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2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Re-cap

[ 0 ] February 26, 2014

Spectrum Financial Solutions, GA, 2014 Winter OlympicsAnother Winter Olympics season has come and gone and it was a nail-biter, right up until the end.  The United States had received the most medals up until the closing weekend, when Russia dominated in the events.  Russia came through in the end, earning a total of 33 medals with 13 gold medals, 11 silver medals and 9 bronze medals.  The United States came in second, earning a total of 28 medals with 9 gold medals, 7 silver medals and 12 bronze medals.  Norway came in third with 26 medals, 11 of the medals are gold, 5 silver and 10 bronze medals.  Here is the breakdown between Russia and the United States.

Russia won the gold in the following categories:

Biathlon – Men’s Relay
Bobsleigh – Four Men and Two Men
Cross Country – Men’s 50 km
Figure Skating – Ladies, Pairs, Team
Short Track – Men’s 1000m, Men’s 500 Men’s 5000m
Skeleton – Men
Snowboard – Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom
Snowboard – Men’s Parallel Slalom

The United States won the gold in these categories:

Alpine Skiing – Men’s Giant Slalom, Women’s Slalom
Figure Skating – Ice Dance
Freestyle Skiing – Men’s Ski Halfpipe
Freestyle Skiing – Men’s Ski Slopestyle
Freestyle Skiing – Women’s Ski Halfpipe
Snowboard – Men’s Slopestyle
Snowboard – Women’s halfpipe
Snowboard – Women’s Slopestyle

The complete list of all 2014 Sochi Olympic winners is here.

Congratulations to all Olympians!

Content provided by Transformer Marketing and http://graphicsweb.wsj.com/documents/sochi-medal-count/

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Can You Use Your Car As A Tax Write Off?

[ 0 ] February 19, 2014

Spectrum Financial Solutions, NJ, TaxesTax time has come and gone. As you travel down the bumpy road of deductions, you might be able to write off some of your car expenses, including a percentage of your insurance premiums:

  • Business use of your car 

If you’re self employed and drive your vehicle for work, or if you have a job and use the car for work-related reasons without reimbursement, you might be able to deduct part of your premium.

  • Determine the percentage of time that you use the vehicle for work and then base your deduction for auto expenses (including insurance premiums, as well as gas, oil, repairs, registration fees, lease payments, depreciation, parking and toll fees) on this percentage. To qualify for these deductions, they’ll need to total more than 2% of your adjusted gross income.

    The alternative is to take the standard business mileage deduction (currently 55.5¢ a mile).

  • Loss, theft, or damage

You may be able to claim a loss deduction if your car is stolen, damaged, or totaled in an accident, provided your policy doesn’t reimburse you for the full loss. You may also be able to write off your insurance deductible as part of a theft or casualty loss. However, you can take the deduction only if an individual loss comes to at least $100 and the total loss for the year tops 10% of gross income.

Be sure to keep all relevant receipts, including expenses and police reports, in case the IRS or insurance company asks for verification.

 

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Last minute gift ideas for Valentine’s Day

[ 0 ] February 12, 2014
Spectrum Financial Solutions, LLC, NJ, FL, Valentine's DayValentine’s Day is creeping closer and if your significant other deserves more than just a standard drug store chocolate heart, than you came to the right place. We have a complete list of last minute Valentine’s Day gift for both him and her, and the best thing about these 6 gifts is that they are fast and cheap, while still being incredibly thoughtful. So whether you are looking forward to spending the loving day with Mr. Right, or your special lady, these last minute presents will ensure your celebration goes off with out a hitch!

For Him

DIY projects are easy and affordable, but while women normally cry at the sight of anything handmade, men are not so enthralled with the process. However, this gift combines the simplistic nature of DIY projects with an actual gift your significant other will want. 12-months of preplanned dates is such a fun and exciting way to spend the year together. The dates planned can range from stay-at-home movie nights, to meals out, attending sporting events, and maybe even his favorite band’s concert. Use multi-colored envelopes, secured close with ribbon in order to prevent any wandering eyes, label each envelope with the corresponding month for your dates. Not only is it multiple gifts in one, but also your man will love to know that you planned well into the future with him!

