As a consumer, you’ve probably visited a franchise at least once in the last month. But have you ever thought about owning one? If you’re the entrepreneurial type and looking for a career change or another income stream, it might be worth considering. This kind of business venture allows you to be your own boss and offers more structure than a startup. There are pros and cons to owning a franchise, of course, and some questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge.

Which brand is right for me?
While all franchises follow a similar high-level model, no two businesses are alike. It’s critical to select one that seems truly invested in their franchisees’ success. Ranked lists of the best and worst franchises can shed light on what to look for (e.g., creative marketing) and what to avoid (e.g., high fees).

How can I acquire information?
Once you’ve identified a potential franchise, you’ll want to deepen your understanding of the day-to-day operations and learn all of the ins and outs. Attend a Discovery Day, a soft sales event where you can interact face-to-face with franchisors, ask questions and get a better sense of the brand. And they’ll want to get to know you, as well, before moving forward.

Who can assist me?
Of course, investing in a franchise is a big commitment and life event. When it comes to financial decisions of this scale, it’s wise to consult a business law attorney to review your franchise agreement before you sign. And you’ll want to look at the money side of things with an expert to help you frame your expectations and evaluate how this new business will impact other areas of your financial plan. Think a franchise might be for you? Get in touch.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

No matter how much fun your summer is shaping up to be, it’s no time to put your finances on pause. Take a look at the past six months to gauge how you can adjust your strategic or tactical actions to ensure you’re making steady progress toward your financial goals.

Check In With Your Cash Flow
Is your spending under control, leaving you with a chunk of untouched income each and every month? If not, take a deep dive into your budget to see what your dollars are doing, and tighten that proverbial belt. And make sure your emergency fund is full so you’re not tempted to reach for short-term, high-interest debt when an unexpected need arises.

Look at Long-Term Goal Progress
If your cash flow and emergency fund are in good shape, point that unspent monthly chunk toward larger goals like retirement, kids’ college funds or other investment vehicles. Research has shown that time in the market may be more effective than trying to time the market. Now is an optimal opportunity to diligently and consistently fund investment accounts linked to your long-term goals.

Make Adjustments Based on Life Changes
Have there been any births, deaths, breakups, job promotions or other notable life changes since 2017 began? Milestone events can impact your financial plan and priorities in many ways.

You may need to tweak your insurance coverage, amend your estate planning documents or revisit the beneficiaries listed for your various accounts and policies. Let the appropriate professionals know; they will have the best guidance for each situation, but only if they’re aware of these changes in the first place.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Are you always looking for the latest gadget, or do you prefer to wait and see what stands the test of time? Either way, you’re likely connected to the internet of things whether you know it or not. What exactly does this trendy terminology mean? Here’s an overview to bring you up to speed.

Everyone’s Getting Into It
In a nutshell, the internet of things describes a technological ecosystem of devices — think cars, heart monitors and kitchen appliances — that send and receive data via the internet. This trend is spreading to diverse and surprising industries, including agriculture, retail and transportation, as hardware gets stronger and cheaper.

Less About the Device, More About the Data
Don’t expect to browse the web, stream your favorite TV show or use instant messaging services on these gadgets like you can on your smartphone or computer. Reminder alerts, seamless firmware updates and similar features will appeal to consumers, but the real draw is for manufacturers and other companies. They will benefit from the enormous amount of data that can provide analytics and insight into how people are using the devices, as well as personal data like health-related metrics.

Exciting Pros, Worrisome Cons
Security and privacy are the primary concerns surfacing with the internet of things and for good reason. The extensive data flowing from so many devices poses a logistical issue for IT infrastructure, not to mention the vulnerability to hackers and other cyberattacks.

Staying current with new tech can feel like a full-time hobby, but for those looking to constantly improve and optimize their lives, each year brings further advancements. Just remember to embrace the internet of things and other changes with your eyes wide open.

A long-term savings strategy like planning for retirement relies on small steps taken over an extended period of time. Make sure you’re on track by avoiding these common mistakes.

