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In the past year, I have had two companies notify me that my or my wife's personal data was compromised in a security breach. As a consolation, they both offered two years of identity theft protection and monitoring. At this rate, I will be able to have identity theft protection for free for the rest of my life. The reality is that more and more companies are being hacked and private data is going to be exposed. Unless you live your entire life without doing business with anybody – banks, insurance companies, internet providers, or even hospitals – you simply cannot ensure that your personal information is totally secure.

What you can do, however, is take steps to make your information less vulnerable. When security consultant Mark Burnett compiled a list of the 10,000 most common passwords from data dumped on the internet by hackers, he found the most common password... was "password". The second most common password? 123456. For somebody that wants to break into your account, using any of these common passwords might slow them down long enough to grab a snack before they start buying cases of Doritos and 90" TVs under your name. The problem with passwords is that the very thing that makes them safe – that they are completely random and contain multiple types of characters – also makes them useless. Who will be able to remember the multitude of passwords we are required to have (and NEVER repeat!) if they all look like somebody sat on a keyboard and rolled around for a second? Fortunately, most websites recognize the problem and provide ways to make your accounts more secure.
Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:00

Capital Gains and Tax Efficiency

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Since this is the time of year for filing tax returns and paying Uncle Sam is on everyone’s mind, it is a good time to talk about capital gains on investments. Most people know that in taxable accounts when you sell a security for more than you paid for it, you pay tax on the increase. If you hold the investment for more than a year, it is considered a long term capital gain and you pay a lower tax rate than you would on ordinary income, either 15%, 20%, or zero depending on your adjusted gross income.

But what happens if you bought the security over time and not all at once, and then sell part of it? There are a few methods on how you can account for this, and some are more tax beneficial than others. In the past, you kept records of the cost basis and your tax preparer sorted it all out. But in 2011 the IRS started requiring brokerage firms to track cost basis. One consequence of this change is that decisions about which shares to sell need to be made when a security is sold, not at the time your tax return is prepared. It is important that whoever is making the sale of a security (your investment advisor, you, or your broker) understand this and have a strategy on how to sell different “lots” of a security.

Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00

Retirement Myths and Realities

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Retirement Myths and Realities

We all have some preconceived notions about what retirement will be like. But how do those notions compare with the reality of retirement? Here are four common retirement myths to consider.

1. My retirement won't last that long

The good news is that we're living longer lives. The bad news is that this generally translates into a longer period of time that you'll need your retirement income to last.

Monday, 02 December 2013 00:00

It's December. Do You Know Where Your Money Is?

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December and January are the perfect months to look back at what you earned, saved, and spent during the past year, as W-2s, account statements, and other year-end financial summaries roll in. So before Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow to predict when spring is coming, take some time to get your financial house in order.
Sunday, 25 August 2013 00:00

The New Retirement Age: 73

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Nyhart, the actuarial and employment benefits firm, is a nationally recognized consulting firm located here in Indianapolis. The firm recently made the national news when it published a study of more than 10,000 employee accounts to analyze the readiness of employees to retire by the age of 65.The study found that 81% of adults 18 or older will not be able to retire by age 65. In addition, employees above the age of 55 on average need to contribute more than 45% of income going forward in order to retire by age 65. The average employee relying on the 401(k) as a primary retirement vehicle will not be able to retire until 73 years of age. For this report, Nyhart assumed that the employee would need to replace 70% of the final years' income over their expected life time.

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