Category Archives: Insurance

Retirement Planning Guide For 401k’s and IRA’s

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Below is a guide we put together for you to use in assessing the tax implications of different retirement plans, along with the benefits and negatives of each………

401K’S Benefits:

  • Employer matching
  • Higher contribution levels ($18,000 for under 50…$24k for over 50)
  • Contributions are pre-tax (or “tax deferred”)…lower taxable income
  • No income limits for contributions other than earned income must be greater than contribution



  • Normal distributions taxed as income
  • Forced distributions at 70 ½
  • Limited to employer fund availability


Traditional IRA’s Benefits:

  • Contributions are pre-tax (or “tax deferred”)…lower taxable income
  • You can pick the funds (not limited by employer’s fund managers)
  • No income limits for contributions other than earned income must be greater than contribution



  • Normal distributions taxed as income
  • Forced distributions at 70 ½
  • Contribution limited to $5,500 for under 50…$6,500 over 50 (earned income must be > contribution)
  • Contributions may be limited by other contributions (ie-401k)
  • No employer matching


Roth IRA’s Benefits:

  • Normal distributions tax-free (contributions & growth)…provides hedge against higher future tax rates
  • No forced distribution at 70 ½
  • You can pick the funds (not limited by employer’s fund managers)



  • Contributions are made post-tax so no upfront tax benefit
  • Contribution limited to $5,500 for under 50…$6,500 over 50 (earned income must be > contribution)
  • Income limitations (AGI) of $116-131k for Single and $183-193k for MFJ
  • Contributions may be limited by other contributions (ie-401k)
  • No employer matching


Strategy: 401k/Roth IRA Contributions

  • Contribute to your 401k up to employer match amount; and then contribute to a Roth IRA.
  • Always have 6-12 month Safety Fund before contributing to retirement plans
  • Need to plan for unexpected expenses (car maintenance, house repairs, etc.)
  • Need to be able to access penalty-free cash at drop of hat for job loss, health problems, etc.


Do you agree with the strategies mentioned regarding 401k/Roth IRA Contributions? Please leave your comments below. We would love your input!

Should You Purchase A Home Warranty Plan?

Photo Credit: Judy van der Velden
Photo Credit: Judy van der Velden

Generally when you buy a home, the seller will pay for you to have a home warranty plan in force for one year. After that first year, you then have to choose whether you want to continue paying the premiums to extend that plan.   This can be a confusing decision, but one with which we can help!   Below you’ll find information regarding the standard coverages provided by a home warranty plan, along with additional info to help you decide whether you should or should not renew your existing plan.


How Much Does a Home Warranty Plan Cost? Plans typically range from $250 to $450, depending on coverage specifics.


What is Generally Covered Under a Home Warranty Plan?

  • Air Conditioning
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Dishwashers
  • Doorbells
  • Ductwork
  • Electrical Systems
  • Furnace/Heating
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Inside Plumbing Stoppages
  • Range and Oven
  • Water Heater


What is Generally NOT Covered?

  • Compliance Upgrades (aka – bringing water heater up to code)
  • Haul-Away Costs
  • Outdoor Items (sprinklers, fences, etc.)
  • Permit Fees
  • Refrigerators, Washers/Dryers, Garage Door Openers, Faucet Repairs (not all plans cover these)
  • Spa or Pools (unless specific coverage requested)


Should You Renew Your Plan?Consider the following:

  • The general age of your items that would be covered by the plan (older items are more likely to fail)
  • Your experience maintaining a home (can you tackle the repairs on your own?)
  • Your resources for helping you fix problems (consider your friends & family…assess the tools you have)
  • Your financial capability to replace items should they fail (are you capable of buying a new dishwasher?)


If You Buy a Plan, What Type of Coverage Should You Get?Consider your specific needs. Make sure you pay close attention to whether the home warranty company will pay for repairs to make certain types of systems or appliances compliant with new regulations. We’ve seen water heaters go out with a home warranty plan that covers its replacement. But the plan didn’t cover the $500 in work that needed to be done in order to update the compliance of the system.


We hope this helps with your decision about your Home Warranty Plan options.   Feel free to contact us if you have questions about whether you should renew your Home Warranty Plan…we’re here to help!

CA Property Tax Assessments Explained


The information below outlines the procedure California uses to determine the amount of property taxes you pay on your home:
In 1978, California adopted Proposition 13, which defined how your property taxes are calculated.
Annual Taxable Value
The annual taxable value of a home is determined by calculating which of the following amounts is lower:

  • Market Value (of the home on January 1)
  • or, Factored Base Year Value (FBYV)

Market Value
Every January, homes are assessed by your county to determine their market value (using comparable home sales during that time). This figure is then compared against the FBYV to determine the basis for your taxes.
Factored Base Year Value (FBYV)
The FBYV in year one of ownership starts out as the market value of a home when the property was transferred (applies to properties acquired after 3/1/75). So a home purchased for $300,000 would have a starting FBYV of $300,000.
The FBYV of properties that have not changed ownership since the prior January 1 is calculated by taking the FBYV from the prior year and adding 2% per year.
So ultimately your property taxes can increase a maximum of 2% per year from the original FBYV. However, there are times when a home can increase more than 2% in one year. This would occur if your property experienced any of the following:

