WEBINAR IN REVIEW: SAFE, or Success After Financial Exploitation

Contributed by: Emily Moore Emily Moore

SAFE is a program created by Dr. Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., which is being run by LaToya Hall, MSW, of Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology.  SAFE was developed to educate seniors on how to protect themselves from fraud and scams, AND how to pick up the pieces after financial exploitation.

During our recent webinar with LaToya, we learned the basics about financial exploitation targeted to seniors: 

  1. What to look for.
  2. How to protect yourself and your loved ones.
  3. What you can do if you have ever been a victim.

The main goals of SAFE:

  1. Free education offered to seniors through presentations.
  2. Helping seniors take control of their financial health through an educational four-part financial series.
  3. Provide one-on-one services to older adults who have been a victim of scams, helping them to get back on their feet.

Key points to take away from the webinar are some common scams and what criminals specifically look for in targeting older adults. 

Criminals look for seniors because they tend to be more vulnerable. They look for people who are typically lonely and socially isolated. They’re also looking for people who have a regular income (such as receiving Social Security), and older adults who are typically more trusting and polite.

Many of the common scams are successful because they represent organizations considered to be legitimate:  Social Security, Medicare and the IRS. A lot of these are done over the phone or by e-mail. It’s important to remember never to give any information over the phone to an incoming caller or respond to an e-mail requesting your personal information.

Another phone scam is called spoofing, where a person calls the senior but looks like they are calling from another number deemed safe (caller ID might identify them as person’s doctor, bank, etc.), so always make sure to double check on a statement. The safest most effective thing to do is to hang up and call the number you have in your records.

These are only a few of the many scams and tactics LaToya goes over in the “Success after Financial Exploitation (SAFE)” Webinar. To learn more and get information along with the free SAFE services listed above, contact LaToya Hall, SAFE Program Coordinator, at L.hall@wayne.edu or 313-664-2608.

Emily Moore is a Client Service Administrator at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of SAFE, LaToya Hall, or Dr. Peter Lichtenberg.

What Should I Do With My Old 401k Plan?

Contributed by: Josh Bitel Josh Bitel

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If you have recently retired or changed jobs, you may be wondering what will happen to the 401k you’ve been diligently contributing to over the years.  As with almost every financial decision, there is no “one size fits all” answer, it truly will depend on your own unique goals and desire to receive professional guidance on the account.  In most cases, however, there are three options that you will want to consider:

Leaving your 401k where it is

  • Limited investment options
    • Especially in bonds/fixed income
    • 401k plans can be great for accumulating but when one is in distribution mode, in many cases, having access to a wider array of investment options is preferred
  • Creditor protection
    • 401k plans can offer additional protection compared to IRAs in certain circumstances
  • Self-directed in most cases aka you’re responsible for managing the account
    • In many cases, your 401k is your largest financial asset that will be used to support your retirement lifestyle; you should evaluate if you have the time and knowledge to adequately manage the account

*If you are changing jobs, some 401k plans offer you the ability to roll an old plan into your new one for consolidation.

  • Some additional flexibility on distributions
    • As long as you are over age 55 and no longer working, or over 59 ½ regardless of employment status, you can avoid the additional penalty on this distribution.

Rolling your 401k to an IRA

  • Access to a wider range of investment options
    • In many cases will allow you to better diversify your account and potentially reduce the overall risk level of your portfolio 
  • Professional management
    • Investing funds within an IRA will allow a financial advisor to actively manage and provide advice on your account
    • Our processes at The Center allow us to review your individual investments and accounts every single day to see if changes are warranted
    • Good option for those who would prefer to delegate the financial matters in their life 
  • Taxes
    • When rolling funds from a 401k to an IRA, it is typically recommended that you process the transfer as a direct rollover – this will make sure the transfer will not be a taxable event

