Suddenly Single? Transitioning to Single?

Widowed osingler divorcing? We can work with you to educate you on ALL aspects of your finances: planning, bill paying, budgeting, insurances and investing . We work with you and train you to handle the parts you’d like to master and help you decide what to delegate so you can be comfortably independent. A study of 140 advisors by Key Bank found that 82% reported “hardly any of their married female clients have a contingency plan in place to navigate the emotional and financial impacts of finding themselves on their own.” One of the biggest challenges is to have process to identify and conquer financial decisions that must be made immediately vs. those that can be postponed.

We do that! If you or a family member or friend are either transitioning to or has suddenly become single: call us at 781-535-6083.

5 Do’s and Don’ts That Can Help You Achieve Greater Financial Security

Financial Planning

Drawing on the findings of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study of more than 25,000 American adults, the FINRA Foundation has developed five tips to help consumers both manage their day-to-day financial challenges and build a brighter financial future.

Do Take Advantage of Tax Breaks When Saving for College and Retirement. If you have financially dependent children, try to save for college using tax-advantaged savings accounts such as a 529 plan or Coverdell Education Savings Account. The FINRA Foundation’s Study revealed that 41 percent of respondents with financially dependent children are setting aside money for their children’s college education.

While many Americans are not prepared for retirement, and only 58 percent of non-retired respondents have some kind of retirement account, workers should use tax advantaged savings accounts like 401(k)s to save money on taxes and boost their retirement security. Contributions to a traditional 401(k) are not subject to income tax withholding and are not included in your taxable wages—and earnings on Roth 401(k) contributions are tax-free. In 2017, you can contribute up to $18,000 to your 401(k)—and if you’re aged 50 or over, you can contribute an additional $6,000 for a total of $24,000 (see Annual Contribution Limits for most current limits). FINRA tools and resources help consumers save for college or retirement.

Do Your Best to Bust Your Debt. Two out of five Americans (40 percent) we surveyed felt that they have too much debt—regardless of their income. The best way to avoid an endless cycle of credit card debt is to try to pay your credit cards in full and on time. If you have racked up credit card debt, pay it off as quickly as possible. Even if you are unable to pay your whole monthly bill, always pay more than the minimum due, which will reduce the amount of interest you will pay. Millennials should take extra care when using credit cards. The FINRA Foundation’s Study found that 52 percent of Americans aged 18-34 reported engaging in expensive credit card behaviors—for example, they made a late payment or exceeded their credit limit—compared with the national average of 39 percent. FINRA Foundation resources can help you avoid the debt trap.

Don’t Chase Yield. Investors face a difficult investing environment, with low yields on fixed-income investments and an economy on the mend. Some investors may opt to “chase return,” meaning they put their assets into riskier and sometimes esoteric products that promise higher yields and returns than they can obtain in more traditional investments. Investors should realize that they could be taking on more risk if they invest in products with higher returns. FINRA helps investors make smarter investing decisions.

Don’t be Part of the 34%. We asked Americans if they would be able to come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose in the next month, and nearly two in five respondents (34 percent) said they probably or certainly could not. If your finances are unable to withstand an unexpected challenge (if the transmission in your car fails, for example, or a tree limb crashes through your roof) you are financially fragile. The best way to avoid being financially fragile is to build up rainy day savings in a federally insured savings account. Even if you have no savings at all, if you can set aside $40 every week in an account you otherwise do not touch, then by this time next year you will have saved over $2,000 and won’t be a part of the 34 percent.

Do Check Your Credit Report and Score. You need to do both. To obtain credit when needed and avoid identity theft, it is critical to verify whether your credit history is accurate and correct any discrepancies immediately. For your free credit report, call (877) 322-8228 or visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com. And while a majority of FINRA Foundation study respondents (60 percent) believe they have above average credit, it’s important to see whether self-assessment is in line with credit scores kept by credit bureaus and other sources. Learn more about how you can obtain your credit score and what helps and hurts your credit score.

Subscribe to FINRA’s The Alert Investor newsletter for more information about saving and investing.

