Welcome to our research center! We’ve put together a library of information on important financial topics that we believe you’ll find helpful.
Simply click on one of the general financial topics below and you’ll find a selection of easy-to-understand information sheets about related financial concepts and strategies. This information is updated regularly to reflect the latest facts, figures, legislation, and economic trends.
Estates & Trusts
What Key Estate Planning Tools Should I Know About? Wills and trusts allow you to spell out how you would like your property distributed, but they also go beyond that.
How Can a Living Trust Help Me Control My Estate? A living trust can help control the distribution of your estate upon death.
What Are the Pitfalls of Probate? The probate process can be lengthy and complex. There are strategies you can use to help avoid the probate process.
How Can My Gift Benefit Me and the Charity? To retain the tax advantages associated with charitable giving, your gift must be made to a qualified organization.
How Can I Build and Preserve My Estate? Life insurance can be used to help preserve the value of your estate for your heirs.
How Can I Control the Distribution of My Estate? If you haven’t taken steps already, consider planning now for the distribution of the assets of your estate.
How Will I Pay Estate Taxes? If you believe your estate will be subject to estate taxes, consider how your heirs will pay the bill.
Can I Benefit from an A-B Trust? An A-B trust can be an effective way to help reduce estate taxes and preserve family assets for heirs.
What Gifting Strategies Are Available to Me? Compare the advantages and disadvantages of different gifting strategies available for planned giving.
How Can I Benefit from a Charitable Lead Trust? Charitable lead trusts are designed for people who would like to benefit a charity now rather than later.
How Can I Benefit from a Charitable Remainder Trust? A designated income beneficiary could receive payment of a specified amount from a charitable remainder trust.
How Can I Benefit from a Wealth Replacement Trust? A wealth replacement trust could be used to gift appreciated assets to a charity as well as provide for heirs.
Could My Family Benefit from a Family Limited Partnership? One estate planning strategy that families with closely held businesses could consider is the family limited partnership.
What Is the Best Form of Property Ownership for Me? Sole ownership, joint tenancy, tenancy in common, and community property have special benefits for property owners.
What Is the History of the Federal Estate Tax? Careful estate planning is still one of the most important ways to manage and protect your assets for your heirs.
What Is a SEP IRA?
A SEP IRA is a type of plan under which the employer contributes (up to a certain limit) to an employee’s IRA.
What Is a SIMPLE?
The SIMPLE plan may appeal to small business owners as it is easy to set up, administer, and allows for a tax deduction.
What Is an IRA Rollover?
If you leave a job or retire, you should consider your options regarding your employer retirement plan assets.
What Is a Roth 401(k)?
A Roth 401(k) is funded with after-tax money, and allows for tax- and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings if requirements are met.
What Is a Profit-Sharing Plan?
Profit-sharing plans give employees a share in the profits of a company and can help to fund their retirements.
What Is a Money Purchase Pension Plan?
A money purchase plan is a retirement plan where employer contributions are based on a fixed percentage of compensation.
What Is a 403(b) Plan?
A 403(b) plan is a tax-deferred retirement savings plan that can only be offered by a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity.
Why Do People Buy Annuities?
Annuities, an insurance-based financial vehicle, can provide many benefits that retirement investors might want.
What Is a Split-Annuity Strategy?
A split-annuity strategy can generate immediate income while potentially stretching some retirement savings.
What Are Annuity Living Benefits?
Living benefits can help protect variable annuity owners from running out of money in retirement.
How Much Do I Need to Save?
Many realize it’s important to save for retirement, but knowing exactly how much to save is another issue altogether.
A New Chapter for Retirement
With the changing pension landscape, it is important to take charge of your own retirement security.
What Is a 1035 Exchange?
A Section 1035 exchange is a tax-free exchange of an existing annuity contract or life insurance policy for a new one.
There are key dates after you turn 59 that can impact your taxes, Medicare eligibility, and retirement benefits.