Breakfast in bed, who ever said that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach was so right. A way to create a special breakfast for the two of you is to have sweet breakfast in bed, of course you want it to be delicious but you should also make it simple, because the best part about breakfast in bed is having you still tucked in beside him. Try a baked French Toast Casserole, which you can set the day before and then easily bake in the morning before your loved one wakes. Pair with frozen/ pre cooked sausages and of course his favorite juice and coffee. Simple and sweet, the best part is while baking the casserole your whole house will start to smell like cinnamon and sugar goodness, the perfect way to wake up!

While men attempt to pretend they are touch and not so sensitive, they can be big teddy bears. So what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day then telling them all the reason you love them. Combining the two best parts of tis annual sappy holiday, your man will love to know that he is loved each and every time he reaches for a sweet candy treat. Make your man the 50 Reasons Why I Love You Jar, using miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, circle labels, and a mason jar. Check out The Dating Diva’s for full instructions!

For Her

Luckily when it comes to Valentine’s Day most women will be over the moon of their significant other just puts in a bit of extra effort. So with these easy to do DIY gifts, you will be getting serious brownie points for a while after Valentine’s Day is over.

A carved initial candle is not only beautiful but romantic as well. This is the perfect gift for your girlfriend that not only loves candles, but also loves personalization. Throwing it back middle school when you and your boyfriend would crave your name into the local kissing tree, the craved candle is the perfect declaration of love without going over the top. Check out HenryHappened.com for full instructions on how to make this gift, and what supplies you’ll need!

Now this DIY project is most certainly a bit more ambitious then the candle but hey anything you worked on your girlfriend will love, right? Well that’s what they say so give it a shot! Give your favorite girl her new favorite accessory- a leather heart coin purse. A sweet reminder of our shared love each time she looks into her purse, luckily no sewing is involved and the directions seem simple enough. Check out FabricPaperGlue.com for a full tutorial and our advice would be to grab a few extra yards of leather, just in case your first heather cut out isn’t perfect.

Our last gift idea for a fast and cheap Valentine’s Day extravaganza is to cook your sweetie something sweet. Now maybe a full dinner is too ambitious and can become costly quick, we understand that. But after you guys have enjoyed a nice Valentine’s Day meal, handled by professionals, head on home for something more romantic made fresh by you! Dessert is easy to make, and hard to mess up, especially if there is chocolate involved. A classic Valentine’s Day dessert are chocolate covered strawberries and luckily for you, you can make them ahead of time, and have your treats ready to serve when you both arrive home from dinner. Check out an easy step-by-step recipe to make these sexy and delicious desserts for Valentine’s Day.

Content provided by http://www.latintimes.com/last-minute-valentines-day-gifts-him-and-her-6-gifts-wont-break-bank-150860

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Privately Financed Graded Premium Universal Life

[ 0 ] February 5, 2014

Spectrum Financial Solutions, NJ, Life InsuranceCurrently, an arbitrage opportunity presents itself to sophisticated investors whereby interest bearing loans (interest paid currently and loans retired in less than ten years) made to a trust for the benefit of family members can create guaranteed Internal Rates of Return (IRR) that far exceed those available from most portfolio assets.  As the accompanying study illustrates, if trust assets grow at a modest 6% annual rate, the underlying trust will have grown terminal value to in excess of $16,145,000 in year 27 (the joint life expectancy of the hypothetical couple used in the study).

That equates to a 12.5% tax-free IRR for the trust assets (19.3% pre-tax).

This program is not a risk-less arbitrage.  Risk may be associated only with the trust’s ability to achieve annual growth of 6% during the loan period and longevity of the investors.  To the degree that growth rates fall below 6%, loans may be extended beyond 9 years and, correspondingly, IRR’s will not be as high as illustrated.  Additionally, because the trust matures upon the death of the investors, if the trust outlasts actuarial assumptions, IRR’s may be less than indicated above (see accompanying schedules).

