Successful Financial Planning for the Seasons of Life

Posted Thursday, 06/15/2017 - 10:00

As we enter the summer, some exciting transitions are happening in our AFA family. My youngest daughter, Jen, has graduated from college (making me an official “empty-nester”). Charles Crowley and his wife, Erin, are about to welcome the next generation of “AFA babies” into the world as they become first-time parents. And, Julie Andrews has welcomed her first grandchild, a baby boy named Wilson.

These are certainly all joyful events, but each one of them brings change and challenges. How do we adjust to these changes, and as parents how do we guide our children in their transitions?


Atlanta Financial Family News

Posted Thursday, 06/15/2017 - 10:00

Welcome to the World, Wilson!
Atlanta Financial partner Julie Andrews became a new grandmother when her oldest son, Will, and his wife, Allison, welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Wilson Pittman Andrews IV, in May. See our lead article above about how new grandparents, like Julie, can incorporate grandchildren into their financial planning and gifting. Congratulations to the growing Andrews family!

Watch Out World - Jen Miller is a College Graduate
Jen Miller, Cathy Miller’s youngest child, is a college graduate! Jen received her BBS in Entrepreneurial Management from Texas Christian University (TCU) in May. Following a celebratory graduation trip with her mom, Jen will be moving to Tampa and starting her career as a Program Manager with Schneider Electric.

Cathy authored this month’s lead article about financial planning through the seasons of life, including transitioning your recent college graduate from financial dependence to independence. We’re confident that Jen will make that transition seamlessly and successfully. Looking forward to seeing what the future holds for her!

Expect the Unexpected: What To Do If You Become Disabled

Posted Thursday, 06/15/2017 - 10:00

In a recent survey, 46% of retirees said they retired earlier than planned, and not necessarily because they chose to do so. In fact, many said they had to leave the workforce early because of health issues or a disability.

Although you may be healthy and financially stable now, an unexpected diagnosis or injury could significantly derail your life plans. Would you know what to do, financially speaking, if you suddenly became disabled? Now may be a good time to familiarize yourself with the following information, before an emergency arises.


4 Things To Do in the 4 Years Before College

Posted Thursday, 06/15/2017 - 10:00

College is a huge financial undertaking. With costs increasing every year and the prospect of too much student debt at the forefront of many families' minds, it's more important than ever to be an educated college consumer. Go into the planning process wisely with these four steps.


Finding Your Sweet Spot in Retirement

Posted by Rick Henderson on Monday 05/22/2017 - 12:00

In my conversations with clients who are beginning to prepare for their transition into retirement, I ask them, "What would you like to do in retirement?", and often they answer, "I'm not really sure" or "I haven't really decided yet." What's interesting about those answers is that while they have worked for years preparing financially for a successful retirement, they have not considered the other aspects of retirement that, along with sound financial preparation, will truly make them happy in retirement.

Some retirement experts say that the two main things that you need for a successful retirement are enough assets to live on, and enough relationships, interests and activities to live for. However, many people spend more time planning their annual family vacations than they spend planning for a successful and happy retirement which might last 30 years or longer. If you're not sure what you are going to do in retirement, how can you find your "sweet spot" in retirement?


Mark Your Calendar & Join Us!

Neighborhood Dinner: Sandy Springs
June 29, 2017
We're hitting the road and meeting our clients where they live by hosting theme dinners throughout the Atlanta Metro area. June's gathering will be in Sandy Springs. If you live in the area and your situation is a good fit for the program topic, be on the lookout for a personal invitation!

State of the Markets Webinar
August 14, 2017
The financial world is incredibly complex – and, these days, we're all bombarded with dramatic headlines and contrasting opinions. This webinar is designed to educate you about some of the factors we, and expert financial analysts, are watching.

In lieu of our written market report, we are providing an opportunity for you to hear us discuss the markets first-hand.

25th Anniversary Celebration
September 23, 2017
Atlanta Financial turns 25 this year! Come celebrate this milestone anniversary with us. Details coming soon!