Don’t Bank Your Retirement on Your Business
Allocating too much of your retirement investments to one company, even your own, can be a risky proposition.
What Are My Retirement Planning Options?
There are a variety of retirement planning options that could help meet your needs. Here are some of the most popular.
Will Social Security Retire Before You Do?
Greater demand is being placed on the Social Security system as the baby boom generation has begun to retire.
Social Security Income
The Social Security Administration’s retirement estimator gives estimates of your future benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record.
What Is a Self-Employed Retirement Plan?
Tax-deferred retirement plans for self-employed individuals have higher contribution limits than IRAs.
What Is an Indexed Annuity?
An indexed annuity may provide some upside potential and downside protection.
Retirement Plan Distributions
When receiving money accumulated in your employer-sponsored retirement plan, you have two options: lump sum or annuity.
What Is a Traditional IRA?
If you do not participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you might consider a traditional IRA.
What Is a 401(k) Plan?
401(k) employer-sponsored retirement plans have many benefits, including that the funds accumulate tax-deferred.
How Should I Manage My Retirement Plan?
Employer-sponsored retirement plans are more important than ever, but managing the assets can be confusing.
Save Now or Save Later?
If you start saving for retirement sooner, the more money you are likely to accumulate and possibly retire sooner.
What Is a Roth IRA?
Qualified Roth IRA distributions in retirement are free of federal income tax and aren’t included in gross income.
What Is the Capital Gain Tax?
Capital gains are profits realized from the sale of assets; a tax is triggered only when an asset is sold, not held.
What Is the Estate Tax?
Everything you own, whatever the form of ownership, is subject to federal, and possibly state, estate taxes.
What Is the Gift Tax?
The federal gift tax applies to gifts of property or money while the donor is living.
How Much Money Can I Put Into My IRA or Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plan?
IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans are subject to annual contribution limits set by the federal government.
What Is a Required Minimum Distribution?
Required minimum distribution is the annual amount that must be withdrawn from a qualified retirement plan/account.
What Are the Tax Benefits of Charitable Trusts?
For the grantor, there are a few potential tax benefits that can come with setting up a charitable trust.
When Must Taxes Be Paid on IRA and Employer-Sponsored Retirement Funds?
With traditional IRAs and most employer-sponsored retirement plans, taxes are not payable until funds are withdrawn.
What Happens If I Withdraw Money from My Tax-Deferred Investments Before Age 59½
Tax-deferred retirement account withdrawals before age 59½ generally triggers a 10% federal income tax penalty.
What Is Tax Deferral?
There can be a substantial benefit to deferring taxes as long as possible.
How Can I Benefit from Tax-Advantaged Investments?
Many traditional tax-advantaged investment strategies have gone away, but there are still some alternatives.
What Tax Deductions Are Still Available to Me?
Changes to the tax code have left a few key deductions for itemizers, like medical, dental and some business expenses.
What Tax-Advantaged Alternatives Do I Have?
While stable, CDs can create an income tax bill. Fixed annuities and municipal bonds can offer tax advantages.
What Is the Most Tax-Efficient Way to Take a Distribution From a Retirement Plan
Consider a trustee-to-trustee transfer to an IRA versus a lump-sum distribution from a workplace retirement plan.
Is There Such a Thing as a Tax-Free Investment?
It’s important to understand tax-exempt vehicles when establishing a comprehensive tax planning strategy.
How Can I Keep More of My Mutual Fund Profits?
Want to keep more of your mutual fund profits? You may be interested in strategies to help lower your tax liability.
How Can I Upgrade My Insurance — Tax-Free?
A 1035 exchange allows you to exchange your life insurance policy for one from another company without tax liability.
United States Tax History
United States tax law is a constantly changing landscape. The latest major piece of tax legislation is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
How Are Annuities Taxed?
One attractive feature of an annuity is tax-deferral but qualified and non-qualified annuities are taxed differently.
