Tag Archives: Investment Planning




Verify your Social Security Benefits!

Friday, February 20, 2015

When preparing retirement plans for clients, confirming the accuracy of Social Security data and estimating Social Security retirement revenue is very important.  As a process, we ask to review clients’ benefit statements to make sure that their income, taxes and benefits are reported accurately. If your income or taxes are incorrect in your report, it could be a sign that your employer is miscalculating your income, or worse, not remitting your withheld FICA taxes.  If the amount reported by Social Security is greater than your actual wages, it may be a sign that your identity has been stolen and someone is using your Social Security number.  Both problems can cost you benefits, time and legal fees.  To help clients monitor their benefits, we help them register for online statements at www.socialsecurity.gov. Verifying the accuracy of clients’ Social Security information throughout their working career is valuable for clients of all ages because if there are inaccuracies, we must correct them while data remains available from their employers.

 

Verify Your Benefits

Verify Your Benefits

When reviewing your information and benefits, remember that Social Security uses your highest 35 years of income, limits the amount of earnings subject to taxation each year, and uses the same limit when calculating your benefits. Note that the contribution base fluctuates. For example, the contribution and benefit base was $117,000 in 2014 and increased to $118,500 in 2015.

 

Once the accuracy of your information at Social Security and your benefits are confirmed, we work through the complex rules and regulations to help clients create a strategy to maximize their lifetime benefits.  Based on 29 years of planning experience, there are no rules of thumb to use use when making benefit elections.  The specific ages and income histories of spouses, both living and deceased, life expectancy and other assumptions will result in strategy options that are specific to each client.  Due to the complexities of the calculations, we use software designed specifically to analyze and compare their different life long results.

 

Plan wisely, verify the accuracy of your information, consider all options before making your Social Security benefit elections, and lastly, make sure you incorporate Social Security into your retirement plan, regardless of your age.

 

Your goals and dreams change. Financial products do not. Clients work with us because we don’t sell products – we create customized plans based on each client’s unique goals, and we continuously reevaluate client plans to ensure they are aligned with changing needs. Our clients rely on us to protect their futures, and we take their trust to heart.

 

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFP TM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We deliver proactive, objective advice, plans and solutions enabling our clients to reach their unique family goals “.

 

Keith Wolak, CPA is a partner at Hoeppner Wagner & Evans. Keith is a Board Certified Indiana Trust and Estate Lawyer, as certified by Trust and Estate Specialty Board. Hoeppner Wagner & Evans LLP is a law firm with offices in Merrillville and Valparaiso. Visit our website www.hwelaw.com for more information. DISCLAIMER: This publication is not intended to be legal advice but is presented for informational and educational purposes only. The facts and circumstances of a specific legal issue are unique and you should seek legal advice for your specific questions or concerns. No attorney-client relationship is created.

 

Beware of your Good Deeds

Thursday, October 2, 2014

We encourage our clients to involve their children and grandchildren in charitable giving because it creates stronger family connections and teaches the next generation valuable lessons about money and responsibility.  Charitable activities create tremendous good for families and charities; however, contributors need to be aware of the risks to families and their wealth if giving is not carefully planned.  To protect the families we work with, we offer proven processes that ensure that philanthropic work is done in compliance with the IRS and other regulators.

 

A few years ago, a client considered joining a local charity board that addresses a very important need in our community.   Unfortunately, we discovered through due diligence that the non-profit organization had poor financial management and lax board oversight, so my client declined the invitation.  Later that year, the non-profit failed, and because government funds were involved, board members were scrutinized by the regulators and the community.  Good intentions inadvertently created risk to those involved financially, and generous givers found that their reputations were impacted.

 

Please also be aware that you may be at risk if you or your family members are volunteer board members for a Non-Profit Entity with employees. The good news is that Congress recognizes your generous deeds, and does not want to punish you if the Non-Profit has unremitted payroll taxes.  IRC §6672(e) states that a “volunteer” should not be held personally liable for unpaid employment taxes where he or she is serving in an honorary capacity, does not participate in the day-to-day or financial operations, and does not have actual knowledge that the taxes are not paid.   The IRS does not hold volunteers to the “should have known” standard it applies to employees. The bad news is that the Justice Department and the Courts have taken a very restrictive reading of this statute.   If you are a check signer, even infrequently, or approve financial reports, expect to be treated harshly outside the protection of this statute.  If you discover that your organization has not paid its withholding taxes you should (1) resign your office immediately in writing (2) refuse to sign any check or approve any action (3) report the entity to the IRS in writing.