  • A Change In Ownership
  • New Construction
  • Temporary reduction(s) in taxable value in prior tax year(s)

For Example:
Let’s assume you are trying to calculate your 2015-2016 taxes on a home that had a market value of $300,000 on January 1, 2015. Your first step would be to look at your previous year’s FBYV (taken from the prior year’s property tax bill). You would add 2% to this figure and compare it to the $300,000 market value figure. The lower amount is your taxable value for that year. You then pay taxes on the amount that results from multiplying your tax rate times that taxable value.
So if you purchased the above home last year for $200,000; this year’s FBYV would be $204,000 ($200,000 + 2% for year 1). This means your taxable value would be $204,000; since that figure is lower than the $300,000 market value.
The following year, the FBYV of this home would be $208,080 ($204,000 + 2% for year 2). So that following year’s taxable value would be determined by comparing that $208,080 FBYV to the market value in that year.
NOTE: The FBYV does not change with the refinance of a home; it only changes with ownership transfers or certain other situations (like when permitted construction is performed).
Feel free to contact us if you have questions about determining the taxes on your CA home…we’re here to help!
Information gathered from

Easier Loan Qualifying for Self-Employed Homebuyers

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

The days of “Stated Income” loans for self-employed homebuyers are a thing of the past. Government rules now require borrowers to prove their ability to repay loans by way of an income source.


This can make things very difficult for self-employed borrowers who take heavy deductions on their tax returns, resulting in lower net business profits used for qualifying income.


However, there are common-sense lenders who understand certain business deductions don’t really affect a self-employed buyer’s “bottom line”. Among the most common deduction of this type are those for business mileage driven and use of home offices.


So it’s important for self-employed homebuyers to know they have many options when it comes to qualifying. There are lenders who can qualify self-employed borrowers based on their income prior to taking the above two deductions.


Sample Scenario
You are self-employed and have $76,000 in gross business income. After deducting $40,000 in business expenses, your tax return shows a net business income of $36,000 ($3,000 per month).

Of the above $40,000 in business expenses, $12,000 are from mileage and home office deductions.
With a lender that will add these two deductions back to the net business income number, the $12,000 in mileage and home office deductions won’t affect your income qualifications. After making this $12,000 adjustment, you would be given credit for an income of $48,000 ($4,000 per month).

So while many lenders would qualify you using an income of $3,000/month, there are lenders that would use an income of $4,000/month. That’s 33% more qualifying income!


Feel free to contact us if you have questions regarding self-employed buyer qualifying. We have access to lenders who can help!

6 Reasons To Get A Living Trust

Photo Credit - ID Theft PR
Photo Credit – ID Theft PR

Even though we know the mortality rate is 100%, we don’t want to deal with the topic of death while we’re alive. Because of this, many people disregard prudent financial moves that will make life much easier on their surviving beneficiaries.


Among the most neglected is Living Trusts. Here are 6 reasons you’ll want to consider a Living Trust for your family:


  1. Avoid Probate
  2. Protect Property for Beneficiaries
  3. Protect Privacy of Estate
  4. Avoid a Will Contest
  5. Reduce or Eliminate Estate Taxes
  6. Manage Property Upon Incapacitation


Take the time to protect your family. It’s more important than planning that summer vacation; and may not take any more time or money!


What are your thoughts on Living Trusts? Why or why haven’t you secured a Living Trust for your family? Let us know your thoughts!

Lower Payment vs. Lower Term

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

With interest rates still near all‐time low levels, an argument can certainly be made to consider a shorter mortgage term, such as a 15‐year loan versus a 30-year loan. But there are some important factors to consider.
The greatest benefit of choosing a shorter term is to know that the mortgage will be paid off in less time, saving thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of the loan. A 15‐year term loan builds discipline, forcing you to make the 15‐year payment.


However, the shorter term comes with a steep monthly payment. A 15‐year loan payment can be several hundred dollars more per month than the 30‐year loan; and in these tough economic times, “cash is king.” That is, cash on hand is king.


Therefore, many people may be better served by having a smaller mortgage payment under a 30‐year fixed rate loan, and then saving or investing the extra money. The key is actually saving and investing the extra money. People who find themselves without a job or who have a pressing financial need would benefit from being able to access these saved funds.
The Tax Consequences

While paying less interest saves you money, it may not save you exactly what you thought since your corresponding tax write‐offs will decrease. Depending on your marginal tax bracket; this could make a substantial dent in the savings you thought were being achieved with the lower interest due. So you must consider income taxes for a relative comparison.


Middle Ground: Flexible Term Loans

You can also choose a point in between the 15-year and 30-year term loan. Refinances are possible to any whole term between 15 and 30 years. That means you can acquire a 17-year term loan or a 23-year term loan, if either of those terms best meet your payment and loan-payback needs.