Second Opinions

Maybe boston-financial-districtyou’ve thought about it but didn’t know where to go or what to ask. “Should I get a second opinion on my portfolio, my financial plan or anything related to my finances”? It can’t hurt to ask. Often our second opinion will confirm that you’re actually doing OK.  Sometimes an unbiased but trained eye will immediately see something that should be looked at or fixed.  Our second opinions have allowed us to help clients:

  • Plan first and invest second integrating their investments into their plans
  • Lower their investment costs
  • Turn a “collection of investments” acquired over time into an actual goals based investment strategy
  • Turn an investment strategy into a tax smart investment strategy
  • Position to achieve a potentially higher return for the same amount of risk
  • Position  to achieve a potentially the same return for a lower amount of risk
  • Diversify away from concentrated low cost basis positions to a more market like exposure
  • Achieve charitable contributions in a tax efficient way
  • Set up a distribution strategy for a confident retirement

If you’d like a second opinion- we do that!  Call us at 781-535-6083.

Did You Know That We Already Know Your 401k Plan?

Our Cocollaborationmpass Capital Trusted Financial Advisors have direct knowledge of and experience with the 401k/403(B) retirement plans of many of the area’s largest employers including :

 

  • Any hospital or educational institution who uses TIAA/CREF
  • IBM
  • GE
  • Verizon
  • Eversource
  • National Grid
  • EMC
  • Mitre Corp
  • Mass General/Partners
  • Massachusetts Teachers Pension & Retirement
  • Valuemark and more.

If you’d like help with your retirement plan selections or if you’re leaving the company we’d be happy to help with your planning and advising you about how to set up the proper distribution strategy. Call us at 781-535-6083.

Investor Alerts- Initial Coin Offerings: Know Before You Invest

From FINRA Investor Alerts Some startup companies are using initial coin offerings, also called ICOs or token sales, to raise capital. In an ICO, a company creates a new virtual coin or token that they offer for sale and disseminate to purchasers using blockchain technology, also called distributed ledger technology. Investors should be aware that ICOs differ significantly from initial public offerings (IPOs). Unlike stocks, ICOs typically confer no ownership rights in the company, and unlike bonds, ICOs do not involve investors lending money to the issuer. Instead, ICOs involve new technologies and products that are highly technical and complex, and investors can lose some or all of the money they invest in an ICO.

Depending on the facts and circumstances of each individual ICO, the virtual coins or tokens that are offered or sold may be securities. As a new Investor Bulletin from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) notes, if the tokens in an ICO are securities, the offer and sale of these virtual coins or tokens are subject to the federal securities laws.

FINRA is issuing this alert to inform investors about the potential risks of participating in ICOs.

What is an ICO?

An ICO invOnly-Invest-What-You-Can-Afford-To-Loseolves the creation of a new virtual coin or token by a company looking to raise money. In general, the company announces a specified amount of funds that it wants to raise, and the fundraising continues until that amount is reached. ICOs are conducted online, and purchasers use fiat currency, like the U.S. dollar, or virtual currencies, like bitcoin and ether, to pay for the new tokens.

To date, companies using ICOs as a capital-raising method have generally been startups that use blockchain technology as part of their business model to provide a particular service or product. These companies disseminate the new ICO tokens to buyers via blockchain. Blockchain technology involves a distributed database maintained over a network of computers connected on a peer-to-peer basis. The network participants can share and retain identical, cryptographically secured records in a decentralized manner—meaning there is no centralized server or intermediary. The blockchain technology used for the tokens in ICOs is similar to the bitcoin network, which creates and tracks transactions in the virtual currency, bitcoin.

Companies that issue ICOs typically promote the offering through their own websites and through various online blockchain and virtual currency forums. Potential purchasers in an ICO may not receive a prospectus; instead, companies often publish a white paper describing the ICO.

According to the SEC’s Bulletin, some sellers of ICOs might lead buyers to believe that they can expect a return on their investment or otherwise be able to participate in a share of the returns provided by the project. Buyers also might be told that there will be an opportunity to sell the tokens on a secondary market or an online virtual currency exchange, although such secondary market liquidation venues are not guaranteed.

Before You Invest in an ICO

Here are six questions to ask before you invest in an ICO.

1. Is the ICO a securities offering? This is important. As the SEC notes in its Investor Bulletin, if the offer and sale of tokens or coins in an ICO constitutes a securities offering, then the federal securities laws apply. This means the ICO (the offer and sale of the tokens) must be registered with the SEC or meet an exemption from registration. Offerings that are performed under an exemption from registration typically require investors to meet certain income or net worth thresholds to be eligible to invest. For example, exempted offerings often are limited to accredited investors, those with a net worth in excess of $1 million or that maintain certain levels of income. Here are a few tips:

  • Verify whether a company has registered an ICO (or any offering of securities) with the SEC by searching the SEC’s Edgar system.
  • If the ICO is not registered, it is likely only available to accredited investors, and most retail investors do not meet this standard.
  • If the ICO is described as a crowdfunding investment opportunity, be aware, as the SEC notes, that the offering might not be operating in compliance with the requirements of Regulation Crowdfunding or with the federal securities laws generally.

