WH Cornerstone Newsletter
Wishing you a prosperous and happy new year December 2004

in this issue

Ramp Up Retirement Savings

Following the Dollar Decline

Deciding When to Collect Social Security

Purchasing the Right Business-Owner Policy

When You're Old Enough for Cash-Value Insurance

Revisiting Equity-Indexed Annuities

The Benefits Financial Planning


 

Ramp Up Retirement Savings

According to financial pundits, one of the most successful methods for accumulating wealth is to "pay yourself first." The trick is to invest a percentage of your income - about 10 to 15 percent - automatically, preferably before it reaches your hands.

Fortunately, many employees can participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan and contribute a percentage of their salary on a pre-tax basis. Workers who don't have access to an employer plan may be able to open an IRA or another type of investment or retirement account.

One way to ramp up your savings is by keeping up with increasing retirement plan contribution limits. Find your plan below and see how much more you will be eligible to save in 2005.

Perhaps the best line of defense is to keep your private information private - but not only from strangers. Ten percent of victims had personal information stolen by a friend or roommate, 11 percent by relatives, and 13 percent by employees of a business that had their information.

  • 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans: $14,000 ($18,000 for workers aged 50 and older)
  • SIMPLE:$10,000 ($12,000 for workers aged 50 and older)
  • Traditional and Roth IRAs: $4,000 ($4,500 for workers aged 50 and older)

Not sure you can afford to set aside any more of your salary? Remember that funds deposited in an employer-sponsored retirement plan are not subject to current income tax withholding, so the entire amount goes into the plan. By contrast, each dollar of take-home pay may represent anywhere from two- thirds to three-fourths of actual earnings, depending on an individual's tax situation.

The Case of IRAs - You can typically arrange for your bank to make automatic IRA contributions from your checking or savings account each month. IRA contributions may be deductible from annual taxable income. Adjusting your income tax withholding may help reduce the effect on your take-home pay.

To make progress toward your long-term retirement goals, consider taking advantage of higher retirement plan contribution limits, as well as supplementing your tax-deferred accounts with additional stock, bond, and cash-equivalent investments. Please call if you want to review your retirement savings strategy.

Read on...Retirement Savings


Greetings!

This is a busy time of year in all of our lives. It is especially busy in the financial planning and investment management world. It is not too late to take advantage of year end giving by setting up a Donor-Advised Fund. Give us a call and we can take care of that for you. Happy Holidays to each of you and your families.

Good news! Credit reports are available for free annually. You should get a copy of your credit report annually to ensure there are no errors. Contact the following companies: Equifax at www.equifax.com; Experian National Consumer Assistance at www.experian.com; TransUnion LLC at www.transunion.c om. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 went into effect December 1 with the Westerns states first and is rolling out across the country. However, if you live in Massachusetts, you are already allowed to check your report for free annually. If you need more information, give us a call.

Time to Share. Create a Buzz. The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston (A&BC/Boston) promotes the mutuality of arts and business partnerships, strengthening both sectors through advocacy and programs that serve the full diversity of individuals, organizations and communities. Their goal is to develop a thriving and vibrant cultural and business environment for Greater Boston. Click here or visit their website at www.artsandbusinesscouncil.org to learn more about the great work that A&BC/Boston does.


  • Following the Dollar Decline
  • Recent headlines have been in an uproar over the state of the dollar. The issue hit a crescendo in November when Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned that America must address issues related to the dollar's decline, such as the nation's trade and budget deficits.

    Even if you rarely travel abroad or exchange dollars for foreign currencies, don't be lured into thinking the strength of the dollar doesn't affect you. Stock and bond investors will want to pay close attention as Wall Street makes the dollar its latest obsession.

    Read on...
  • Deciding When to Collect Social Security
  • Social Security is the principal source of retirement income for about two-thirds of older Americans. Its importance to so many people may explain why deciding when to start collecting Social Security benefits can be difficult. Starting benefits at age 62, full ("normal") retirement age, or age 70 has different income consequences that will last throughout retirement.

    Now or Later? - Workers who have earned enough credits can begin collecting monthly Social Security benefits at age 62 - but they receive a reduced amount, currently about 75.8 percent of full benefits; eventually, this percentage will drop to 70 percent.

    Read on...
  • Purchasing the Right Business-Owner Policy
  • As winter approaches, the possibility of a customer slipping and falling on a business's property increases. With the average jury award exceeding $200,000 for individuals injured at a retail store, it's a good idea for owners to review their business-owner policy (BOP), particularly their liability coverage, to ensure that the policy has grown with the business.

    Generally, a BOP combines coverage in key business areas - property, liability, and business interruption. Property insurance covers damage or loss of items such as fixtures, equipment and machinery, office furniture, computers and accessories, and inventory and supplies.

    Read on...
  • When You're Old Enough for Cash-Value Insurance
  • There are an estimated 190 million individual life insurance policies in force in the United States, according to the most recent figures.

    Interestingly, sales of the two most common types of life insurance policies are almost dead even. In 2002, cash-value policies accounted for 51 percent of sales, and term policies accounted for 49 percent.

    Read on...
  • Revisiting Equity-Indexed Annuities
  • By the end of 2004, sales of equity-indexed annuities (EIAs) are expected to reach about $17 billion, up from $14 billion in 2003.

    Experts say the rise in EIA sales corresponds to the rise in the stock market. As stock prices improve, investors may want to participate in wealth-creation opportunities. EIAs may be just the type of risk- managed financial vehicle that many investors can use to round out their retirement plans.

    Read on...
  • The Benefits Financial Planning
  • Financial planning provides direction and meaning to your financial decisions. It allows you to understand how each financial decision you make affects other areas of your finances. For example, buying a particular investment product might help you pay off your mortgage faster or it might delay your retirement significantly. By viewing each financial decision as part of a whole, you can consider its short and long-term effects on your life goals. You can also adapt more easily to life changes and feel more secure that your goals are on track.

    To learn more ...
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