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Tools to Help You Make the Most of Your One Financial Life

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

The typical financial advisor loves to focus on your investments—after all, most earn sales commissions for selling you stocks, bonds, annuities, or mutual funds.

But the team at Align Wealth Management seeks to take care of every facet of our clients' financial lives, from cash flow to taxes, from insurance to estate planning and charitable giving. Simply put, we believe in treating you as a human being - not as an investment account. And we're armed with the best tools and technology to make it happen.

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How to Minimize Taxes in Retirement

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

If you're an investor, you've surely heard the saying "It's not what you earn, it's what you keep." Minimizing taxes is important when you're growing your savings for retirement—but it's at least as important after you're retired.

That's why retirees with different types of taxable and tax-deferred accounts should carefully plan the sequence in which they will withdraw money from those accounts. At stake is not just tax savings but also the potential for greater investment growth.

The various account types include traditional IRAs and workplace plans such as 401(k)'s, which are funded with pre-tax dollars. In these vehicles, taxes are deferred until withdrawal so that those assets can compound and grow faster. Roth 401(k)'s and Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars, and their assets grow and are withdrawn tax-free. Finally, many investors have taxable brokerage accounts, which are funded with after-tax dollars and accrue taxes on gains, interest, and dividends.

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Giving Clients a Fair Shake

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

As we've previously written, there's a big difference between stockbrokers and true financial advisors. Brokers are salespeople: Because they're paid to sell you investments or insurance, they operate under a continual conflict of interest.

True financial advisors, on the other hand, only sell advice, not products. Unlike brokers, they are what's known as fiduciaries, meaning they must place clients' interests ahead of their own. Align Wealth Management is a fiduciary firm.

There's been a major development on this front. Early this month, the Department of Labor ruled that all advisors giving guidance to clients with 401(k)'s or IRAs must adhere to a more stringent "fiduciary" standard. This new rule, which goes fully into effect in 2018, is aimed squarely at brokers. For the first time, brokers will have to act more like true advisors.

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Maximize Your Returns by Minimizing Your Taxes

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

Everyone loves earning money, including investment gains—but what's most important is how much you keep after taxes.

And as you know, taxes are becoming a higher hurdle. The top rate is now 39.6%, plus a 3.8% Medicare surtax on investments for high earners. And that doesn't include state taxes.

Minimizing taxes, then, is essential for those who want to build real wealth. That's especially true if we experience more moderate market returns over the next few years. Every dollar counts—and that's true whether you have a taxable investment account or a tax-deferred account. Eventually, Uncle Sam will want his cut.

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Your Portfolio’s Secret Weapon

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

The stock market hasn't been a happy place so far in 2016. But for long-term investors, the real risk right now is losing sight of the big picture and making counter-productive short-term decisions.

So we'd like to provide some perspective on why a properly designed, long-term portfolio is still a good place to be. First, it's worth pointing out that the market correction that we've seen in the past couple of months isn't unusual. In fact, it's pretty routine: Historically, market declines of at least 10% have occurred once a year.

Temporary declines are the market's self-correcting mechanism, its way of "repricing" stocks, bonds and other investments that have become expensive relative to their fundamentals.