This program is Internal Revenue Code (IRC) compliant.  Rates of interest charged to and paid by trusts using program are based on the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) for mid-term loans and are published monthly.  Once established, loans will bear that AFR for the term of the loan.

Perhaps a successful individual is not interested in further estate planning. This approach understands that position and posits that the Privately Financed Guaranteed UL Program, aside from offering a superior investment experience, may enable investors’ unique opportunities to expand both charitable and non-charitable goals that previously weren’t possible or were deferred.

To Summarize:

Privately Financed Graded Premium Universal Life may be a solution to issues facing many successful investors and families today.  Through the use of a minimal risk arbitrage technique, estates can be secured, charitable gifts accelerated and a variety of other planning and/or investment goals satisfied very efficiently.

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These 8 Tax Breaks Are About to Expire

[ 0 ] January 29, 2014

Spectrum Financial, NJ, TaxesWhen Congress wants to encourage a certain behavior – fuel conservation, for example – it can approve a tax credit or deduction to make that behavior more attractive. And when times are financially tight, Congress often creates or extends tax breaks.

With the economy improving, Congress is feeling less generous. These eight tax breaks are set to expire, so grab them while you can. Unless Congress acts – it’s happened plenty of times before – these tax breaks will be history after Dec. 31.

1. Beefed-up home energy efficiency

You can get a federal tax credit of up to $500 for the purchase of certain energy-efficient home upgrades and appliances. The Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit allows you a tax credit of 10 percent of the cost of materials, up to $5,000.

Eligible products include certain roofs, energy-efficient exterior windows and doors, and insulation installed at your primary home. You can include installation costs when you buy eligible biomass fuel stoves, water heaters and high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems.

The credit has limits for some products, like windows ($200), central air conditioners ($300), heat pumps ($300), furnaces ($150) and corn-fueled stoves ($300), says Forbes.

Which products are eligible? Energy Star-qualifying products are a good bet, but they’re not guaranteed to qualify. The IRS’ advice:

Not all energy-efficient improvements qualify, so be sure you have the manufacturer’s credit certification statement. It is usually available on the manufacturer’s website or with the product’s packaging.

You can use up to $500 in credit in your lifetime. EnergyStar.gov tells more about the credits.

States have incentives, too. Find them at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

2. Electric vehicles

Tax credits for electric vehicles also are due to sunset at year’s end. All-electric vehicles that qualify for a tax credit of up to $7,500 include: the 2013 Fiat 500e, a 2012–14 Ford Focus EV, the 2014 Chevrolet Spark, the 2011–13 Leaf, 2012–14 RAV4 EV and others.

Also on the way out: a 10 percent tax credit of up to $2,500 for buying a two- or three-wheeled electric vehicle (like electric motorcycles and enclosed three-wheelers) that has batteries with a stored energy capacity of at least 2.5 kilowatt-hours, says EV World.com. Larger, four-wheeled neighborhood electric cars with a battery capacity of at least 4 kwh also qualify.

In the new year, you can still get a tax incentive of up to $7,500, though, for “plug-in” hybrid vehicles like the 2012-2014 Ford Focus Electric, the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi, the 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi, and Toyota’s 2012–14 Prius plug-in hybrids. Here’s the whole list. These credits will gradually “phase out for a given manufacturer once that manufacturer has sold 200,000 qualifying vehicles in the United States,” says the Alliance to Save Energy.

3. Classroom supplies

If you’re a teacher, you might have been taking advantage of the $250 deduction for your unreimbursed purchases of classroom books, computer equipment and supplies. Stock up now because this deduction (here’s the IRS description) is set to expire.

4. Conservation easements

A tax deduction for a tool that has helped preserve greenbelts, farmland and wildlife habitat is on the way out. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a property owner and a land trust or government. The owner gives up some rights to use the land in exchange for claiming a tax-deductible charitable donation. FindLaw has details.