Lump-sum distribution

  • Taxable event
    • Simply put, this is a full liquidation of the account which will result in a taxable event
      • Could pay upwards of 40% in tax between federal and state and possibly a 10% penalty if funds are withdrawn before age 55
    • In most cases will push you into a higher bracket
  • Bottom line, typically not recommended
    • In most cases, due to the severity of the tax implications, we would not recommend a total lump-sum distribution of funds
      • As always, be sure to consult your tax adviser when making decisions on large retirement plan distributions

Determining what to do with your old 401k plan is an important financial decision you won’t want to take lightly.  I can’t tell you how many times we have seen new clients come to us who left their employer years ago and the overall investment allocation of the 401k plan they still have is nowhere close to where it should be given their stage in life and other financial goals.  Please let us know how we can be a resource for you or those you care about when faced with the question, “what should I do with my old 401k plan?”

Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Josh Bitel and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.  For additional information and what is suitable for your particular situation, please consult us.

Jeanette LoPiccolo, CRPC® Branch Professional of the Year

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The Center is thrilled to announce that our very own Client Service Manager, Jeanette LoPiccolo, was recognized as one of three Outstanding Branch Professionals at the 2018 Raymond James National Conference. Raymond James’s 1000+ branches had the opportunity to nominate candidates for the award, and Raymond James chose Jeanette from among this elite group.

As you can see from this nomination form excerpt, we are very lucky to have her as part of our team:

“Jeanette is the consummate service professional.  She combines superior technical ability with genuine care for clients. Jeanette consistently anticipates client needs and is always looking for WOW moments. 

Jeanette is a true joy to have on our team. Her knowledge and skills are extremely deep, and our whole team benefits from her leadership and example. From securities based lending to K-1 procurement to cost basis issues, she is adept at nearly every complex operational area available. And, if she ever does not know the answer, she is the first to volunteer to find out and report back to the group. She is always willing to help newer coworkers and assist with a complex problem.

She is a wonderful example of our firm’s Core Value of Continuous Learning and Personal Growth. In addition to holding her securities licenses and the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠ designation, she is preparing to take the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ exam this fall.

On top of all of this, she is a champion for our firm’s charitable causes, organizing team-wide volunteer days, company matching activities, and community sponsorship events.”

Please join The Center Team in congratulating Jeanette on this well-deserved award!

Lauren Adams, CFA®, CFP® is Director of Client Services at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


Tick, Tock: Impact of the New Tax Law on Alimony and Divorce

Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA® Jacki Roessler

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Getting divorced in 2018 and planning to pay or receive alimony?  You may not realize it, but there’s a tax “timer” hanging over your head and the buzzer is set to go off.

Current Law  

Based on current tax law, the payer of alimony may deduct the full amount from their taxable income which, in turn requires the recipient to treat it as taxable income.

How does this work in the real world?

Suppose Harry pays Sally $5,000 per month in alimony. Sally doesn’t get to keep  $5,000 because it’s treated as taxable income to her.  Based on her tax bracket, her actual monthly net is $3,750. Conversely, since Harry is in a higher tax bracket than Sally, when he writes a check to Sally for $5,000, the deduction translates to an out-of-pocket cost to him of $3,000.

What about the difference between the $3,750 that Sally nets and the $3,000 that it costs Harry? Uncle Sam has been footing the bill on the $750 differential in tax revenue. That is exactly what this new regulation is structured to eliminate.  

The New Tax Law and Alimony

The new tax law does away with the tax deduction for alimony. Of course, alimony also won’t be treated as taxable income to the recipient. The new law goes into effect for divorce cases finalized (not filed) with the Court after December 31, 2018. Cases finalized by December 31, 2018 will be grandfathered into the old tax law.

Why divorcing couples (especially the recipient of alimony) should care about the tax law change

In practical terms, taxable alimony shifts income from a high tax bracket to a lower one.  Some have argued that it gives divorced couples an unfair financial advantage not available to married couples. However, for the past 75 years, the tax deduction has made alimony a valuable negotiation tool used by attorneys across the country to help settle divorce cases. In fact, it’s often one of the only ways to help provide a fair (or) equal resolution during a difficult financial time for both parties.

