, but in the future, it may be important to increase this amount. The economic and market events of 2008 put a strain on many people’s cash reserves and in many cases 4-6 months proved inadequate.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to consider putting off retirement savings in lieu of reducing debt and building cash reserves. There are several reasons this should be reconsidered. First, saving something even if a small amount builds momentum and discipline towards retirement savings. This can be very important to long term success. Second, if the employer offers a match, this is free money - and can be an incredible immediate return on any money you save. If possible, try to contribute enough to get your maximum employer match. If that’s not possible, do your best and or use future raises to increase your contributions to gain that benefit in the future.
We recognize your first priority is to make your minimum required payment on your student loan. After that, what’s left? This is where some percent should go to disability insurance, building emergency savings (maybe more initially) and some percent should take advantage of company retirement plans. The exact amount to each is a personal choice but always try to make sure you have enough or are building emergency reserves. Know what your back up plan is if an unexpected event occurs.
We hope you find this info helpful. If you or a family member would like further information, please contact us. We are focused on your success and are “Focused on Your Tomorrows”.
When handed 401(k) information from an employer, many participants are overwhelmed with the information they are provided. Ideally, each participant would allocate across a diversified portfolio that best represents their risk tolerance and timeframe until retirement. Unfortunately, the information provided is often too complicated to make easy decisions.
This is where a Certified Financial Planner ® can add value. Trained in retirement planning (and other areas of financial planning), investments, risk management, estate planning and taxes, CFP® practitioners are best qualified to review your overall situation.
Your investment goals for your 401k should be coordinated with any other investments you may hold outside of your 401(k). If your employer offers matching dollars in your 401(k), you should strive to ensure that you can maximize this benefit. After all, this is free money and immediately adds to your investment performance before even entering into your investments.
Personal finance is just that – personal. Your specific set of facts will often be unique to you. You may be saving for a home, providing funds for children’s education, reviewing debt consolidation, have unusual medical expenses or any other set of unique circumstances.
What Should You Be Considering?
What are your long-term goals?
Do you have shorter term goals that need to be coordinated with long term goals?
Have you reviewed your 401(k) plans’ “Summary Plan Document” to make sure you are maximizing your benefit?
Do you understand your risk tolerance and if you are married, does your spouse have a similar or different risk tolerance?
Do you understand the investments in your retirement account?
Is someone offering to review these investments with you at least annually?
Too often, retirement plan education is full of industry jargon and difficult to understand. If you have a great understanding of the above questions, you are ahead of the game and probably have a good start to head in the right direction for your retirement planning. If not, consider consulting a Certified Financial Planner ® who can best provide you with important information to steer you in the right direction.
Remember, it’s your future!
We all look forward to getting away from it all. Summer means trips and family time – but don’t forget to take precautions at home and while you’re away to secure physical and digital devices.
Back up all devices either to local storage or cloud services protected by strong encryption. Use password security on all devices and specify a number of failed attempts before lockout.
Don’t post details of your adventure while you’re away – it’s so exciting to share with everyone, but wait until your adventure is over before sharing.
Stolen wallets are a traveler’s nightmare. Minimize potential dangers by carrying only essential items. Invest in a money belt or pouch that can be concealed under clothing.
Take photos of all important documents like credit cards and passports and store them in an encrypted format such as a cloud service. This will give you access to basic forms of identity in the event of theft.
Laptops are vulnerable to theft – consider if you really need to bring one. If you do, it’s best not to have information stored on the device that could be stolen (personal financial info, etc.)
Public Wi-Fi – be careful!
- Be sure your firewall is active and up to date
- Don’t use banking and shopping sights
- Email is the most important service to secure – criminals can use your email to reset passwords on other sites
- For an extra layer of security, CNet suggests subscribing to a public VPN service (it sets up a secure channel between you and sites you connect to, protecting data with strong encryption). Most plans are under $15 a month
Security shouldn’t stop the fun – consider it part of your vacation plan to really allow you to unwind!
Do you have a plan for Long Term Care?
As we age, or in the event of a medical event, we may need Long Term Care. Surprisingly, a large percentage of people have no plan for such an occurrence. Additionally, many people believe that health insurance or government programs such as Medicare will pay for these needs. Sadly, that is not the case. Lack of planning in this area can be a major financial burden for families. In addition, this lack of planning puts a heavy strain on community and social service programs that are not funded or designed for this purpose.
In 2017, I was appointed by Governor Hogan to a Task Force on Long Term Care. The purpose of the Task Force was to make recommendations for better education around Long Term Care. Unfortunately, many families are unware of what may lie ahead for their Long Term Care needs. Over 70% of all people will require some form of Long Term Care services in their lifetime. This may be very short-term care or care lasting the remainder of their lives. In order that families are better prepared for this, our task force was assigned to review education around the topic and to recommend ways to help people be more prepared.
