Ponzi schemes still prey on Florida Victims

Robert Trigaux, Tampa Bay Times

Did Floridians learn nothing from Bernie Madoff, the modern master of Ponzi schemes? Did we already forget Orlando boy band producer Lou Pearlman, credited with running one of the longest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history? Did we nap while Sarasota Ponzi schemer Arthur Nadel bilked locals of $162 million?

It seems so, judging from the torrent of financial ripoffs that continue to snare unwary investors across this state. Too many scams bear the distinct signs of fraud first masterminded by Charles Ponzi back in the 1920s. Literally dozens of Ponzi schemes involving scamsters or their victims are proliferating in Florida. Some are in the process of being uncovered by law enforcement, detailed in private lawsuits or being punished by court rulings and jail time. But there are far too many of them.

Who is affected by the new Social Security rules?

By Mary Beth Franklin

Assuming the Senate passes the legislation and President Obama signs it, these are the changes to look out for.


If you have already filed and suspended your benefits approximately May 1, 2016 — you can still request to file and suspend your benefits to trigger spousal or dependent benefits. If you are 66 or older within the first six months after the law is enacted in order to trigger spousal benefits for your wife or husband and/or dependent benefits for a minor or disabled child, your family will continue to receive benefits on your earnings record.

After May 1, 2016 (approximate date), the rules for file and suspend will change. No one will be able to collect benefits when the primary beneficiary files and suspends. And the person who files and suspends will no longer be able to request a lump sum payout of suspended benefits at a later date.

After May 1, 2016, the only use of file and suspend will be for those people who claimed reduced Social Security benefits before full retirement age. They will still be able to suspend benefits in order to earn delayed retirement credits of 8% per year between ages 66 and 70. But no one will be able to collect spousal or dependent benefits; known as auxiliary benefits; while the primary beneficiary suspends benefits. es.

Finance Lessons for Your Teen

The current economic environment has caused most everyone to reconsider their personal finances with many people having to drastically change their spending and savings habits. Out of this economic malaise may come an opportunity to finally instill the right habits in your teens that can carry them into adulthood on the right financial footing. Just as our parents and grandparents of the Great Depression era developed deeply ingrained attitudes about finances from their experience, our teens can share in the lessons of today’s “great recession” generation. The first step is to make your teen a partner with a stake in the family financial enterprise.

For most teens, it’s not about the money. Not yet anyway. It’s more about what the money can get them – weekend entertainment, clothes, toys, cars. Money, no matter its source, is simply the means for what is important to them. When the family goes through a “belt tightening” it may be an opportunity to turn these teen expenditures into teen motivators for learning about budgeting, savings and smart financial management.

Medicare premiums set to rise in 2016

Sharon Epperson, Judy Gee, CNBC: The year 2016 will send shockwaves to about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, or roughly 7 million Americans. They're going to be paying a lot more for their monthly Medicare Part B premium. Individuals affected will see their monthly premiums rise from about $104.90 to $159.30, and $318.60 for married couples. Those whose income exceeds the threshold, as defined by individuals making more than $214,000 or couples making more than $428,000 per year, the projected increase is anywhere from $223 per month up to $509.80 per month. For high-earning married couples, their premiums can increase from $446 to $1,019.60 per month.

Using technology to engage with our clients

An integral part of managing client assets is meeting with our clients at least annually to review their current financial situation and adjust expectations and assumptions for their portfolio. With clients in 22 states, and many traveling during retirement we are always looking for new ways to connect and engage in a convenient manner.

Determining Your Risk Tolerance

Perhaps the most important factor in formulating your investment plan is your risk tolerance; that is, the amount of risk you’re willing to assume in order to achieve your most important objectives. More precisely, your risk tolerance is based on the your financial and emotional ability to withstand negative returns on your investment portfolio.  Before embarking on any investment strategy it is important to know your risk tolerance to ensure that you select the right kind of investments and you are able to set clear objectives. More importantly, when your investments are aligned with the proper risk-reward continuum, you’re assured of many more restful nights.  So, how do you go about determining your risk tolerance?

Look at Your Time Horizon

The most important determinant is time; that is, how much time you have before you will need to access the money being invested. Younger people, those with more than 30 years before retirement, are more able to withstand the swings and the cycles of the stock market because of the tendency for the market to increase over time. When the stock market declines by 20% or more in one year, as it has a few times over the last couple of decades, a younger investor has the time to allow the market to recoup its losses and forge ahead for a couple of years. Therefore, they could take a more aggressive posture towards investing by increasing their exposure to stocks.