When is the timer set to go off?

Although divorce attorneys and their clients may think they have until year-end before they need to worry about the changes, many states have a mandatory cooling off period once the case has been filed with the Court. Michigan, for example, has a 60 day waiting period; however for couples with minor children, the waiting period is typically extended to 180 days. Therefore, depending on where you live and if you have minor children, you may only have until the end of June 2018 to file and take advantage of tax deductible alimony.

As always, every case is different. Consult with a tax preparer, attorney and/or divorce financial professional to help you understand how the tax law changes may affect your divorce.

Jacki Roessler, CDFA® is a Divorce Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Jacki Roessler, CDFA®, Divorce Financial Planner and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. This material is being provided for information purposes only. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. The hypothetical example above is for illustration purposes only.

Get to Know Jacki Roessler, CDFA® Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA® Jacki Roessler

Financial errors in divorce are unfortunately as common as the divorce rate in the United States. Several factors contribute to that today including the increase of “grey divorce” (divorce over the age of 50), tax law changes just put into effect by the current Administration, as well as complications in the way we save for retirement and local housing market value fluctuations.

However, none of the above factors are as significant as the real issue for most errors, which is the underlying emotional currents that impact divorce settlements. After all, these aren’t simply business entities breaking up. The break-up of a marital estate is fraught with emotional factors that impact a couple’s ability to make sound financial decisions.

That’s where a divorce financial advisor comes in. CDFA’s, or financial professionals who have received specialized training in the financial and tax aspects of divorce, may be an invaluable member of any team of divorce professionals. Working hand in hand with attorneys, CDFA’s guide clients to make decisions based on black and white numbers, projections and sound financial information - not psychological attachments to the house or the pension. 

I’ve been privileged to work as a CDFA for over 24 years, and it’s just as rewarding today as when I first received my designation.  Often, clients will come to me with a plan in mind. They’re determined to keep their home. They are on the fence about returning to the job market because they’re not sure how much income they need to target. Most often, they’ve received a settlement from the other side and didn’t know how to evaluate it. “Is this a good deal for me?” is the most common concern I hear. Once we work on their post-divorce budget and review long-term financial projections together, they have clarity. It allows them to make a decision based on a position of knowledge. Even if they can’t afford to keep the house, they feel empowered having that information today. Also, focusing on the “business” side of the divorce is often good therapy to get their mind focused on the positive aspects of the new life ahead of them.

Jacki Roessler, CDFA® is a Divorce Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

How to Rebalance a Portfolio

Contributed by: Center Investment Department The Center

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An investment strategy that uses asset allocation must rebalance, or realign the weightings of the portfolio assets; the question is not if, but how.  Rebalancing is a type of active portfolio management strategy we employ either to potentially enhance returns, control risk, or both.  There are several ways to rebalance a portfolio: on a calendar basis, using cash flows, and opportunistically.  We utilize a combination of Cash Flow and Opportunistic rebalancing.

Calendar Rebalancing

Calendar rebalancing is done by choosing a specific date (usually arbitrarily such as on a quarterly, semiannual or annual basis) to rebalance portfolios. Studies have shown that there is not much performance differential between the different frequencies of rebalancing.  By utilizing a set calendar date to rebalance, often the best buy-low/sell-high opportunities are missed. 

Cash Flow Rebalancing

In contrast, cash flow rebalancing is prompted when cash is moving into or out of the accounts.  For example, if a cash distribution is needed, the asset category or categories that are the most overweight will be sold to raise cash.  Within the overweight asset category, we will sell the security with the lowest preference first to generate the needed cash.  If cash is flowing into the account, we will purchase the asset category or categories that are the most underweight.  Within the underweight category, we will purchase the security with the highest preference first. Security “preference” is determined opportunistically within our investment committee.