 

You and your family members need to research your chosen charities before you take on a leadership role. Investigative processes will help ensure that you are better stewards of your family wealth.

Wealth Management, Estate Planning, HighTower Advisors, Tim Scannell

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFP TM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We deliver proactive, objective advice, plans and solutions enabling our clients to reach their unique family goals “.

 

Keith Wolak, CPA is a partner at Hoeppner Wagner & Evans.  Keith is a Board Certified Indiana Trust and Estate Lawyer, as certified by Trust and Estate Specialty Board. Hoeppner Wagner & Evans LLP is a law firm with offices in Merrillville and Valparaiso.  Visit our website www.hwelaw.com for more information.  DISCLAIMER:  This publication is not intended to be legal advice but is presented for informational and educational purposes only.  The facts and circumstances of a specific legal issue are unique and you should seek legal advice for your specific questions or concerns.  No attorney-client relationship is created.

The Power Of Fishing

Monday, June 17, 2013

During a recent estate planning meeting with a business owner client, we spent most of our time reviewing the complex estate and tax planning techniques we had implemented.  Over the past two years, we worked hard to make sure their family’s wealth would eventually benefit their children, grandchildren, future generations and favorite charities.  As I completed the technical portion of the review, we shifted the conversation to what is an important part of the planning process that most people don’t consider.

 

Most clients I work with want to know how they can help their beneficiaries respect money and use it for good and ask how to protect future generations from being harmed by the wealth they will receive. Families ask how they can pass their experiences, knowledge and core beliefs to future generations and selected charities in a way that creates a lasting legacy.  To accomplish that goal, there needs to be processes in place to help clients and their ultimate beneficiaries better understand each other.  With the complexities that families come with, this is a challenge but exciting when it works.

 

One tool we recently added to client processes was created by Dan Gediman, Founder and Executive Director of This I Believe (TIB), an organization that “collects and shares core personal philosophies of people from all walks of life”.  As is best said on their web site “By asking individuals to write and share their personal philosophies, This I Believe hopes to encourage people to express the core principles that guide their daily lives, and to develop acceptance of—and even respect for—beliefs different from one’s own”.

 

We use many of the TIB tools to help bridge the knowledge and understanding gap between the family members that accumulated wealth and those that are to inherit it. Would understanding what your children and grand children believe help you when deciding how and when you want to transfer your business, real estate, or other assets to them?  Would understanding your core beliefs and hearing your stories of the struggles you went through to build your wealth give your beneficiaries more respect for that wealth?  My 28 years of experience managing wealth for clients tells me the answer to both questions is a resounding yes.

 

As a passionate fisherman, I loved reading the TIB essay The Power of Fishing submitted by Johnnie Barmore. As you listen to Johnnie read her essay, think how great it would be to know that personal information about your family when planning your estate. When I listen to the essay, I want to go fishing :)

Wealth Management, Fly Fishing, Entrepreneurship, Investment Planning, Estate Planning, Tim Scannell, Valparaiso, Hightower Advisors

I Love fishing in Canada!

Write and share your This I Believe essay and encourage your family to do the same because understanding each others core principals will help families successfully transfer wealth.  Sharing your core beliefs will help your heirs catch the personal, professional, financial or other trophy fish they are after.  More importantly, they will have control over how they catch it, choosing the rivers and streams or oceans they fish in.

 

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFPTM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We strive to deliver transparent, proactive, independent, and comprehensive planning and communications to the families we work for”.

 

Scannell Wealth Management is a team of investment professionals registered with HighTower Securities, LLC, member FINRA, MSRB and SIPC & HighTower Advisors, LLC a registered investment advisor with the SEC. All securities are offered through HighTower Securities, LLC and advisory services are offered through HighTower Advisors, LLC.

 

HighTower Advisors LLC, its affiliates and HighTower Advisor’s Financial Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice.  You need to consult your legal and tax professional when making any investment.  

Should we accept the way the ball bounces?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This week I read The Icarus Deception, a great book by Seth Godin. In the book, Godin argues that there are a number of “rules” passed on to us by society that aren’t necessarily good guides as we navigate our rapidly changing world.  They might also be harmful tools to share with the next generation as they compete in this global information economy.  As I read the book, I thought about words of wisdom that my parents passed to me like “better safe than sorry” or “good things come to those that wait”. While some big fish might swim to your boat and take your lure, is that the best strategy?