It all starts with having a plan. While there are many components of an overall financial plan, this blog focuses on planning for Long Term Care. So, what’s in a plan?
This article by Kiplinger “Why Families Need a Plan for Caregiving” discusses some considerations faced when planning for Long Term Care.
First, should you need any kind of care, where do you want to receive that care? The answer is not the same for everyone, but many people would prefer to receive care in their homes initially.
Questions to consider:
Next, it is important to review what financial resources will be available for Long Term Care.
We recommend beginning planning early. This will give you the most time to begin saving ahead of time, to review insurance costs and eligibility and to have ongoing discussions with family members. Whether you need Long Term Care or how much Long Term Care you need will vary greatly from person to person. In this case, averages don’t always serve you best. If you are the person who needs full time Long Term Care, you will be grateful if you have a plan in place.
This post provided by Howard Tech Advsors
Have you ever signed up or logged in to an app and bypassed creating a new account by using your Facebook account? Most likely, you were in such a rush to create an account with this third party app that you just kept clicking “Ok” and “Next” through the instructions. When you use your Facebook account to sign up for another app, you are giving that app access to the information in your Facebook account. This can include your friends, your location, your work, your photos, your groups, your birthday, and even your contact information.
If you haven’t reviewed these apps, now is as good a time as ever to look at what apps can access this information.
HOW TO LOOK AT YOUR THIRD PARTY APPS
Once in Facebook, click on the down arrow next to the question mark in the upper righthand corner. Then, click on Settings. In the left, you will see towards the bottom of the list, “Apps.” When you click on “Apps,” you’ll see all of the apps you have permitted access to your Facebook account. By default, “your name, profile picture, cover photo, gender, networks, username, and user id are always publicly available to both people and apps.” (Learn why here.) Some of the apps require this information. You can select what other information you give the apps access to, including your friends list, birthday, education history, hometown, and current city.
CHANGE WHO CAN SEE THE APPS YOU USE
At a minimum, you should edit your “App visibility” settings or who on Facebook can see which apps you use. This is important in protecting your identity, especially if some of your apps have confidential information. If you are searching for vacation rentals on AirBnB, you may not want the “Public” to know you are planning a 2-week vacation to backpack through Europe. You can tighten the security settings to “Only Me.” For apps such as Instagram, you want your friends to see your photos, so you can loosen the visibility settings to “Friends.”
DISCONNECT FROM ANY APPS YOU DON’T USE
This is the easiest and safest practice. If you aren’t using and don’t plan on using it in the near future, simply remove it. In the future, you may be prompted to create an account with the app. Maybe your perspective will differ from before and you’ll be intentional with your app selection.
BE (MORE) IN CONTROL OF YOUR PRIVACY
Nobody really knows where your information goes once you click, “Like,” or connect. Even if you read through the many, many, many pages of every security policy from every app, tool, website, and third party vendor, you still can’t be 100% certain your data isn’t spinning off in to some cosmic database for anyone and everyone to view. Take ownership of your privacy by being intentional with what accounts you create. Anything worth having (access to) takes time and shouldn’t be done hastily.
“What apps have your personal information?” posted by Howard Tech Advisors By: Michelle Pelszynski on March 22, 2018
Happy New Year! As we enter 2018, we are seeing another surge of identity fraud. Clients are receiving emails from their banks and other institutions that look real, but that are in fact “phishing” to commit fraud or identity theft.
The methods used by those committing fraud varies and is constantly changing. Many of these methods are quite advanced, requiring that we all stay vigilant in our efforts to avoid fraud. Here are some common things we recommend to all our clients to help avoid credit fraud;
1) Check your credit report several times per year and pay attention to any unusual activity or activity that you did not initiate.
2) If you receive a call from your bank or credit card company regarding anything about your accounts, pause, then tell them that you will call them back. Feel free to ask their name or department. Never call back on a number the caller provides. It may be a fraud. Look up the information yourself, either on the back of your card, the web or off one of your statements. Then call the main number you have on record to speak with someone at your bank or credit card company to confirm what the call is about. If the call is legitimate, they will know exactly what is needed and if it was not a legitimate call, then you have avoided an incidence of credit fraud.
3) Next, if you receive an alert from your bank or credit card company by email, never follow any of the links in the email - log into your bank separately on your own. These emails often look very legitimate and the average person might not be able to tell if they are a fraud or not. Once you log into your bank or other agencies’ web site, you will generally see the alerts are posted right there online. If it’s easier for you to call your bank, do that. Just mention to the person you speak with that you received an email and wanted to check on it by phone.