Underfunding Retirement Accounts
Are you among the 71 percent of Americans who aren’t putting enough away for retirement? The most effective determining factors of a well-funded retirement are how early you start and how much you save. Aim to contribute the maximum amount allowable into your retirement accounts each year. If that’s a stretch, commit to increasing contributions to retirement accounts any time your income climbs, whether it’s from annual raises or salary boosts when you change jobs.

Ignoring Tax Ramifications
If you’re early in your wealth-building journey or you anticipate a lower-than-usual income this year, it may be worthwhile to take advantage of your lower tax rate and make Roth contributions in your retirement accounts. Just make sure your employer-sponsored retirement plan has a Roth option. If your income disqualifies you from making Roth IRA contributions, consider Roth conversions.

Concentrating Your Investments Too Narrowly
Many Americans who held most of their funds in a single company or sector of stocks learned this harsh lesson during the dot-com bubble. When the bubble burst between 1999 and 2001, so did a portion of those portfolios. And the same concern goes for tying up the bulk of your wealth in your principal residence. Not only is it time-consuming and costly to convert a home to cash, but you’ll also have the added stress of finding a new place to live. Diversification is key to avoiding this mistake.

Whether retirement is a few decades away or just around the corner, the goal is to make steady progress in the right direction as you prepare for life after work.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Like estate planning, long-term care insurance is a critical component of a financially secure future, but many people tend to put it off or actively avoid it. Planning ahead helps you avoid burdening your family and loved ones with the mental and financial costs of providing care. Read on for more about adding a long-term care policy to your overall wealth portfolio and what to consider along the way.

  • Chances are high you may benefit from this coverage. Thanks to modern medicine, we’re living longer than ever. But that also means we’re more susceptible to cognitive impairment as we age, and that often makes daily activities difficult enough to require assistance. Hiring help to perform activities of daily living can be costly, particularly if conditions persist indefinitely, since Medicare payments cease if your stay in a skilled nursing facility exceeds 100 days. From Day 101 on, you will be responsible for all costs.
  • Long-term care insurance policies aren’t getting better. The unfortunate reality is that this kind of coverage is an increasing loss leader for insurance companies. When long-term care is needed, it’s usually necessary until death, which means extended payout periods for insurance companies. Fewer companies offer long-term care contracts, and many of those that do have significantly increased premiums on existing policies. If you’re interested in long-term care coverage, consider shopping sooner rather than later.
  • Buy early, or put an alternative plan in place. Those in their 30s and 40s with a few decades to spare may look into alternate ways of paying for long-term care. Having more options to address future needs, like a health savings account or long-term care annuities, can provide security and flexibility as the insurance industry continues to evolve.

Before biting the bullet on long-term care coverage, weigh your options to come up with the strategy that best fits your lifestyle and needs.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Landing on the Fortune 500 is a pie-in-the-sky dream of many business owners. The most profitable U.S. companies that make up the latest list collectively employ 27.9 million individuals across the world and represent $840 billion in profits and $12 trillion in revenues. Who are these business dynamos and where are many of them based?

The Top 10
In June 2016, Fortune magazine took a look at 2015’s top moneymakers, most of which are household names. The No. 1 spot goes to the Arkansas-based big-box retailer Wal-Mart, followed by oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil, tech innovator Apple, insurance and investment outfit Berkshire Hathaway, and pharmaceutical distributor McKesson. Health care companies, auto manufacturers and a communications company round out the top 10.

Hot Areas for Headquarters
Many Fortune 500 company headquarters are on the East Coast — from Comcast (No. 37) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; to JetBlue Airlines (No. 405) in Long Island City, New York; to General Electric (No. 11) in Fairfield, Connecticut.

The Midwest also houses several successful centers of operation, including Motorola Solutions (No. 451) in Schaumburg, Illinois; Harley-Davidson (No. 432) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Dow Chemical (No. 56) in Midland, Michigan.

How States Rank for Business
Knowing where a state ranks on business matters and understanding their differing approaches to incentives, tax rates and more may narrow down where to move next, even if a job isn’t waiting for you upon arrival. According to Chief Executive magazine’s “Best and Worst States for Business,” Texas is the most beneficial, pro-growth spot for business owners, while California ranks lowest.