2. Are the persons selling the investment registered financial professionals? Be sure to check the professional background of the individuals involved in the offering using BrokerCheck. If the tokens offered in an ICO are securities, then any investment professional offering to sell the tokens must maintain certain licenses and registrations under state and federal securities laws and FINRA rules.

3. What rights and benefits come with your ICO purchase? The rights and benefits of ICO tokens will vary depending on the offering. Thoroughly read and understand the terms and conditions of an ICO, as well as any white paper and the business plans offered by the company issuing tokens. It is important to know what you are receiving in exchange for your investment, including what rights and benefits the tokens may confer upon you. Tokens in an ICO might not represent an ownership stake in a company, so token holders may not have any voting rights or influence on a company, its governance and how funds are used. In addition, ICO purchases may be subject to liquidity issues as it is possible there will not be a market to sell or exchange your ICO tokens.

4. How can you get your money back? Information provided to investors about ICOs should clearly state how you can get your money back. Ask the company if you can cash in tokens for a refund, whether you are permitted to resell your tokens in a secondary market and what if any restrictions apply to any resale. Secondary markets for ICOs offering tokens that are securities must generally register as a national securities exchange or operate pursuant to an exemption from such registration. Also, as noted above, be aware that a secondary market may not exist for tokens purchased in an ICO.

5. What does the company do and what is it offering? ICOs involve highly technical and complex concepts. You should be able to read and understand any information provided to you by an ICO issuer or those promoting the offering, including how the company plans to use the funds raised in an ICO, plain English explanations of the technical details of the proposal, and a development roadmap with specific goals and timelines for the proposal. To date, most ICOs are being offered by startup businesses that have not rolled out a final product or platform to the market. This means that the information available to you at the time of an ICO may be incomplete, subject to change and, in any event, difficult to verify. The limited information that is shared may make it difficult to conduct adequate due diligence needed to make an informed investment decision prior to investing.

6. Are there protections in place to guard against hacking and other cybersecurity threats? As noted by the SEC in its Bulletin, virtual currency exchanges, virtual currency wallets and the platforms used by companies issuing ICOs may be susceptible to possible protocol breakdowns, hacking, malware and fraud. Be sure to inquire about steps these companies have taken to protect their platform and products from these threats.

Be Alert to the Warning Signs of Fraud

Investing in an ICO may seem like an exciting way to be a part of the virtual currency and blockchain startup markets, but use caution when you consider these investments. New technologies and topics that are the subject of media buzz are often used by fraudsters as an opportunity to dupe investors.

To stay on guard and avoid becoming drawn into a scam, look for the warning signs of investment fraud. For example, be suspect of anyone who makes guarantees that an investment will perform a certain way or makes pushy sales pitches that encourage you to “act now” or miss out. All investments have risks and no reputable investment professional should push you to make an immediate decision about an investment. Legitimate professionals should be able to explain the investment, including what it is, what the risks are and how the investment can make or lose money.

In addition, as noted by the SEC in its Investor Bulletin, be aware that if the tokens you purchase in an ICO are stolen or otherwise compromised, you may not be able to easily recover your investment. Other vendors helping to facilitate the ICO, such as third-party digital wallet providers (services that store digital tokens for customers online), payment processors and virtual currency exchanges, also may have access to the tokens, virtual currencies and fiat currencies involved in the ICO, and may be fraudulent, located overseas or operating unlawfully.

If you have concerns about ICOs, or suspect a scam related to ICOs or virtual currencies, you can contact the SEC, file a complaint using FINRA’s online Complaint Center or send a tip to FINRA’s Office of the Whistleblower.

Additional Resources

SEC Investor Bulletin: Initial Coin Offerings

SEC Investor Alert: Public Companies Making ICO-Related Claims

SEC Investor Alert: Bitcoin and Other Virtual Currency-Related Investments

FINRA Investor Alert: Bitcoin: More Than a Bit Risky

FINRA: The Alert Investor: Bitcoin Basics—9 Things You Should Know About the Virtual Currency