Best Path for All
Since an individual’s or family’s mortgage payment is often their largest monthly payment, it’s important to get individual advice about your unique situation in order to make the best decision about your home loans. Your short- and long-term financial objectives must be considered.


We’re happy to help you with this decision…don’t take it lightly!

What are your thoughts on acquiring a home loan? Is it best to go with the lowest possible payment, or shortest affordable term? Let us know your thoughts!

6 Things You Can Do With Your Tax Refund

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

How you handle “windfalls” of money can largely determine your financial success. Here are a few ways you can apply your tax refund:


1.   Build an Emergency Fund – One of the best ways to reduce stress in your life is to increase your margin. That includes giving you some cushion for the occurrence of “life events” like job loss, family health issues, etc. It’s nice to have savings for these things when they come up rather than having to rely on credit cards!


2.   Payoff Debt – Paying credit card interest will cripple your chances of financial success. Delay immediate gratification with your refund and apply it towards paying off credit card debt. Then once you have an emergency fund in place and have paid off credit card debt, fire away at those student loans & car loans! Imagine the feeling of not having a student loan payment or a car payment. What could you do with that money each month?


3.   Save For a Major Purchase – Use your tax refund toward a major purchase goal such as your next car, home upgrades, new appliances, or new furniture. Set a goal for how much you’ll need and save that amount so you can pay cash, avoiding the purchase/debt cycle that plagues so many Americans today.


4.   Save to Purchase a Home – Depending on the size of your refund, you may be able to make a dent in saving for your new home down payment. If done right, buying a home is one of the best ways to secure your future retirement, and gain a tax deduction in the meantime. Depending on your situation, you may qualify to purchase a home with only 3% down. Contact us if you have questions regarding this.


5.   Contribute to Retirement Accounts – You can apply refund money toward retirement accounts such as Traditional IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, 401k’s, etc.


6.   Give to Those Less Fortunate – Bless somebody else with your money. There are many ways you can be generous and change somebody else’s life. Be creative! Here’s one fun idea: click here.


The key is to think about how you can best apply your refund according to your goals before you impulsively spend it aimlessly.


What are you going to do with your refund? Please reply and let us know!

Your Insurance Questions Answered

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Insurance is one of those “love ‘em and hate ‘em” expenses in life. It is absolutely necessary to protect your financial future. Remember, the purpose of insurance is not to make you rich in the event of loss. It is to transfer the risk of major loss from you to the insurance company, in exchange for policy premiums.


So which types of insurance do you need? Which are a waste of money?



  • Medical Insurance – this is now mandated by our government. And for good reason. Health expenses are the number one cause of foreclosures and bankruptcies in our country. You don’t want to be thinking about financial consequences while you battle cancer. You must protect your health.
  • Home Insurance – your home is often your greatest asset; it must be covered against major loss. Liability insurance is a key ingredient with home insurance, be sure to cover your assets against accidents. Click here to learn more.
  • Auto Insurance – a certain level is required by law. You’ll also want to be sure you have liability coverage (consider “umbrella” coverage with your agent)
  • Life Insurance – how would your family fare financially if you died tonight? If you don’t know the answer to that question, life insurance is your answer. Click here to learn more.
  • Disability Insurance – your ability to earn an income is often your greatest asset. Disability insurance protects your income in the event your employer doesn’t have worker’s comp or a policy in place to cover you. Self-employed people need to pay special attention to this. This is often the most forgotten insurance.



  • Pet Insurance – recent progress with medicine makes it more likely a pet’s health can be restored with advanced procedures. Pet insurance can help you avoid having to make the very difficult decision of whether to pay for that $5,000 surgery. Click here for more info on different kinds of pet insurance, and what you should consider.
  • Identity Theft Insurance – most people waste money on credit monitoring, but have no plan for how they will recover their identity in the event it is stolen. It has been estimated that 600 hours is the average amount of time spent on recovering from an ID theft occurrence. Most people don’t have that time to waste. Click here for more info on credit monitoring vs. ID theft Insurance.
  • Long-Term Care – this is a tough one. It’s not for everyone and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It is expensive, but necessary to receive good care and protect assets. Talk to a trusted agent.



  • Mortgage Life Insurance – the only reason to have this is if your health prevents you from acquiring regular life insurance. Otherwise, you will badly overpay for this scheme.
  • Private Mortgage Insurance – there are many home loan options these days to help you avoid private mortgage insurance. Click here to learn more.
  • Insurance on Small Electronics – as mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article, insurance should be acquired to protect major loss. The loss of small electronics like headphones, iPods, etc. would not financially cripple you. This is where a reserve fund is handy. Keep a maintenance savings account to handle these small incidents. Don’t go broke insuring them!


This article was not intended to give you an all-inclusive tutorial on insurance, but rather to make you aware of the types you should consider and research further. We hope this helps!


What are your thoughts on insurance? What types of coverage do you have? Any that we didn’t include above?