What Is a Bond Ladder?
A bond ladder is a strategy involving the purchase of bonds that have staggered maturity dates.
Common Stock vs Preferred Stock
It’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of common stock versus preferred stock.
What Are Dividends?
It is important to understand how dividends (taxable payments to shareholders) fit with your long-term goals.
What Is an Exchange-Traded Fund?
ETFs have unique attributes and attempt to track all types of indexes, industries, or commodities.
Growth Stocks vs. Value Stocks
The labels growth and value reflect different approaches that can be used when making investment decisions.
How Are Mutual Funds Taxed?
Mutual fund taxes can be cumbersome, but there are ways to help mitigate the amount of taxes you may owe.
What Is Stock?
Before investing in stocks, it is important to understand some of the basics and the risks involved in owning stocks.
What Are Zero-Coupon Bonds?
Zero-coupon bonds represent a type of bond that does not pay interest during the life of the bond.
What Is Diversification?
An important element to successful investing is to manage investment risk while maintaining the potential for growth.
What Types of Bonds Are Available?
Bonds are issued by many entities and share many characteristics, each type of bond has certain benefits and risks.
What Is a Bond?
A bond is simply evidence of a debt from a government entity or a corporation and represents a long-term IOU.
What Do Bond Ratings Mean?
Bond ratings gauge a bond issuer’s financial ability to repay its promised principal and interest payments.
What Is a Stock Index?
Stock market indexes can be useful benchmarks for gauging the performance of an investment portfolio over time.
How Do Mutual Funds and Stocks Differ?
The difference between purchasing an individual stock versus shares in a mutual fund to potentially earn dividends.
What Is a Mutual Fund?
A mutual fund is a collection of stocks, bonds, and other securities with certain benefits and risks.
What Is a Closed-End Fund?
With closed-end funds, investors pool their money together to purchase a professionally managed portfolio of stocks and/or bonds.
What Is a Mutual Fund Load?
It’s important to understand mutual fund loads, or sales charges, and exactly what they entail so you can make informed investing decisions.
What Is an Annuity?
An annuity is a flexible financial vehicle that can help protect against the risk of living a long time because it provides an option for a lifetime income.
What Is the Difference Between a Fixed Annuity and a Variable Annuity?
Both fixed and variable annuities could be appropriate options for an individual interested in purchasing an annuity.
What Investment Risks Should I Know About?
Understanding different types of investment risk can help investors manage their money more effectively.
What Are the Different Classes of Assets?
There are five broad asset classes that you should take into consideration when constructing your investment portfolio.
What Is Asset Allocation?
Asset allocation is a method used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.
How Can I Save for My Child’s College Education?
There are several funding methods for a child’s college education including mutual funds and Section 529 plans.
What College Investment Options Do I Have?
Starting to invest early for college and remaining consistent can help investors reach their goals.
What Stock and Bond Investing Alternatives Do I Have?
There are other ways to invest in stocks and bonds besides owning individual shares or bonds.
What Is Dollar-Cost Averaging?
Dollar-cost averaging involves investing a set amount of money on a regular basis, regardless of market conditions.
529 Lesson Plan: High Scores for 529 Plans
529 plans are tax-advantaged savings plans that generally allow people of any income level to contribute.
What Are Some Tips for Managing My Money?
A sound cash management program uses a disciplined approach: accounting, analysis, allocation, and adjustment.
How Long Will It Take to Double My Money?
Before making investment decisions, it is helpful to determine the real rate of return on the investment.
What Cash Management Tools Are Available?
Short-term cash management instruments can help you establish a sound cash management program.
How Do Money Market Mutual Funds Work?
Money market funds can be a highly liquid and effective cash management tool.
How Can I Better Manage My Short-Term Cash?
There are numerous investment alternatives available to help provide liquidity.
What Advantages Does a Biweekly Mortgage Offer?
Biweekly mortgage payments can have a dramatic effect on the amount of interest homeowners have to pay.
