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Archive for February, 2013

Tax-RefundWritten by: Lisa Castle, CFP®

The Internal Revenue Service estimates that about 75% of taxpayers will receive a refund this year.  Many of these taxpayers say they are going to be responsible with their refunds by paying down debt or saving it in their emergency fund.  Here are a couple more options for spending your tax refund:

  1. Re-balance your portfolio – instead of selling stocks to re-balance, use the extra funds you receive to build up your exposure in the areas that need re-balancing
  2. Prepay your bills – Prepay for your car insurance, car loan payments, phone bills, home insurance, etc.  Just be sure to monitor your statements so that you are created for the correct amounts and that you do not end up paying for something that you did not request.
  3. Make home improvements – Don’t forget you may qualify for a residential energy tax credit by making energy-efficient improvements to your home.
  4. Buy a car – Take advantage of the record low car loan rates and use your refund as a downpayment on a new or newer car.

Written by: Jeremy Shafer

As February winds down, we will be treated to yet another spectacle from the nation’s capital.  This one goes by the name Sequester.

To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu, all over again.”

A few things seem important to remember as the debate heats up:

  • It seemed like a good solution in 2011.  The President proposed it and both Democrats and Republicans voted for it.
  • Sequester is a spending cut by abnormal means.  It forces (perhaps indelicately) some of the spending cuts that most Americans agree we need – even if we don’t want them.
  • Replacing sequester is simply trading for the devil we don’t know.  Rest assured any measure that could pass with bi-partisan support would contain some form of spending cuts and increased revenues that will look as undesirable as sequester.

Simpson and Bowles’ updated plan is worth reading, though it’s unlikely to be the basis for a bill in the house or senate.  Mike had a chance to hear them at the last Schwab conference and shared his thoughts.

Whether we get this plan, a new plan, or sequester, the end result we all hope for is a stable path for American prosperity.  That will require some uncomfortable adjustments.  Here’s hoping we make sensible progress in the next seven days.


In January, the market had a positive return.  The January Effect means what happens in January usually foreshadows what will happen for the year.  We found this fun diagram that shows the Monthly Totals in color coded form.  Of the 87 years that is listed on this chart, 55 of the years had a positive January.  Of those 55 years, 46 of them (about 84%) had positive returns over the next 11 months.

Here is to a positive 2013!


Identity theft is all around us. wrote a recent article regarding the dumbest risks people take with their smartphones.  We as a society do not think twice about using our phones to check account balances and make payments.  We also do not think that most of this sensitive data is stored directly on our phones.  Along with contact information for friends, family, and colleagues.  If you have not taken the right steps, if you lost your phone, you could be in for a very rude awakening.  Here are the 10 dumbest things people do or fail to do with their smartphones.

  1. No password protection – locking your phone if a simple thing that all smartphone users should do.  It may not be foolproof, but it certainly helps.
  2. Shop online with an internet browser instead of a shopping app – Unlike browsers – dedicated shopping apps are designed to ward off phishing and other kinds of scams
  3. Remain logged into banking, PayPal, eBay and other sensitive apps – While it may be a pain, for security reasons you should NEVER click the box asking the app to save your user ID or password.  Log in every time, it truly doesn’t take that long.
  4. Automatically connect to any available WiFi connections – Hackers with the right software can easily hack your phone, as security experts have warned us for more than a decade.
  5. Leave Bluetooth connections open – Have you heard of Bluejacking, Bluesnarfing, Bluebugging?  These are all words that describe a hacker exploiting open Bluetooth connection on your phone.
  6. Fail to properly purse data from old smartphones – Be sure to delete data prior to getting rid of your old phone.  Setting it back to factory settings is the easiest way to do this.
  7. Download “free” apps that aren’t actually free – Be sure you are smart and discreet about what you download.  Read reviews first, make sure the apps you download come from reputable sources.
  8. Storing sensitive data on phones – Passwords, pins, social security numbers, credit card or bank account information…these are just a few items that people store on their smartphones.  Don’t do it!
  9. Failing to clear browser history – A thief can use your history to hijack your accounts.
  10. No remote wiping software – This is just one more layer of protection you can use.

To read the entire article – click here.