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Mary's Money Minute Newsletters

May 2019


Mergers & Acquisitions: What's in the Deal for Investors?: Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in North America and Europe reached its second highest level on record in 2018. There were 19,501 deals worth $3.6 trillion — a 6.3% increase in deal volume over 2017. There was also a rise in mega deals exceeding $10 billion.

How Does the Federal Reserve Affect the Economy?: If you follow financial news, you've probably heard many references to "the Fed" along the lines of "the Fed held interest rates," or "market watchers are wondering what the Fed will do next." So what exactly is the Fed and what does it do?

How to Recover from a Mid-Life Financial Crisis: A financial crisis can be scary at any age, but this is especially true when you're in your 40s or 50s. Perhaps you're way behind on saving for retirement or have too much  debt from unnecessary spending. Or maybe an unexpected challenge, such as a job loss, illness, or break from the workforce for caregiving responsibilities, took a direct hit on your finances..

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April 2019


Five Things to Know Before Becoming a Landlord: Increased cash flow, property appreciation, and tax benefits are three major reasons why people want to own rental properties. But being a landlord takes time and money, so before you purchase an investment property or rent out your own home, make sure you understand what's involved.

Rules on Opening a 529 Plan Account for College: Year over year, participation in 529 plans continues to rise.1 Anyone can open an account, lifetime contribution limits are typically over $300,000, and there are tax benefits if the funds are used for college. Here are some common questions on opening an account.

Do I need to get a REAL ID when I renew my license?: Beginning October 1, 2020, residents of every state and territory will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license/identification card, or another acceptable form of identification (such as a passport), to access federal facilities, enter nuclear power plants, and board commercial aircraft. Although implementation has been slow, states have made progress in meeting the REAL ID Act's recommendations.

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March 2019


Due Date Approaches for 2018 Federal Income Tax Returns: Tax filing season is here again. If you haven't done so already, you'll want to start pulling things together — that includes getting your hands on a copy of last year's tax return and gathering W-2s, 1099s, and deduction records.

Quiz: How Much Have You Thought About Health and Health-Care Costs in Retirement?: When planning for retirement, it's important to consider a wide variety of factors. One of the most important is health and its associated costs. Thinking about your future health and the rising cost of health care can help you better plan for retirement in terms of both your finances and overall well-being. This quiz can help you assess your current knowledge of health and health-care costs in retirement.

What are some ways to prepare financially for severe weather??:  Floods, tornadoes, lightning, and hail are common spring events in many parts of the country and may result in widespread damage. Severe weather often strikes suddenly, so take measures now to protect yourself and your property.

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February 2019


Hidden Gem: HSAs in Retirement: When saving for retirement, you're probably aware of the benefits of using tax-preferred accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs. But you may not be aware of another type of tax-preferred account that may prove very useful, not only during your working years but also in retirement: the health savings account (HSA).

Tax Scams to Watch Out For: While tax scams are especially prevalent during tax season, they can take place any time during the year. As a result, it's in your best interest to always be vigilant so you don't end up
becoming the victim of a fraudulent tax scheme. Read on for some of the more common scams to watch out for.

Know Your Mutual Funds? Mutual funds offer a convenient way to participate in a broad range of market activity that would be difficult for most investors to achieve by purchasing individual securities. With almost 8,000 funds available on the U.S. market, you should be able to find appropriate investments to pursue your goals.2 However, it's important to periodically examine the mix of funds you hold.

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January 2019


Famous People Who Failed to Plan Properly: It's almost impossible to overstate the importance of taking the time to plan your estate. Nevertheless, it's surprising how many American adults haven't done so. You might think that those who are rich and famous would be way ahead of the curve when it comes to planning their estates properly, considering the resources and lawyers presumably available to them. Yet there are plenty of celebrities and people of note who died with inadequate (or nonexistent) estate plans.

Key Retirement and Tax Numbers for 2019: Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces cost-of-living adjustments that affect contribution limits for retirement plans, thresholds for deductions and credits, and standard deduction and personal exemption amounts. Here are a few of the key adjustments for 2019.

Four Tips for Planning a Career Change: Changing careers can be rewarding for many reasons, but career transitions don't always go smoothly. Your career shift may take longer than expected, or you may find yourself temporarily out of work if you need to go back to school or can't immediately find a job. Consider these four tips to help make the financial impact of the transition easier.

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December 2018


Questions to ask before buying that thing you've always wanted:  Even if you're generally comfortable with your finances, you may occasionally worry about how much you're spending, especially if you consistently have trouble saving for shorter long-term goals. Here are a few questions to ask that might help you decide whether a purchase is really worth it.

Baby Boomer RMD's: In 2016, the first wave of baby boomers turned 70½, and many more reach that milestone in 2017 and 2018. What's so special about 70½? That's the age when you must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from tax-deferred retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, SARSEPs, and 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b) plans. 