As we begin a new year, one way of exploring the economic landscape ahead of us is to examine the biggest revenue generators in America and the impact they have on national and local scales.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

It may seem early, but the start of a new year is an ideal time to get your ducks in a row when it comes to tax preparation. Use the following tips to get some work done now and avoid the panic of procrastination.

Revisit Your Usual Routine
The bulk of tax prep comes down to organized paperwork, so take stock of your documents. To report income, you’ll want W-2 statements if you’re salaried, 1099s if you do any freelance work and end-of-year statements for taxable investment accounts. Keep in mind that employers have until Jan. 31 to file and provide copies of W-2s and most 1099s to employees and contractors.

Strategize Your Upcoming Tax Bill
One significant benefit to gearing up for tax season now: You can potentially owe less to the IRS by stashing away some funds in tax-advantaged accounts. You have until April 17, 2017, to max out 2016 contributions in a Traditional IRA, solo 401(k) or health savings account and potentially net a nice deduction as a result. Or if 2016 resulted in lower-than-usual income and you can afford to pay more taxes (but at a lower rate), consider whether a Roth conversion makes sense for the year.

Note What’s New
High-income earners should be aware of phaseout limits for itemized deductions, the Medicare surtax and a new higher rate for dividends and long-term capital gains. And if you were without healthcare coverage in 2016, don’t be surprised when the IRS levies a penalty fine.

Square away your tax situation early in the year so you have plenty of time to identify potential gaps, valuable opportunities and strategies to protect your hard-earned wealth for this year and the next.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

One common trait among the highly successful is their endless drive to improve and learn. Take a page from their book during your downtime this holiday season by feeding your curiosity and keeping your mind engaged. Make space on your digital device for some of these popular finance-focused podcasts:

  1. National Public Radio’s Planet Money tackles broad economic topics with a fun, inventive approach. One example: In August, a five-episode series chronicled their 100-barrel oil purchase, following it from a Kansas well to its final stop at an Iowa gas station. Look for new podcasts once or twice a week.
  2. Marketplace delivers a daily podcast that takes a detailed look at the day’s business and financial news in a relatable and highly digestible format.
  3. What started in 1997 as a syndicated newspaper feature has evolved into Motley Fool Money, a weekly radio show and podcast. A team of analysts helms this production, deciphering technical jargon and covering investing-related stories and interviews.
  4. Fans of the 2005 nonfiction bestseller “Freakonomics” may appreciate the eponymous weekly podcast, which looks at economic systems from fresh perspectives. Podcast topics range from an economist’s take on ride-sharing apps to conversations with innovative entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss and more.
  5. Stacking Benjamins focuses on personal finance, alternating between guest interviews that touch on earning, saving and spending, and a roundtable format that features other podcasters and bloggers.

Time is money, so spend it wisely. Put your downtime to good use with these and other informative podcasts.

spending-your-bonus

Whether it’s tied to performance, holiday profits or a tax refund, nothing beats the joy of receiving a bonus. But resist the temptation to blow it all on something that could be short-lived. Instead, consider the following, all of which can have a lasting impact.

  • Pay down debt. If you’re carrying a credit card balance or another high-interest, short-term debt, here’s a chance to reduce it. With average credit card debt at nearly $8,000 per household, even a modest holiday bonus can make a serious dent and minimize the snowball effect.
  • Refresh your emergency fund. Are you one of the 63 percent of Americans who doesn’t have the savings to cover an unexpected $500 expense? Consider building a cash cushion that will help prevent you from reaching for your credit card at the next emergency.
  • Superfund your retirement savings. Take this opportunity to max out your IRA or 401(k). Using a bonus to put more long-term money into tax-advantaged accounts lets you avoid the end-of-year funding rush.
  • Leap ahead a few payments. Overpaying your usual mortgage amount means you’re shaving down the principal faster, which results in less interest. You can do the same with student loans and other long-term payments, just make sure there isn’t a prepayment penalty.
  • Don’t just treat yourself; invest in yourself. Reserve 10 to 20 percent of your bonus for a home, health or education upgrade. Spending in areas that are likely to generate more money in the future is a smart way to rationalize a purchase since you’re putting the unexpected funds to good use.