Congratulations to Chris Pena, CRC®

Financial Planning Coordinator Chris Pena recently passed his Certified Retirement Counselor® (CRC) exam demonstrating a mastery of both retirement accumulation and distribution planning. This certification is one of only a very few retirement and financial planning-related certifications independently accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). We are proud of Chris as he has gained valuable retirement knowledge and skills to help him bring even more value to his work with our clients. Nice work, Chris!

Four Numbers You Need to Know Now

Posted on Monday 05/22/2017 - 12:10

When it comes to your finances, you might easily overlook some of the numbers that really count. Here are four to pay attention to now that might really matter in the future.

1. Retirement plan contribution rate
What percentage of your salary are you contributing to a retirement plan? Making automatic contributions through an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan is an easy way to save for retirement, but this out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach may result in a disparity between what you need to save and what you actually are saving for retirement. Checking your contribution rate and increasing it periodically can help you stay on track toward your retirement savings goal.


Is It Wise to Trade Your Pension for a Lump Sum?

Posted on Monday 05/22/2017 - 12:30

Most private employers have already replaced traditional pensions, which promise lifetime income payments in retirement, with defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s. But 15% of private-sector workers and 75% of state and local government workers still participate in traditional pensions.1Altogether, 35% of workers say they (and/or their spouse) have pension benefits with a current or former employer.2

Many pension plan participants have the option to take their money in a lump sum when they retire. And since 2012, an increasing number of large corporate pensions have been implementing "lump-sum windows" during which vested former employees have a limited amount of time (typically 30 to 90 days) to accept or decline buyout offers.3 (Lump-sum offers to retirees already receiving pension benefits are no longer allowed.)


Making Social Security Decisions with Confidence

By Julianne F. Andrews, MBA, CFP®, AIF®

Deciding when to begin taking Social Security can be confusing and overwhelming especially when you consider that once the decision is made, it can be difficult to change and a 12-month time restriction applies. Determining the optimal time to begin taking benefits depends on several factors, including the amount of benefits available to you and your spouse (if married), life expectancy, the date of your retirement, and the availability of other assets and income sources, such as 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and retirement savings plans, that can be tapped during non-working years.


Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Harrison Fant!

On March 11, 2017, our own Harrison Fant, Associate Advisor, married Erin Blossom at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. A beautiful reception was held at Roswell's Ivy Hall to celebrate the couple. Harrison and Erin took a wedding trip to St. Lucia and returned to their newly purchased home in Roswell to begin what we hope will be a long and happy life together. Please join us in wishing Harrison and Erin all the best!

Spencer Weresch Has a New Title and a New CMFC Designation

We are pleased to announce that Spencer Weresch's role has been expanded to include responsibility for heading up account services projects for the firm as directed by the principals. His new title will be Senior Operations Project Leader as he adds these new responsibilities to his continuing work supporting Julie's clients.

Additionally, congratulations are in order as Spencer recently earned his Charted Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC®) designation. The CMFC designation is the only industry-recognized mutual fund designation. The program provides recipients with a "thorough knowledge of mutual funds and their various uses as investment vehicles," according to the College for Financial Planning who offers the designation in conjunction with the Investment Company Institute (ICI).

Four Ways to Double the Power of Your Tax Refund

The IRS expects that more than 70% of taxpayers will receive a refund in 2017.¹ What you do with a tax refund is up to you, but here are some ideas that may make your refund twice as valuable.

Double your savings
Perhaps you'd like to use your tax refund to start an education fund for your children or grandchildren, contribute to a retirement savings account for yourself, or save for a rainy day. A financial concept known as the Rule of 72 can give you a rough estimate of how long it might take to double what you initially save. Simply divide 72 by the annual rate you hope that your money will earn. For example, if you invest your tax refund and it earns a 6% average annual rate of return, your investment might double in approximately 12 years (72 divided by 6 equals 12).