Most of what I know about fishing and hunting I’ve learned from my great friend Buzz.  When fishing with Buzz in Canada, I’ve watched him change lures and cast a dozen times before I get my first lure in the water.  He has a great deal of patience, but he would never wait for good things to happen to him. He has a vision of what he wants to catch and will not wait for a fish to come by his line. Buzz will actively change strategies to find and catch his trophy fish.  You have to be quick to keep up with him, but if you are, you will typically be where the fish are. While it is possible that he misses trophy fish by changing lures or moving to different locations too quickly, my experience with Buzz tells me his proactive style creates success on the water, and his fishing journey are certainly more exciting than others’.

Twenty-seven years of planning for clients’ wealth has taught me that good things don’t necessarily come to those who wait to properly plan.  Clients’ needs and goals change from year to year as they pass through different stages of life.  Plans originated at the start of your career cannot possibly address all the issues you face as you look to retire.  New laws that impact your goals are added and changed every year, so plans need to be updated as laws, tax rules and financial markets change.  I have witnessed the struggles family members face because parents waited too long to make their plans that would help their family get prepared to inherit wealth. Moreover, if you aren’t adjusting your income and estate tax plan to respond to IRS rule changes, you will unnecessarily transfer wealth from your family to the IRS.

As I look at the cartoon below, I think about the risks in following someone else’s path, having no path at all or waiting for luck to come your way  Should you just keep your nose to the grindstone and accept the way the ball bounces?  I don’t think so.  To catch the personal, professional, financial or other trophy fish you are going after, don’t wait for good things to happen.  Proactively step out of your comfort zone to prepare and implement a plan to catch your dream fish.  A plan will give you more control over how you catch it and the rivers and streams or oceans you fish in.

Wealth Management, Fly Fishing, Entrepreneurship, Investment Planning, Estate Planning, Tim Scannell, Valparaiso, Hightower Advisors!

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFPTM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We strive to deliver transparent, proactive, independent, and comprehensive planning and communications to the families we work for”.

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Good friends test your comfort zone

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I’m more of a fisherman than a skier, so last week when I found myself on the ski slopes at the top of Mt Werner in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I was a bit nervous. I had been skiing all day and felt pretty confident on the nice, easy green slopes like “Sundial”, but when my good friends Beth and Buzz steered me left off my usual chair lift instead of right, I found myself on a much tougher, blue run. As the picture below highlights, my choices were all challenging blue or black diamond runs. My friends assured me I could handle “High Noon” because I’d skied slopes as difficult before, and they believed it would make the day more memorable for me. I certainly wasn’t facing the same danger Gary Cooper found at High Noon, but like Grace Kelly who got off the train to help Marshal Kane, my friends were by my side.  I trusted that my friends had my best interests in mind, so I pushed over the top. They were right. It was invigorating, thrilling, and rewarding!  I completed the run and repeated the track two more times.  I wouldn’t have tried it by myself and am glad my friends pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.  I wasn’t crazy enough to try the black diamond “Three O’Clock” run though! Maybe next year!

Deciding to take the uncomfortable path that day reminded me of a financial plan I recently designed and implemented with two clients. No, I didn’t push them over a steep cliff! I helped them step out of their comfort zone, so they could implement strategies to pursue their goals.  I met with a couple who is four years from retirement and has accumulated an IRA large enough to provide them today with retirement security for life. They reached financial independence because they have been disciplined 401k savers, spend conservatively and because we had successfully managed their portfolio through two decades of volatile markets.  As I updated their plan to account for recent changes in tax laws, market volatility, interest rates and their revised goals, I recommended that they dramatically change the plan that had made them successful.  I asked them to stop contributing to their 401k “growth” focused plan and instead pay more taxes now and accumulate an after-tax portfolio of tax-free bonds.   To say that the couple was skeptical and uncomfortable is an understatement.  I was moving them into a strategy that I believed was in their best interests, but one they were initially uncomfortable with.  Like my good friends did for me, I pushed my clients out of their comfort zone because that is what good advisors do.

My clients are a mix of different ages, occupations, income levels, family circumstances, and fluid conditions.   Twenty-seven years of planning for clients has taught me that their plans need to change in response to evolving life circumstances, and often that change is hard for people to accept. If their “easier” current course doesn’t lead them on a path to reaching their goals, then it’s my job to push clients toward that harder ski slope.

To catch the personal, professional, financial or other trophy fish are you going after, be open to stepping out of your comfort zone as you prepare and implement plans to catch your dream fish.  You will have more control over how you catch them and in which rivers and streams or oceans you fish in.

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFPTM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We strive to deliver transparent, proactive, independent, and comprehensive planning and communications to the families we work for”.