Consider dividing your bonus among multiple categories, giving higher percentages to your more urgent priorities. Using this strategy for a lump-sum windfall can turbocharge your existing short-term and long-term financial goals while still giving you a little breathing room to enjoy your reward.

beautiful beach and tropical sea

If you’re like most of our clients, you’ve thought long and hard about the financial aspects of your retirement. You’ve likely worked hard and saved diligently. But, retirement for each person is different. Perhaps you plan on a working retirement with a new job and less stress, focused on what you love. Or, perhaps you plan to travel, play golf, or just rock on the porch. Or, maybe you want to downsize to a smaller house, spend time with the grand-kids, or take up sky diving. Who knows? Whatever the plan, don’t forget to consider the location you plan to call home.

Where you “officially” call home can make a difference in your retirement lifestyle. Even if you plan to travel or live out of your RV, the place you officially live can impact your taxes and other living cost factors. Obviously, most people realize that retiring to California or New York will be generally more expensive than retiring to Tennessee. So, what are some of the factors to consider when picking a retirement destination?

For most retirees, the two largest expenses in retirement will be medical care and taxes. Yes, a milder climate not only means a more enjoyable tennis match, but it can also mean lower utility bills. However, lower utilities are not likely to be as big of a financial factor as other considerations. Regarding medical expenses, BenefitsPRO recently completed an analysis on healthcare costs in the US. Now, keep in mind that the analysis merely compares Medicare premiums, but this can still be a fair comparison on what average medical costs by state may be because Medicare premiums consider medical costs as a major factor. Believe it or not, the cost to have a heart attack is different in different parts of the country. So, on average, Florida has the highest Medicare premiums running 35% more than Hawaii, which has the lowest. This makes sense from a supply and demand standpoint; there are many more retirees in Florida needing medical care, which likely means there are consistent strains on supply, which in turn drives up the cost. Tennessee did not make the top ten lowest or highest for Medicare premiums.

Taxes are the other major factor for most retirees. Kiplinger recently listed six factors to consider when picking a retirement destination and each of the six factors were different types of taxes. Most retirees consider income taxes and while income taxes can be a major factor for some retirees, Sales Tax, Property Tax, and Estate Tax can be even more important. This is because once you reach retirement, you may have already earned most of your income; now it is more a matter of spending it. If income taxes are really your biggest issue, you might actually consider life outside the US. Over half-a-dozen countries actually have no income tax, but keep in mind, you’ll have to give up your US citizenship and other expenses may far outweigh the income tax savings unless your income is significant. Also keep in mind, the IRS will make you pay tax on your IRA before you expatriate, so don’t look to leaving the US as a way to avoid your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). One income tax you may want to watch out for is income tax on certain investments. For instance, Tennessee has no income tax on earned income; however, it does have income tax on interest income over a certain level. These hidden taxes can sneak up on you and make a difference. Another somewhat hidden income tax is Social Security income tax. Some states have been moving away from taxing SS, but as of this writing, thirteen states still do tax it.

If you are less affluent, then sales taxes and property taxes will likely be more significant factors. When considering property tax, keep in mind that most often this is a function of county government rather than state or federal government. If you own or plan to own significant amounts of real property, moving across the county line could mean a significant difference. Also consider if the county/state allows for a property tax “freeze” for owners who reside in the property. This can ensure that property taxes do not go up for you.

As for sales taxes, this is a function of states and local municipalities, but usually more dependent upon the state’s rate. Again, moving across a state or county line or even out of city limits can be factor. Also be aware that the sales tax rate may vary by item. For instance, some states do not charge sales tax on food or may charge a different rate on certain large purchases.

Finally, there are estate and inheritance taxes. The difference in these two is the way they are calculated. Estate taxes are charged to the estate, but inheritance taxes are charged to the inheritor, which may have differing rates depending upon whether the inheritor is a spouse, child, sibling, or unrelated. And, not only do the rates vary, the exemption amounts (how much you can pass on without having the tax) varies by state. Some states match the federal government’s exemption, but most don’t.

In all determining where to retire is an important consideration for which weather may be a big consideration. Just don’t forget to look at the financial implications of location too. And, if you need help evaluating those consideration, call us at 877-5WEALTH.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.