Converting Retirement Savings to Retirement Income

You've been saving diligently for years, and now it's time to think about how to convert the money in your traditional 401(k)s (or similar workplace savings plans) into retirement income. But hold on, not so fast. You may need to take a few steps first.

Evaluate your needs
If you haven't done so, estimate how much income you'll need to meet your desired lifestyle in retirement. Conventional wisdom says to plan on needing 70% to 100% of your annual pre-retirement income to meet your needs in retirement; however, your specific amount will depend on your unique circumstances. First identify your non-negotiable fixed needs — such as housing, food, and medical care — to get clarity on how much it will cost to make basic ends meet. Then identify your variable wants — including travel, leisure, and entertainment. Segregating your expenses into needs and wants will help you develop an income strategy to fund both.


Spring Cleaning Your Finances

The arrival of spring often signifies a time of renewal, a reminder to dust off the cobwebs and get rid of the dirt and grime that have built up throughout the winter season. And while most spring cleaning projects are likely focused on your home, you could take this time to evaluate and clean up your personal finances as well.

Examine your budget..and stick with it
A budget is the centerpiece of any good personal financial plan. Start by identifying your income and expenses. Next, add them up and compare the two totals to make sure you are spending less than you earn. If you find that your expenses outweigh your income, you'll need to make some adjustments to your budget (e.g., reduce discretionary spending).


Julianne Andrews Honored in Forbes Ranking of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors

ATLANTA – March 9, 2017 – Atlanta Financial Associates, an independent financial advisory firm, today announced that Julianne F. Andrews, MBA, CFP®, AIF®, has been recognized by Forbes in their ranking of America's Top Women Wealth Advisors for 2017. The inaugural list was published on earlier this month. Andrews, who is ranked 155 nationally, is one of only four advisors from the state of Georgia.

Andrews is a Principal and co-founder of Atlanta Financial Associates. With more than 25 years of comprehensive wealth management experience, Andrews provides holistic financial planning, asset protection and taxation strategies for physicians, professionals and individuals at or nearing retirement.


Opening the "Back Door" to Retirement Savings

By Cathy Miller

I remember one of my grandmother's favorite sayings was, "When you can't come in the front door, don't be afraid to go in by the back door." This saying perfectly captured this amazing woman's outlook on life - that we should never give up, and need to be creative to find solutions to the "curve balls" life can throw our way.

Little did I know that this advice would someday apply to the complex world of retirement planning. For those of you who have heard of "back door Roth IRA contributions," the connection may be getting a little clearer.


Save the Dates for Upcoming Events!

Retirement Readiness Event
April 7, 2017
9:30 am to 4 pm
Palisades Office Park – Atlanta

We've been planning your financial retirement for quite some time but this workshop focuses on aspects of retirement beyond the financials. We will address important topics related to:

  • Work and career in retirement
  • Health and wellness
  • Family and relationships
  • Leisure and hobbies
  • Personal Development


Due Date Approaches for 2016 Federal Income Tax Returns

Tax filing season is here again. If you haven't done so already, you'll want to start pulling things together – that includes getting your hands on a copy of last year's tax return and gathering W-2s, 1099s, and deduction records. You'll need these records whether you're preparing your own return or paying someone else to do your taxes for you.


Why Diversification Matters

When investing, particularly for long-term goals, there is one concept you will likely hear about over and over again – diversification. Why is diversification so important? The simple reason is that it helps ensure that your risk of loss is spread among a number of different investments. The theory is that if some of the investments in your portfolio decline in value, others may rise or hold steady, helping to offset the losses.


How Can I Prepare Financially for Stormy Weather?

Stormy weather, floods, tornadoes, torrential rain, lightning, and hail are common events in many parts of the country during the spring and may result in widespread damage. Severe weather often strikes with little warning, so take measures now to protect yourself and your property.

Review your insurance coverage. Make sure your homeowners and auto insurance coverage is sufficient. While standard homeowners insurance covers losses from fire, lightning, and hail, you may need to buy separate coverage for hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. Consult your insurer or insurance professional, who can help determine whether you have adequate coverage for the risks you face.