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Opportunistic Rebalancing

When an asset allocation is determined after the financial planning and risk assessment, a set of drift ranges are also assigned.  The highest level strategic allocation (i.e., stocks to bonds) is allowed to drift a total of 10% either direction from the overall target.  On a more granular level, each asset category is allowed to drift 20% in either direction.  For example, if the US Large Cap allocation is at 25% of the portfolio, it could drift to as low as 20% or as high as 30% of the portfolio before rebalancing would occur.  The idea behind this is to help your winners continue to grow before you are flagged to rebalance and “sell high”/”buy low”. This can also be referred to as range or threshold rebalancing.  Range rebalancing occurs when at least one asset category is outside of the range bands.  At this point, the out of tolerance band is brought back to target. 

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Rebalancing is an important tool for long-term investors to stay on course.  A Financial Planner can help you employ these more sophisticated strategies outlined above!

Daryanani, Gobind CFP®, Ph.D.”Opportunistic Rebalancing: A New Paradigm for Wealth Managers.” 2008.   Journal of Financial Planning.


Rebalancing a non-retirement account could be a taxable event that may increase your tax liability.  Illustrations have been provided for educational purposes only and are not intended as investment advice.  Investing involves risk, investors may incur a profit or loss regardless of the strategy or strategies employed.

The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of the professional of the Investment Department at The Center and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Future investment performance cannot be guaranteed, investment yields will fluctuate with market conditions.

Is My Pension Subject to Michigan Income Tax?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly seven years since Governor Snyder signed his budget balancing plan into law in 2011, which became effective January 1, 2012.  As a result, Michigan joined the majority of states in the country in taxing pension and retirement account income (401k, 403b, IRA, distributions) at the state income tax rate of 4.25%. 

As a refresher, here are the different age categories that will determine the taxability of your pension:

1)     IF YOU WERE BORN BEFORE 1946:

  • Benefits are exempt from Michigan state tax up to $50,509 if filing single, or $101,019 if married filing jointly.

2)     IF YOU WERE BORN BETWEEN 1946 AND 1952:

  • Benefits are exempt from Michigan state tax up to $20,000 if filing single, or $40,000 if married filing jointly.

3)     IF YOU WERE BORN AFTER 1952:

  • Benefits are fully taxable in Michigan.

What happens when spouses have birth years in different age categories?  Great question!  The state has offered favorable treatment in this situation and uses the oldest spouse’s birthdate to determine the applicable age category.  For example, if Mark (age 65, born in 1953) and Tina (age 70, born in 1948) have combined pension and IRA income of $60,000, only $20,000 of it will be subject to Michigan state income tax ($60,000 – $40,000).  Tina’s birth year of 1948 is used to determine the applicable exemption amount – in this case, $40,000 because they file their taxes jointly. 

While this taxing benefits law angered many, I do think it’s important to note that it’s a very common practice for states to impose a tax on retirement income.  Believe it or not, only nine states do NOT tax pensions and retirement account distributions – Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.  Also, Michigan is 1 of 37 states that still does not tax Social Security benefits. 

Here is a neat look at how the various states across the country match up against one another when it comes to the various forms of taxation:

 Source:  www.michigan.gov/taxes

Source:  www.michigan.gov/taxes

Taxes, both federal and state, play a major role in one’s overall retirement income planning strategy.  Often, there are strategies that could potentially reduce your overall tax bill by being intentional on how you draw income once retired.  If you’d ever like to dig into your situation to see if there are planning opportunities you should be taking advantage of, please reach out to us for guidance. 

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to  be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. The above is a hypothetical example for illustration purposes only.

Center Stories: Bob Ingram, Financial Planner

Contributed by: Robert Ingram Robert Ingram

Money and finances can be very emotional topics and they can certainly seem confusing in today’s busy and complex world.  We all may have different emotions when it comes to money, emotions that shape how we manage our finances.  To me, financial planning is not just numbers on a spreadsheet or a group of investments in an account.  It is your own evolving roadmap to help guide you in making confident decisions in the face of uncertainties, concerns, or even exuberance.  A strong financial planning relationship is about helping you develop your life goals, truly understanding your personal situation and priorities, and taking steps to make the most of your resources to help achieve your goals.