“For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops,” says the Land Trust Alliance. The restrictions stay with the land if it’s sold. Easements also help families pass undeveloped land to future generations. By removing the property’s development potential, its value is reduced, lowering the potential estate tax, the alliance says.

5. State and local sales tax

You can deduct the state and local sales tax you paid during the year, but only if you itemize, says Forbes.

And you must choose: The IRS guidance says you can deduct either state and local sales tax or state income tax but not both.

A tax roundup by information services company Wolters Kluwer is optimistic that Congress may extend this tax break. But just to be sure, make any big purchases you have in mind before the end of the year if you want to deduct the sales tax.

6. Forgiven mortgage debt

In effect, you’ve earned money when the bank lets you off the hook for a part of your mortgage balance. After the tsunami of foreclosures brought pleas from homeowners, lenders sometimes forgive a portion of a borrower’s mortgage debt in a foreclosure, short sale or mortgage modification. The IRS considered this taxable income until Congress passed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act in 2007. It lets taxpayers exclude from taxes up to $2 million in mortgage debt forgiveness on their principal residence. The IRS explains it.

That break is set to disappear. (Those using the Home Affordable Modification Program’s Principal Reduction Alternative should read this article.)

7. Tax parity for commuters

Workers who drive to work can defer $245 a month of pretax salary in 2013 to help pay for parking. Those costs are excluded from your gross income for tax purposes, says the IRS.

The transit parity tax leveled the playing field, giving the same benefits to commuters who use public transit or van pools. But the tax break for those using public transit will shrink to $130 a month in 2014, while increasing to $250 for drivers who pay for parking. Hang onto your receipts next year anyway, in case Congress extends the break retroactively.

8. Charitable contributions from IRAs

If you’re 70½ or older, you can transfer up to $100,000 out of your individual retirement account to charity. This alternative to using an itemized deduction is about to sunset, too.

Content provided by:  http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2013/12/10/these-8-tax-breaks-are-about-to-expire/#gAwxLKHDMdHGSBSb.99

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Here we are!

[ 0 ] January 22, 2014

Spectrum Financial has made it more convenient for you to to reach us!  You can find us on our blog  LinkedIn page,  Facebook page, and of course our website.

Check us out!

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Applicable Federal Rates

[ 0 ] January 15, 2014

Cheap Money is Still Here but It’s Getting More Expensive

Spectrum Financial Solutions, LLC Applicable Federal Rates

I sure hope that everyone is looking at the recent rise in the mid and long-term Applicable Federal Rates (AFR).  After languishing at historically low levels since October, 2011, these benchmark rates have finally started a northern movement over the past few months.  Where they will stop, I wouldn’t hazard a guess but I know that the opportunities that these low rates represent, while still very favorable, more than likely won’t see recent levels any time soon.

I have been preaching the advocacy of Intra-family lending at the mid and long-term rates for years.  It may be better than gifting of assets to children and heirs.  Consider these points:

  • No gift tax returns to file or gift taxes to pay
  • An income stream albeit marginal (mid-term rate for August = 1.63% and long-term= 3.16%)
  • An element of control
  • An interim freeze on asset growth for loaned funds
  • Return of your money at some later date
  • Retention of any unused unified credit
  • Flexibility

While intra-family lending is a potent wealth transfer tool, rising AFR’s also affect many other planning tools.  One such program that I use extensively is the charitable lead unitrust, which employs the mid-term AFR to calculate the Section 7520 rates and charitable lead income tax deductions.

The planning opportunity afforded by these rates remains formidable.  If the client has the financial wherewithal, desire to transfer wealth efficiently and/or has charitable goals, there is no time better than now to explore the options created by low AFR rates.

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Quote of the day-Preparation

[ 0 ] January 8, 2014

Spectrum Financial Solutions, NJ, Abraham Lincoln“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.” Abraham Lincoln

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year

[ 0 ] December 31, 2013

Spectrum Financial Solutions, LLC, NJ, Happy New Year

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Happy holidays from George Klahre

[ 0 ] December 24, 2013

Spectrum Financial, NJ, Happy Holidays

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