The Loss Damage Waiver

October 15, 2009

You’re standing at the rental car counter and the car agent asks if you would like to purchase the insurance on the car you are about to rent. The insurance seems so expensive. What do you do?

The insurance the rental car companies are trying to sell you is called “the loss damage waiver”. Purchasing this coverage from the rental agency relieves you of any responsibility for damage to a rented vehicle. Sounds good on the surface, but is it? It’s possible that you have probably already purchased the majority of what the rental agent is offering. When you purchase physical damage coverage (comprehensive and collision) for a car you own, the coverage will extend to any short-term rental vehicle. In some states (Minnesota included) the coverage for the rental vehicle extends from the liability coverage you purchased for your own personal vehicle.

Think twice before you purchase coverage you may very well already have.

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Vacation Properties and Income – Part 2

September 14, 2009

Another way for retirees to generate income from a vacation home is to sell it. By using the federal capital gains exclusion in conjunction with the sale of your primary residence, you can potentially realize tax-free income. Here’s how it works. The basic capital gains exclusion rules state that you must have owned and used the home as your primary residence for at least two years out of the five-year period ending on the date of the sale. If you are married, the full $500,000 exclusion ($250,000 for single homeowners) is available as long as one or both of you satisfies the ownership test (two years) and you both satisfy the use test (primary residence).


Vacation Properties and Income – Part 1

September 10, 2009

If you have a vacation home, you’re already aware of the enjoyment it provides and the benefits it can offer at tax time. But you may not be aware of how vacation property can be used to generate income in retirement or how it can play into an estate plan. In fact, vacation properties offer retirees a number of different options in managing their finances and estate.
Vacation property may be used to generate income in several different ways. The first, and most obvious, is renting it. The IRS allows you to deduct mortgage interest on your primary residence and one additional property up to a limit of $1 million in combined mortgage debt for mortgages taken out after 1987. Current tax rules also allow you to rent out a second home for up to 14 days per year without having to report the rent as income. If you rent for more than 14 days, the home is considered investment property, and rent must be reported as income. Converting the property to an investment property, however, allows you to deduct rental expenses, such as insurance and utilities, if you have a net profit on the property (deductions are limited if you report a loss). You can still use an income-producing property for personal use while maintaining your tax advantages — but only for the greater of 14 days or 10 percent of the total days it is rented. Maintenance days do not count as personal-use days, but use by in-laws or other part-owners does, even if rent is charged.


Simple Truths

September 8, 2009

As a financial advising firm, one of the simple truths we have learned is that relationships are the single greatest influence on how people use their money and plan for the future. When people talk about their hopes and dreams, they talk about the people they love. Their future, the life they wish to live, is always full of the people most important to them. They don’t talk first about dollars and cents, Dow averages, or bond yields. They talk about a spouse, a parent, a child. When imagining their financial futures, even those without family often focus on others, such as employees, friends, faith communities, and charities.


Keeping Your Emotions in Check…

September 3, 2009

In times like these, with the economy in a tailspin, and the stock market in the tank, investing requires an extra dose of patience, perseverance and perspective.
It takes patience to ride out the bear market, perseverance to continue to invest even through a difficult economy, and perspective to see the long-term picture and realize that recessions and bear markets are just part of the natural economic cycle. Slumping economies and bear markets of the past have always turned around — and there is no reason to believe that this time will be any different.


Saving for College

August 31, 2009

Saving for College
Another school year is around the corner and your children or grandchildren are that much closer to college. If you haven’t already started to save for their college costs, this may be a good time to talk to your adviser about setting up a tax-sheltered college savings plan.
By planning ahead, you can use a 529 college savings plan to give your children a head start on their college costs. There are two types of 529 plans: college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans.
College savings plans are state sponsored investment accounts that allow participants to contribute regularly. A 529 plan account grows tax-deferred and withdrawals from the plan for qualified educational expenses are exempt from federal income tax. There are no income limits.


The Parallels of the Current Economic Crisis and the Great Depression

July 9, 2009

There are few parallels between the current economic crisis and the Great Depression.

• The Depression began in 1929, spanned a total of nine years, with two deep recessions. The current recession began in December 2007, and at this point is only a year long.
• During the Depression, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 91 percent over a three-year period. In contrast, at the end of 2008, the Dow had fallen 38 percent from its high in October 2007.
• Unemployment during the Depression: 24.9 percent. Today: under 10 percent.
• During the Depression, nearly 12,000 banks shut their doors. The current banking crisis has resulted in less than 100 bank failures.
• In fact, runs on banks are a thing of the past, thanks to deposit insurance backed by the FDIC. Which we know has been increased to $250,000 per account holder.

Having learned valuable lessons from the 1930s, today’s government and Federal Reserve are taking a more active role in the current crisis than the Hoover Administration did at the onset of the Great Depression. Today, bailouts, loans, interventions and rate cuts are all examples of a vastly more active approach taken by policymakers.
I will have to say that one similarity between the Depression and the current situation is a high level of uncertainty among investors and bank depositors. Fortunately, due to the more advanced communication tools available today, confidence can be restored more easily.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services, a registered investment advisor.