Wealth Management, Fly Fishing, Entrepreneurship, Investment Planning, Estate Planning, Tim Scannell, Valparaiso, Hightower Advisors

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Make your own luck!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

As I walked up Barnes Creek from its entrance into Crescent Lake, I didn’t see many places where fish could survive, and I wasn’t having success finding the elusive Crescenti Trout. I had caught only two small fish earlier that morning in Crescent Lake, so I thought I’d fish the Creek. I’ve learned from other fishermen and from twenty-seven years of wealth planning for clients that if one strategy isn’t working, you have to be ready to adjust.

It was mid-October, the creek water levels were low, and there was little oxygen in the water. This left few places for fish to hide from predators. As my optimism about catching a fish slipped away, I focused on my incredibly beautiful surroundings. Barnes Creek runs through a rain forest-like setting full of luminous moss-covered trees. I was waiting for Treebeard from Lord of the Rings to point out where the fish were.

After walking for twenty minutes in the low water, I stopped to admire a bird as it dove behind a tree that had fallen across the Creek. As I gently crept across the fallen tree trunk, I saw a moving pool of water flowing under the tree that could possibly protect a fish from prey.  I changed my fly, shortened my cast, and after a dozen attempts, I set the fly in the water flow where it drifted under the tree. And bam! I got a hit! Lucky?  I don’t think so.

I made my luck that day by having the right equipment, being determined, staying alert, adjusting my strategy, and being willing to take a risk. I could have lost my fly in the surrounding bushes, but I made the cast anyway. Catching that teeny tiny fish (too small to show in a photograph) was thrilling, but the preparation and journey are what I truly appreciated and enjoyed.

I work with a client who recently sold his business that he had grown from simply a great idea to a very profitable enterprise. I watched as he invested an incredible amount of time and energy into creating a company that employs hundreds of people. He believed in his vision, and he risked his own personal time and treasure to implement his plan.  Outsiders might read about a business being sold and think the owner won the lottery. I see the little things that were painstakingly done daily, the hundreds of employees’ families that were provided for and the millions of lives improved by products he created from just an idea. When the opportunity to sell arose, he was prepared and made his own luck. Most importantly, the world is a better place because of him.

To catch the personal, professional, financial or other trophy fish are you going after, you need to invest time and resources to be prepared and ready to make your own luck when opportunities arise. Doing so will allow you to catch your dream fish. More importantly, you will have control over how you catch it, choosing the rivers and streams or oceans you fish in.

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFPTM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We strive to deliver transparent, proactive, independent, and comprehensive planning and communications to the families we work for”.

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Is Discipline Required?

Friday, November 16, 2012

A friend recently said to me, “I want to work for myself, but I don’t have the discipline.” Is it true? Do some people actually suffer from a lack of self-direction?  I am a recovering accountant with discipline and planning ingrained in my DNA, and I often take it for granted.  If you aren’t passionate about generating and completing to-do lists, are you destined to work for someone else?  I started thinking about the successful business owners I know, and I wondered why they have the “discipline” to succeed. Just what does discipline mean when it comes to owning a business? The entrepreneurs I know and work for are all very different.  Some follow the regiments of military marines while others have a hard time making scheduled meetings.   The common thread I see with extraordinary entrepreneurs is their ability to successfully build a team with varying talents and skills so that as a group, there is great focus and accountability.  A lack of discipline is not a good reason to not become an entrepreneur.  Find a partner or team of people who can help you with the mastery needed to reach your dreams.

Based on my twenty-six years of financial planning experience, contrary to what many think, you do not need to be disciplined to successfully achieve your financial goals. However, you must reach out for help and set up a plan that puts you on a managed path for success.  If you aren’t wired like a clock, you can still buy your dream home, reduce your debt, save for retirement and achieve many other financial goals.  Having helped literally thousands of people manage their 401k over my career, I concur with industry statistics showing that if people must be disciplined enough to sign up for and manage their own 401k account, 90% or more will never do it.  To help the 90%, we create a fully managed program that puts them on the path for a successful retirement.  When we are able to do this for employees, we get 70% to 95% on a path for successful retirement.  Just last week, I reported our managed approach results to a retirement plan client.  With the managed plan, 82% of the company’s 103 employees are on a successful path for retirement vs. only 32% before offering the managed plan.

Many people believe lack of discipline is the missing ingredient to succeed and as a result don’t try.  I can relate to that feeling when it comes to fly fishing.  I’ve read a number of fishing books and am never afraid to ask questions when I’m with true fishermen, the ones who have it in their DNA.  They know where to look and when to cast, what fly to use and when to change strategies.  I’m often not sure I have what it takes to succeed because I question whether I have the genetic composition to be a successful fisherman.  Should I no longer fish? Should I be banned from the great rivers, sidelined to watch as masters enjoy the fisherman’s life? I hope not! Having had success with guides and great fisherman but rarely able to catch a fish when I am alone, I am convinced that I’m the kind of fisherman that needs to travel with masters to catch my dream fish. I can go out on my own, but I will have more success and definitely more fun teaming up with master anglers I can learn from.  That’s not such a bad deal.

