Year End Planning


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Can anybody tell me what is so important about the next four weeks? Christmas and New Year's Eve parties do not count as valid answers. Instead, you are given a few last opportunities to get your 2003 finances in order to minimize the tax bill you'll pay next April.

We all know about mortgage deductions, and charity giving being deductible and a few other things like that. We also know about the standard deduction, home business expenses and other stuff that you can learn from software programs like Turbo Tax (not an endorsement). But what about the lesser known deductions - medical savings, and others that I am not going to get into because I am not a tax expert. I do know who to recommend you go to talk to: a financial planner.

Preferably a Certified Financial Planner.

Okay; here's a short test - all True or False answers.

1. T or F Financial planners are the same as stockbrokers

2. T or F Financial planners are primarily investment advisers

3. T or F Rich people are the only ones who can afford financial planners

4. T or F Financial planners aren't worth the money you have to pay

5. T or F You should only work with fee-only planners

6. T or F You can develop your own financial plan

Tally up your totals. How'd you do? If you have more than 5 False marks you're doing great. Anything less, read on and learn what you can about how to improve your year end financial planning.

1. False - the Financial Planning Association notes that a stockbroker, insurance agent, and other financial sales personnel have the function of selling financial products. These days just about anybody can hang out a shingle claiming to be a financial planner.

A good planner's job is to help you identify your financial goals and working with you to develop a plan to reach those goals.

2. False - investment advice is just one part of what a planner does. Financial planners are supposed to look at your entire financial picture - debt, taxes, retirement, savings, estate planning and insurance.

3. False - an increasing number of planners are working with modest- income clients. Go to to look for a financial planner.

4. False - sometimes you get what you pay for. A planner is an objective third-party who can help you budget better, reduce taxes, or even prevent a costly financial catastrophe.

5. False - with a caution. Fee-only planners can cost $100 an hour and so can be prohibitively expensive. If you have a planner who also sells financial products, beware of high-pressure tactics. Financial planning won't help you if the planner pressures you into buying products you can't really afford or aren't what you need.

6. False - with a caution. This depends on what kind of person you are. If you are good at planning your financial future you won't need a financial planner. If, however, you are like most people you don't have the time or inclination to figure out how best to use your money then you really should consider hiring a financial planner.

So in the last four weeks of this year you need to sit down and decide what financial moves you can do to best help yourself. If this requires the use of a planner, don't hesitate to contact one. At the very least, sit down for an hour with all your paperwork in line and see if they have any suggestions as what you can do. With the power of the Internet behind you there is little reason why you can't improve your financial situation in this remaining time if you just know what to do.

Roger Sorensen

America's Financial Guide can be found at => Subscribe to Money Basics via - Are you ready for financial freedom ?


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