Building a Housing Plan for Retirement

By Rick Henderson

For many, retirement is the result of a lifetime of work and years of saving and planning. It is a time where you can start doing all those things on your "Bucket List," and may include things like travel; spending more time on activities like golf, tennis, or fishing; volunteering; pursuing those interests that you never had time for while you were working; and spending more time with family.


Harrison Fant Receives Accredited Investment Fiduciary Designation

Harrison Fant is on a roll! Last month, he received his Certified Financial Planner® (CFP) designation and this month, he received his Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF) designation. The AIF designation represents a thorough knowledge of and ability to apply the fiduciary practices. According to fi360, home of the AIF and AIFA® designations, AIF designees have a reputation in the financial services industry for their "ability to implement a prudent process into their own investment practices as well as being able to assist others in implementing proper policies and procedures." Nice work, Harrison!

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Social Security is an important source of retirement income for millions of Americans, but how much do you know about this program? Test your knowledge, and learn more about your retirement benefits, by answering the following questions.


Grandparents Can Help Bridge the College Cost Gap

For many families, a college education is a significant financial burden that is increasingly hard to meet with savings, current income, and a manageable amount of loans. For some, the ace in the hole might be grandparents, whose added funds can help bridge the gap. If you're a grandparent who would like to help fund your grandchild's college education, here are some strategies.


Can the IRS Waive the 60-Day IRA Rollover Deadline?

If you take a distribution from your IRA intending to make a 60-day rollover, but for some reason the funds don't get to the new IRA trustee in time, the tax impact can be significant. In general, the rollover is invalid, the distribution becomes a taxable event, and you're treated as having made a regular, instead of a rollover, contribution to the new IRA. But all may not be lost. The 60-day requirement is automatically waived if all of the following apply:


Retiring FITT: A Road Map to Retirement

At Atlanta Financial, we've re-drawn the map to retirement. Our "Retiring FITT" system, a proprietary program, is designed to empower retirees to make good decisions when going through the retirement process. It has changed the way we talk about retirement, putting the client and investor in the driver’s seat.

The system addresses 25 different aspects of retirement and helps clients develop a solid action plan for retirement by looking at the entire picture and providing the missing pieces. This comprehensive program alleviates fears of making critical and permanent mistakes.


Atlanta Financial Launches Blog

We are pleased to announce the addition of our new blog to the Atlanta Financial website. We welcome you to visit regularly for posts about retirement, financial and tax planning, as well as our thoughts and opinions on current events that may impact financial strategies.

Harrison Fant Receives Certified Financial Planner Designation

Congratulations to Harrison Fant for earning his Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation! According to the CFP Board, the CFP process "identifies to the public that the individual has met rigorous professional standards and has agreed to adhere to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients." Harrison has been authorized to use the CFP certification marks in the U.S.

Key Retirement and Tax Numbers for 2017

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces cost-of-living adjustments that affect contribution limits for retirement plans, thresholds for deductions and credits, and standard deduction and personal exemption amounts. Here are a few of the key adjustments for 2017.


Growth, Value or Both

The terms growth and value are often used to describe two different investment strategies, yet many investors may want both qualities in an investment. Famed investor Warren Buffett put it this way in a 2015 interview: "I always say if you aren't investing for value, what are you investing for? And the idea that value and growth are two different things makes no sense.... Growth is part of the value equation."


Please Join Us for Atlanta Financial’s Holiday Open House – December 15

Holiday Open House



Julie Andrews Talks Medical Costs and Retirement in Atlanta Business Chronicle

Are you worried about how medical costs might impact your retirement? The Atlanta Business Chronicle recently interviewed our own Julie Andrews on this very topic and the resulting article, "Medical Costs Can Hamper Retirement," ran in the October 25, 2016, issue of the paper.

Here is an excerpt:

Julianne Andrews, principal at Atlanta Financial Associates, said the space has evolved over the last several years but more of her clients are interested in coverage, especially those who have aging parents who are facing costly medical challenges.