To catch the personal, professional, financial or other trophy fish are you going after, you don’t need to be disciplined if you can partner with people who are.  Together, you too can catch your dream fish. More importantly, you will have control over how you catch it, choosing the rivers and streams or oceans you fish in.

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFPTM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We strive to deliver transparent, proactive, independent, and comprehensive planning and communications to the families we work for”.

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It’s all about the Presentation

Monday, October 29, 2012

There is nothing like a perfect cast with a fly rod.  Your backcast is smooth as you feel the line tension, and you watch as the weighted line propels the fly exactly where you want it.  Of course, it also helps when your prize fish takes a bite!  I’m not the most talented fly fisherman, so that feeling doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.  When it does, I tend to look around for recognition.  Do I expect the fish to look up like Mr. Limpet and say, “Way to go Tim”? Not really, but when the cast is done right, it’s like the feeling I get after making a great golf shot or finishing a pain-free run.

A lot of time, planning and resources go into preparing for the perfect presentation of an artificial lure that makes a fish want to grasp it. Depending on the fish species you seek and where you are fishing, presentation decisions include fly rod weight, size and action; reel drag; line, leader and tippet size; and fly size and pattern.  When you get to the water, you have to be prepared and willing to adjust your plan, so you typically bring more tools than you will use.  Failure and wasted time are the costs of lack of preparation. You can’t be flexible if you don’t anticipate the need to adapt.  I paid the price in Canada last year as I watched Walleye feasting on mayflies, and I didn’t have the right lures to attract those fish.  It’s not fun!

I recently attended a presentation made by an aspiring entrepreneur.  He must not have understood the importance of fully preparing for his pitch to this group of accredited investors.  Confidence in his unique product created a fog that prevented him from seeing why we were there and what our goals were.  I’m guessing he didn’t spend any time in advance learning about his audience. He was casting what he thought we should want to hear, so he paid dearly by missing a great chance to obtain funding.  He needed to understand where he was fishing, know what fish he was looking for, and then present his product in a way that would attract the audience members to invest in his product.

I watched the documentary “The Fog of War” in which the former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said that he prepared roughly three hours for each one hour of presentations he was to make to Senate and Congress committees. That sounds about right to me.  Last week, I recorded 26 hours of planning and preparation time for 10 client meetings.  Before each client meeting, I review my history with the client and note their goals, strengths, obstacles and concerns.  I then prepare updates for their tax planning, estate, risk management, investment planning, retirement and business plans.  We help clients address complicated and fluid goals and concerns, so I must carefully prepare before each meeting, and I need to anticipate changes.

To catch the personal, professional, financial or other trophy fish are you seek, you need to invest time and resources to prepare for your presentations and make sure they are focused on the needs of your audience.  Doing so will allow you to catch your dream fish. More importantly, you will have control over how you catch it, choosing the rivers and streams or oceans you fish in.

Tim Scannell, CPA, CFPTM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We strive to deliver transparent, proactive, independent, and comprehensive planning and communications to the families we work for”.

HighTower Advisors LLC, its affiliates and HighTower Advisor’s Financial Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice.  You need to consult your legal and tax professional when making any investment.1253048-2010.10

 




Scannell Wealth Management Group is registered with HighTower Securities, LLC, member FINRA, MSRB and SIPC, and with HighTower Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor with the SEC. Securities are offered through HighTower Securities, LLC; advisory services are offered through HighTower Advisors, LLC.

This is not an offer to buy or sell securities. No investment process is free of risk, and there is no guarantee that the investment process or the investment opportunities referenced herein will be profitable. Past performance is not indicative of current or future performance and is not a guarantee. The investment opportunities referenced herein may not be suitable for all investors.

All data and information reference herein are from sources believed to be reliable. Any opinions, news, research, analyses, prices, or other information contained in this research is provided as general market commentary, it does not constitute investment advice. Scannell Wealth Management Group and HighTower shall not in any way be liable for claims, and make no expressed or implied representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of the data and other information, or for statements or errors contained in or omissions from the obtained data and information referenced herein. The data and information are provided as of the date referenced. Such data and information are subject to change without notice.

This document was created for informational purposes only; the opinions expressed are solely those of Scannell Wealth Management Group, and do not represent those of HighTower Advisors, LLC, or any of its affiliates.