I hope the video helps you get to know a little more about me and how I work with clients here at The Center.  If I can be a resource for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Robert Ingram is a Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

WEBINAR IN REVIEW: Mitigating the Tax Bite of Investment Returns

No one likes to pay taxes and your investment decisions are often associated with a related tax cost. This webinar takes a broad look at potential strategies and their tax cost or benefit.

Highlights from Mitigating the Tax Bite of Investment Returns:

  • Minute 1:00: A look at the new 2018 tax brackets – what do you project for your tax bracket in 2018?
  • Minute 2:45: A discussion of tax buckets
  • Minute 5:40: Popular investment strategies for taxable investments including municipal bond investing, cost basis elections, and concentrated stock positions
  • Minute 13:25: Managing taxes from your retirement accounts
  • Minute 17:45: Coordinating your investments with charitable giving strategies including qualified charitable distributions and donor advised funds which may become more popular with the new tax law
  • Minute 23:55: Melissa discusses planning to give investments to your heirs in a way that is considerate of taxes
  • Minute 26:10: Understanding the loss of the miscellaneous itemized deduction for investment advisory fees and a checklist to consider if affected
  • Minute 28:30: An introduction to the concept of tax alpha which is defined as “the outperformance that an investor can achieve by taking advantage of all the available tax-saving strategies” (source: CNBC)

Remember to review some of our favorite tax blogs from the past, including:

Melissa Joy, CFP®, CDFA® is Partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® In 2013, Melissa was honored by Financial Advisor magazine in the Research All Star List for the third consecutive year. In addition to her contributions to Money Centered blogs, she writes investment updates at The Center and is regularly quoted in national media publications including The Chicago Tribune, Investment News, and Morningstar Advisor.


Financial Advisor magazine's inaugural Research All Star List is based on job function of the person evaluated, fund selections and evaluation process used, study of rejected fund examples, and evaluation of challenges faced in the job and actions taken to overcome those challenges. Evaluations are independently conducted by Financial Advisor Magazine.

Caregiver Work/Life Balance

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

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According to the AARP, of the over 40 million Americans acting as a caregiver for a loved one over the age of 50, 6 in 10 of them are doing so while still trying to earn a living. As we have written about previously, caregiving can take a tremendous financial toll on family members and can cause real issues with caregivers’ own retirement planning. In talking to caregiver clients, it’s not just the financial implications of being a working caregiver that become the biggest issue...it’s the overall impact on one’s life.

How can a working caregiver have a balanced life with so many roles and responsibilities? 

  1. Take advantage of any paid caregiver time off or flexibility that you may have with your job.  Make sure you have open and honest conversations with your employer about what is going on in your life and your caregiving duties so that they can help you make your job and caregiver duties work for you.
  2. Seek out community resources and information that will help connect you with needed services - you don’t have to do it all alone!  Agencies, community and faith-based are available to help you meet your loved one’s needs and allow you to continue to have a career.
  3. Seek the help of professionals that you can delegate responsibilities for financial planning, investments, bill paying, taxes, care management, etc.
  4. Determine your eligibility for various programs that could give you more support and receive all the benefits to which your loved one is entitled at BenefitsCheckUp.org.
  5. Keep yourself organized. Coordinate and organize your time, activities and paperwork.  Find a system that works for you (paper, electronic, etc.).  i.e., schedule appointments all on the same day, at the end or beginning of days to make things work better with your work and family schedule.
  6. Find time for yourself.  As a caregiver, if you don’t have time to enjoy time for yourself and de-stress, things will only become more chaotic, stressful and out-of-balance.  Find our Working Caregiver Bill of Rights here.  After all, if you aren’t taken care of, you can’t take care of the one you love!

As impossible as it often seems, there is a way to have some balance in your life if you are a working caregiver.  It takes careful planning, organization, communication, and use of resources.  If you are a working caregiver and would like assistance in planning for your balanced life, give us a call.  We are always happy to help!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Opinions expressed are those of Sandra Adams and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.