"They know first hand how expensive medical problems can be," she said. "But the marketplace has changed. Many carriers have gotten out, the premiums have gone up and the benefits have been curtailed pretty significantly."


The Giving Season: Six Tips for Making Smart and Effective Charitable Donations This Holiday Season

The holidays are a popular time for charitable donations. With so many charities to choose from, it's more important than ever to ensure that your donation is well spent. Here are six tips that can help you make smart and effective charitable donations.

1. Choose your charities wisely

Choosing worthy organizations that support the causes you care about can be tricky, but it doesn't have to be time-consuming. There are several well-known organizations that rate and review charities, as well as provide useful tips and information on how to donate and choose a charity (see sidebar). To get started, here are some things to consider:


Playing Catch-up with Your 401(K) or IRA

A recent survey of baby boomers (ages 53 to 69) found that just 24% were confident they would have enough money to last throughout retirement. Forty-five percent had no retirement savings at all, and of those who did have savings, 42% had saved less than $100,000.

Your own savings may be on more solid ground, but regardless of your current balance, it's smart to keep it growing. If you're 50 or older, you could benefit by making catch-up contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts. You might be surprised by how much your nest egg could grow late in your working career.


What It Means To Be A Financial Caregiver For Your Parents

If you are the adult child of aging parents, you may find yourself in the position of someday having to assist them with handling their finances. Whether that time is in the near future or sometime further down the road, there are some steps you can take now to make the process a bit easier.

Mom and Dad, can we talk?

Your first step should be to get a handle on your parents' finances so you fully understand their current financial situation. The best time to do so is when your parents are relatively healthy and active. Otherwise, you may find yourself making critical decisions on their behalf in the midst of a crisis.


IRS Announces 2017 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits

On October 27, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service announced its annual cost-of-living adjustments for 2017 retirement plan-related items. A key change this year is that the defined contribution limit is increasing from $53,000 to $54,000. All other contribution limits will remain the same.

Trump of Clinton?


This year's election of a new United States president will make history. For the first time, a woman is running for the country's top job, and her opponent is not a seasoned politician but a businessman. While those circumstances will certainly be heralded and much studied, what does it mean to the savvy investor?

Although a change in leadership — especially if it's a pivot from one party to the other — seems likely to impact market performance, a quick review of history reveals otherwise. Despite the common opinion that the market performs better with a pro-business party in the White House, the country's financial health, as evidenced by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has achieved healthy double digit returns under both Republican and Democrat governance.


Atlanta Financial Associates Partners Selected as Five Star Wealth Managers for 2016

Atlanta, GA – October 4, 2016 – Atlanta Financial Associates, an independent financial advisory firm, today announced that Cathy Miller, Julianne Andrews and Rick Henderson have each received the 2016 Five Star Wealth Manager award* for the greater Atlanta area.

The Five Star Wealth Manager award is the largest and most widely published wealth manager program in the financial services industry. The criteria is based on a rigorous, multifaceted research methodology, incorporating input from peers and firm leaders, client retention rates, industry experience and a thorough regulatory history review. 

Substantiating Your Charitable Gifts

When you claim a federal income tax deduction for charitable contributions, you must substantiate the contributions by maintaining certain records. The records must establish the charity to whom the gift was made, the amount of cash or the type and value of other property donated to charity, whether anything was received in consideration for the contribution, and certain other requirements. The records needed generally depend on the type and value of the property donated; there may be some overlap in requirements. In general, do not attach the records to your income tax return. Keep the records so that you can provide them to the IRS if requested to do so.

Understanding the Net Investment Income Tax

It's been around since 2013, but many are still struggling to come to grips with the net investment income tax. The 3.8% tax, which is sometimes referred to as the Medicare surtax on net investment income, affected approximately 3.1 million federal income tax returns for 2013 (the only year for which data is available) to the tune of almost $11.7 billion.1 Here's what you need to know.

I'm thinking about asking my parents to move in with me and my family. Is there anything I need to consider?