I still have money left in my FSA that I have to use by December 31st. How should I spend it?:  Health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are a great way for individuals to pay qualified medical and dental expenses using pre-tax dollars. If you find that you still have money left over in your FSA as the end of the year approaches, there are a number of ways to spend down your account balance.

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November 2018


What You Can Do with a Will: A will is often the cornerstone of an estate plan. Here are five things you can do with a will.

Does Your Business Need a Buy-Sell Agreement? When you're mired deep in the day-to-day challenges of the management of your business, it's often hard to step out of the trees and take a good hard look at the forest. But at various points in the business cycle, it's important to do just that. 

Ten Year-End Tax Tips for 2017: Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year.

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October 2018


What to Do If Your Term Life Insurance Policy Is About to Expire: One advantage of term life insurance is that it is generally the most cost-effective way to achieve the maximum life insurance protection you can afford. Many people first purchase term life insurance to protect their family's financial interests after a significant life event, such as getting married or the birth of a child.

Do You Plan to Work in Retirement: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37% of men and 28% of women between ages of 65-69 were still in the workforce in 2017. In addition, 17% of men and 10% of women age 70 and older were still working.

Take Charge of Your Student Debt Repayment Plan?: Outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled over the last decade, surpassing both auto and credit card debt to take second place behind housing debt as the most common type of household debt. Today, more than 44 million Americans collectively owe more than $1.4 trillion in student debt. Here are some strategies to pay it off.

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September 2018


What to Do If Your Term Life Insurance Policy Is About to Expire: One advantage of term life insurance is that it is generally the most cost-effective way to achieve the maximum life insurance protection you can afford. Many people first purchase term life insurance to protect their family's financial interests after a significant life event, such as getting married or the birth of a child.

Take Charge of Your Student Debt Repayment Plan: Outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled over the last decade, surpassing both auto and credit card debt to take second place behind housing debt as the most common type of household debt.1 Today, more than 44 million Americans collectively owe more than $1.4 trillion in student debt.2 Here are some strategies to pay it off.

What are the new rules for the 401(k) hardship withdrawals?: The Bipartisan Budget Act passed in early 2018 relaxed some of the rules governing hardship withdrawals from 401(k)s and similar plans. Not all plans offer hardship withdrawals, but the ones that do will be required to comply for plan years beginning in 2019.

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August 2018


Have You Made Any of These Financial Mistakes?: As people move through different stages of life, there are new financial opportunities — and potential pitfalls — around every corner. Have you made any of these mistakes?

Tax Benefits of Homeownership After Tax Reform: Buying a home can be a major expenditure. Fortunately, federal tax benefits are still available, even after recent tax reform legislation, to help make homeownership more affordable. There may also be tax benefits under state law.

Building Confidence in Your Strategy for Retirement: Each year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) conducts its Retirement Confidence Survey to assess both worker and retiree confidence in financial aspects of retirement. In 2018, as in years past, retirees expressed a higher level of confidence than today's workers (perhaps because "retirement" is less of an abstract concept to those actually living it). However, worker confidence seems to be on the rise, while retiree confidence is on the decline. A deeper dive into the research reveals lessons and tips that can help you build your own retirement planning confidence.

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July 2018


Quiz: Financial Facts That Might Surprise You: If you have a penchant for financial trivia, put your knowledge to the test by taking this short quiz. Perhaps some of the answers to these questions will surprise you.

Going Public: An IPO's Market Debut May Not Live Up to the Hype: An initial public offering (IPO) is the first public sale of stock by a private company. Companies tend to schedule IPOs when investors are feeling good about their financial prospects and are more inclined to take on the risk associated with a new venture.

What is the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit: Tax deductions and credits are terms often used together when talking about taxes. While you probably know that they can lower your tax liability, you might wonder about the difference between the two.

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June 2018


Mid-Year Planning: Tax Changes to Factor In: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December of last year, fundamentally changes the federal tax landscape for both individuals and businesses. Many of the provisions in the legislation are permanent, others (including most of the tax cuts that apply to individuals) expire at the end of 2025. Here are some of the significant changes you should factor in to any mid-year tax planning.

Investing to Save Time Boosts Happiness Returns: The more money you make, the more valuable you perceive your time to be — and the more time-strapped you may feel, according to University of British Columbia psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn.1 So wouldn't it stand to reason that if you use some of your hard-earned money to buy yourself more time — for example, by paying someone to clean your house or mow your lawn — you might achieve a greater level of happiness?

Marriage and Money: Taking a Team Approach to Retirement:  Now that it's fairly common for families to have two wage earners, many husbands and wives are accumulating assets in separate employer-sponsored retirement accounts. In 2018, the maximum employee contribution to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan is $18,500 ($24,500 for those age 50 and older), and employers often match contributions up to a set percentage of salary.

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