What Is a Reverse Mortgage?
There are techniques that can enable older homeowners to use their property to finance their lifestyle.
What Are Some Smart Ways to Refinance?
Here are some smart ways to refinance your home.
What About Financial Aid for College?
It’s important to understand the options, such as financial aid grant programs, when having to pay for college.
What Savings Alternatives Are Available?
There are a number of savings alternatives that could help you earn a reasonable rate of return.
How Does Inflation Affect Me?
Historically, one of the best ways to fight the effects of inflation has been to utilize growth-oriented investments.
Is a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit Right for Me?
Shifting some debt to a home equity loan, which typically allows interest payments to be tax deductible, could have its advantages.
Why Purchase Life Insurance?
If you have a family who relies on your income, it is important to have life insurance protection.
Why Are Annuities Considered an Insurance Product?
An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company to pay you future income in exchange for premiums you pay.
What Is Property and Casualty Insurance?
Property and casualty insurance can help protect a variety of assets. Find out what it does and doesn’t cover.
Do I Need a Business Owner Policy?
A business owner policy is an insurance package that assembles the basic coverages required by a business owner in one bundle.
Life Insurance for Business Owners
Company-owned life insurance is one way to help protect a business from financial problems caused by the death of a key employee.
What Is Split-Dollar Life Insurance?
Split-dollar life insurance is an arrangement to purchase and fund life insurance between two parties.
What Is Last-Survivor Life Insurance?
Couples who want to help protect their legacy from estate taxes could consider last-survivor life insurance.
Disability Income Insurance for Business Owners
As a business owner, a disability can create an economic hardship putting both your personal finances and business at risk.
What Is Term Life Insurance?
Term life insurance differs from permanent forms of life insurance in that it offers temporary protection.
What Is Whole Life Insurance?
Some of the pros and cons of whole life insurance.
What Is Universal Life Insurance?
Consider a universal life insurance policy if you want the flexibility to change your premium or death benefit.
What Is Variable Life Insurance?
Variable life insurance gives you the control to allocate your account value among a variety of investment options.
What Are the Main Types of Auto Insurance?
Even if your state doesn’t require certain types of auto insurance, it may be wise to purchase multiple types to ensure you are covered for a variety of situations.
Making a Property Insurance Claim
When it is time to make an insurance claim, it helps if you are familiar with your policies and the steps you should take to file a claim.
How Can I Maximize My Insurance Benefits?
Several factors could undermine the financial security provided by the proceeds of your life insurance policy.
How Can I Insure My Future?
To help you choose insurance wisely, determine how much coverage and what kind of policy is best for your situation.
How Can I Protect My Home?
Since your home is one of your greatest assets, you should make sure it is adequately protected. That’s where homeowners insurance enters the picture.
Do I Need Disability Income Insurance?
Knowing the basics of a disability income insurance policy is a good first step toward protecting your family.
What Types of Health Coverage Are Available?
There are three basic types of medical insurance plans: fee-for-service, managed care, and high-deductible health plan.
How Can I Extend My Liability Coverage?
Consider additional liability insurance to help protect you from the potentially devastating effects of liability lawsuits.
What Is the Difference Between an HMO and a PPO?
Selecting health insurance is often one of the most important decisions you will make. Do you know the different types?
How Can I Determine the Financial Strength of My Insurance Company?
Using a financially sound insurance company is an important part of ensuring your family’s financial security.
Am I Prepared for Long-Term Care Expenses?
The odds of needing long-term care increase as you age. Prior planning can help protect you from financial ruin.
What Does Medicare Cover?
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for those persons age 65 and over. But what does it cover?
How Likely Am I to Need Long-Term Care?
If you were to suffer an illness or disability that required long-term nursing care, would you be covered?
What Are the Basic Types of Life Insurance?
When selecting a life insurance policy, examine all your options, as well as the positives and negatives of each type.