Fed Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged

Jeff Cox, CNBC: Investors will have at least one more month to worry about whether the Federal Reserve is raising rates. In the face of jittery financial markets and a global slowdown, the Fed blinked and held its key federal funds rate unchanged. September was supposed to be the month the U.S. central bank finally came off its zero interest rate policy, but instead it opted to hold steady for at least one more month. Following the decision, U.S. stocks initially traded lower but later jumped. Meanwhile, Treasury bond yields hit session lows and, safe-haven gold rose to highs not seen since September 4.

Longevity Risk: The Biggest Real Retirement Risk You Haven’t Covered

This isn’t our parents’ or grandparents’ retirement anymore. Just a few decades ago, many retirees enjoyed the full benefits of the “three-legged stool” of retirement provide by guaranteed pension payments, savings, and Social Security. In addition, they didn’t have to be very concerned with how much of their income translated into actual purchasing power because, except for the mid to late seventies, inflation was not a big factor for several reasons. Today, the three-legged stool is barely standing on two legs and inflation, even at the lowest levels, can wreak havoc on our lifestyles due to the fact we are living 12 to 15 years longer.

Financial Challenges Then and Now

The first reason why past generations were largely immune from inflation creep on their lifestyles was due to shorter life spans. A male retiring at age 65 in 1970 was expected to live 10 years into retirement – a female 12 years, so there was less time for inflation to have an impact. Secondly, nearly 75 percent of retirees received a guaranteed lifetime income from pension plans and many plans included a cost-of-living adjustment. For them, any retirement savings could be used as surplus. Third, back then the yield on savings vehicles were more closely linked to the rate of inflation so their future purchasing power was not impacted as much.

Have a Long Term goal? Financial Planning can Help You get you there

After several years of wallowing in financial upheaval caused by a severe recession and financial crisis, Americans are, once again, looking to the future. A renewed confidence has many people setting their sights on long term goals that, just a few years ago, may have seemed out of reach. However, as too many people have painfully learned, simply having a long-term goal, whether it’s an early retirement or a college education for your children, is not enough to realize your ambition.

A financial goal is a life destination which requires a map and a way to get there; and, assuming you have finite resources with which to successfully make the trek, they need to be used wisely or you are likely to come up short. If you have a long term goal, financial planning can help you get there.

What exactly is Financial Planning

All of us have certain things in life we want to accomplish and many of them require financial resources. These are called financial goals. Living a secure and enjoyable retirement is a goal shared by most people. In addition to that, parents want to be able to provide a college education for their children, buy a bigger house, or expand their business, and while working towards all of those, they want to ensure the financial security of their loved ones. These all become intricately linked pieces of your financial puzzle.

A financial plan is about carefully forging those pieces and fitting them in their proper place so that they work effectively together towards your vision. If a piece is missing or doesn’t fit quite right, it could skew all of the other pieces. As you become financially successful, more pieces are needed to complete the financial puzzle, such as risk management, tax strategies, and estate planning. Because of their impact on the total financial puzzle, it is critical to have a well-conceived, integrated plan.

The financial planning process enables you to focus clearly on your specific goals while addressing all of your concerns so they are no longer obstacles. And, having a well-conceived, comprehensive financial plan enables you to shutout the constant drone of doom and gloom, because, in the long-term, your plan is all that matters. 

Investors Beware: The Media Noise can be Deafening

Most people would argue that living in a digital world, with instant access to an endless stream of information has made us smarter and more self-empowered than past generations. Investors believe that it has “leveled the playing field”, enabling them to make investment decisions based on the same information once only available to the investment pros. The incessant quest for information has reached such a fever pitch that the media outlets, including the cable channels, print media, and now the blogosphere, are churning out content 24/7, and it still isn’t enough to satiate peoples’ ravenous appetite for information. So, it’s all good? WRONG.

There is a much stronger argument that can be made that, for people in general and investors especially, information overload not only makes it more difficult to make rational decisions, it often leads to behavior that can be harmful, if not devastating to your financial health. While there has obviously been a marked increase in the quantity of information, the quality of the information will always be in question. Where you have quantity without quality, all you really have is “noise.” And for people who really should be listening for legitimate financial advice and relevant information, it can be deafening.

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