Our goal is for all to have a safe and wonderful 2018. If you have any questions about any of the above information or how Oxford Planning Group, LLC can help you be more secure with your financial planning and investments, please contact us. If you would like a copy of our “Credit Report Agency Contact Info and Frequently Asked Question” just send us an email and we’ll be happy to provide you with that information. https://oxfordplannng.com/contact-us
At Oxford, we continually strive to provide the latest technology and tools to help provide the best financial planning and investment planning possible. Most of the time we do the planning and provide all of the reports. Occasionally, our clients ask if there is a simple way they can “play" with some of the calculations. This is where we can point everyone to the calculators on our website. These can be found under our "Resources" tab under "Calculators".
As a firm, we are here to serve our clients and to help them achieve their goals and to take the responsibility of managing these areas off of their plates. We feel this approach has been rewarding for both ourselves and our clients. For those times that you want to try “what if” scenarios yourself, these calculators can be helpful. On this screen you will find loan calculators, lease versus loan for a car, retirement plan calculators and much more. Enjoy. These tools can be helpful to brainstorm and experiment. You might also find these tools useful with children and grandchildren who are looking for ideas.
As always, we are here for you at any time and are always excited to run projections and help work through ideas. We also love to meet new family members, so please let them know that in addition to the tools, we are always happy to talk with them further.
So, what is "Focused on Your Tomorrows " about? Some of the greatest satisfaction I receive from being a financial planner is helping my clients free up their time to enjoy their daily lives. This includes helping them navigate financial decisions as they move toward retirement, grow and exit their businesses, help their children fund college and in helping their parents as they begin to need more help. Life is full of surprises and having Oxford Planning Group in their corner allows our clients to focus on what they enjoy most every day.
At Oxford, we make financial planning a focus and an ongoing process. A good financial plan should not sit on the shelf. We build your investment portfolio around your financial planning needs. We consider your time frames, risk tolerance and money values in building and monitoring the best investment portfolio to meet your goals. At Oxford Planning Group, we help to coordinate with your other professionals. These can include your accountant, your attorney, insurance agents and others that arise from time to time.
In short, we help to simplify the complicated, manage areas where our clients would prefer less involvement and help give back time to our clients so they can enjoy each day. So, who is "Focused on Your Tomorrows"?
That’s the number of people estimated to be affected by the recent Equifax data breach. With so much information, do you wonder which way to turn? The daily stories are alarming, lengthy and can be confusing. Sadly, government and businesses are moving as fast as possible to protect data, but criminals are often moving just as fast. To be safer, its best to be vigilant in protecting your data.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website www.ftc.gov is a very good resource for unbiased information. Considering a fraud alert or credit freeze is a question on most everyone’s mind. Which is best for you personally? The FTC post here : https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/fraud-alert-or-credit-freeze-which-right-you explains the differences and the steps needed to do both. As with all security measures, there are offsets between convenience and security (if it’s convenient, it’s usually not as secure!).
The truth is that there is no way to be 100% secure. Having said that, there are many things you can do to greatly decrease your chances of having your identification and cyber security breached.
Fraud attempts using malware are on the rise. These can include pop ups on your web browser and emails you receive. Fraudsters are creative and are constantly finding new ways to gain access to your information.
Some of the strongest defenses to detect and prevent fraud include:
· Regularly monitor Alerts and be aware of unusual activity, and especially transactions that appear suspicious.
· When contacting your credit card company, always call the number on the back of your credit card and never respond to numbers provided on your voice mail or other message system. This is a common method used by fraudsters to get you to call them and give your personal information.
· Avoid opening links and attachments, or downloading programs from unknown sources.
For example: LinkedIn sends periodic messages and notifications– never click the link - even if you are member. Close the message, open your browser and log in to that website.
· Refrain from using the public Wi-Fi available in hotels, restaurants, airports, coffee shops or libraries, especially to conduct business or logging into personal information such as banking.
· Keep your operating system up-to-date and run frequent virus scans (have them run automatically with the latest malware and anti-virus software).
· Use a firewall.
The best security means layers. The best security also means less convenience – there is a trade-off and you must find the right balance. But in the end, so worth it!
It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to Oxford Planning Group. The firm was founded by Shaun M. Eddy, CFP®, MSFA, AIF®, who has over 25 years of experience in financial planning and investment solutions. At Oxford Planning Group, we are "Focused on Your Tomorrows".
Planning needs change regularly - whether it’s a new job or business, a new-born or adopted child, a marriage or divorce or other new opportunities, Oxford is ready to handle the details. In a society that has become busier every year and has many things competing for our time, we at Oxford are aware that keeping track of personal and business financial issues becomes more challenging every day. We strive to give clients back some of the time they are currently spending in these areas and to help simplify and streamline much of their planning and investment needs.
Across many industries we are seeing rapidly advancing technologies desiged to reduce the costs associated with business transactions. At the grocery store you have automated check out machines, at banks you have ATM machines and in many businesses it’s nearly impossible to talk to a live person. At Oxford, we look first to the needs of our clients. Our services and processes are build around our clients needs first, and then we look for innovative solutions that enhance the quality of those services.