Many members of the "sandwich generation"--a group loosely defined as people in their 40s to 60s who are "sandwiched" between caring for their own children and aging parents--find themselves in the position of raising a family and looking after the needs of aging parents. If the time has come when you and your parents think that it may be in their best interest to live with you, you should discuss the implications and how it will impact your entire family.

Sahil Khetani Passes the Series 63 Exam

Congratulations to Account Services Associate Sahil Khetani for passing his Series 63 exam, the final step in being licensed to trade accounts. The Series 63, known as the Uniform Securities Agent license, is an exam administered to investment industry professionals by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Quiz: Test Your Interest Rate Knowledge

In December 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds target rate to a range of 0.25% to 0.50%, the first rate increase from the near-zero range where it had lingered for seven years. Many economists viewed this action as a positive sign that the Fed had finally deemed the U.S. economy healthy enough to withstand slightly higher interest rates. It remains to be seen how rate increases will play out for the remainder of 2016. In the meantime, try taking this short quiz to test your interest rate knowledge.

How to Get a Bigger Social Security Retirement Benefit

Many people decide to begin receiving early Social Security retirement benefits. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration, about 72% of retired workers receive benefits prior to their full retirement age. 1 But waiting longer could significantly increase your monthly retirement income, so weigh your options carefully before making a decision.

How is GDP calculated in the U.S.?

GDP, or gross domestic product, is a measurement of the total value of all goods and services produced in the United States over a given time period. It is used by economists, government officials, market forecasters and others to gauge the overall health of the U.S. economy.

What is the most important component of GDP in the United States?

We often hear in the media that consumer spending is crucial to the overall health of the U.S. economy, but exactly how important is it? Representing approximately two-thirds of overall GDP, consumption--the almighty consumer--is the largest driver of economic growth in the United States. Of the nearly $18 trillion in U.S. GDP (2015), American shoppers are responsible for a piece of the pie worth about $12 trillion.

Congratulations to Our New Series 7 Recipients

Sahil Khetani, Account Services Associate, and Kassi Conley, Client Service Administrator, recently passed their Series 7 exams, an essential license for a securities representative. The Series 7 exam, also known as the General Securities Representative Qualification Examination, assesses the candidate's knowledge of corporate securities sales, municipal securities, investment company securities, variable annuities, direct participation programs, options and government securities.

Life Insurance Options After Retirement

Life insurance can serve many valuable purposes during your life. However, once you've retired, you may no longer feel the need to keep your life insurance, or the cost of maintaining the policy may have become too expensive. In these cases, you might be tempted to abandon the policy or surrender your life insurance coverage. But there are other alternatives to consider as well.

Should You Buy or Lease Your Next Vehicle?

After declining dramatically a few years ago, auto sales are up, leasing offers are back, and incentives and deals abound. So if you're in the market for a new vehicle, should you buy it or lease it? To decide, you'll need to consider how each option fits into your lifestyle and your budget. This chart shows some points to compare.

Common Financial Wisdom: Theory vs. Practice

In the financial world, there are a lot of rules about what you should be doing. In theory, they sound reasonable. But in practice, it may not be easy, or even possible, to follow them. Let's look at some common financial maxims and why it can be hard to implement them.

Q&A on IRAs

Can I make charitable contributions from my IRA in 2016?
Yes, if you qualify. The law authorizing qualified charitable distributions, or QCDs, has recently been made permanent by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015.

Atlanta Financial Welcomes Four New Team Members

Our team is growing and changing!  We are excited to announce the addition of the following team members:  Christopher Pena CFP®, Financial Planning Coordinator; Kassi Conley, Client Service Administrator; Sahil Khetani, Account Services Associate; and Tiana Cannon, Office Administrator.

Hear how Atlanta Financial makes life’s journey richer.

Atlanta Financial TV is home to a variety of videos that allow clients and associates to share our knowledge, insight and experience. Tune in to learn more about our approach to comprehensive wealth management.