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Things Every Investor Should Know Before Investing

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
March 22, 2018
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Due to the nature of my profession, I am solicited for financial advice in all aspects of my life from all types of people. Similar to a doctor who gets asked about symptoms at birthday parties, people often ask for my opinion or input on financial matters, particularly investing. As most doctors will tell you, it’s hard to give advice when you don’t know the particulars.

However, if someone is really eager or serious for guidance on investing, I will suggest that they do their homework. The information they’re looking for isn’t found on the stock exchange or the Finance section of a newspaper.  Most times, the information you need to start with is found a lot closer than you would expect.

The first thing to take into account are your financial goals. As I’ve mentioned before, being aware of your financial “why” can highlight good habits, change inefficient patterns, refocus priorities and ultimately develop a plan to help you achieve your financial freedom. Therefore, you need to be specific. Do you want to retire in 30 years? Perhaps you want to buy a house in five years or start a business in two. In these scenarios, your goals act as targets, and with the help of a good financial planner, you can develop an action plan with measurable steps to incrementally achieve them.

Another thing to be aware of is your risk tolerance. This isn’t a measure of whether you like to bungee cord jump or skydive. Rather, this is an indication of how much volatility in your investments you are comfortable with. This is something that needs to be determined for the individual as well as the household. Risk tolerance is a very personal indicator, and there are times that couples don’t see eye to eye. When new clients come in, we have them complete a risk tolerance questionnaire to not only to see how individuals may or may not be working together but to also figure out the most effective plan to achieve their goals. The last thing we want you to do is tackle investments that won’t achieve your goals in a timely.

As you can tell, these items are all very personal. What you’re saving for, how long and hard you’re willing to work towards your goals, and what your income and lifestyle needs are, both current and future, will all be factors in planning how to invest. I bring this up because so many clients come in referring to the advice their friends, neighbors or coworker gave them. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m all for educating one’s self. Let’s discuss your options. But please don’t think that investing in what your child’s Little League coach is investing in is automatically the best option for you.

Let me put it another way. I’ve been athletic all of my life, playing high school and college baseball and an avid golfer. Knowing that, I’m not going to start a new exercise regime with a leisurely walk around the block or bench pressing 400 pounds. It’s not that I don’t believe these fitness goals are valid – they’re just not valid for me. The same idea can be applied to your finances. If any of the factors I’ve mentioned are not aligned, you may discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and that you need to be wary of the barb wire in between.

I know it sounds odd, that investing should be more complicated. But the truth is knowing your financial self is much important than knowing the stock market when you first start investing.

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By Trilogy Financial
June 7, 2024

AI is revolutionizing the way scams are conducted, drastically reducing operational costs while simultaneously enhancing the believability of fraudulent calls. In the 12 months since the launch of ChatGPT, AI-aided identity fraud surged nearly 1,800%, and phishing emails surged by nearly 1,300%, with their quality being the best we've ever seen. Additionally, AI-operated news sites, often used to push out misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda, grew from 40 sites to nearly 600.

Things to Know:

  • Content Farms: These platforms pump out low-quality, clickbait articles to earn ad revenue. Initially, humans edited AI-drafted articles for quality, but now, AI can produce vast amounts of content with little to no oversight.
  • Advertising Concerns: Reputable brands might unknowingly advertise on these spammy sites, which can mistakenly lend these articles credibility.
  • Disinformation Risk: Without human checks, AI can spread false information. This ranges from accidental “AI hallucinations” (fabricated facts) to deliberate disinformation, like fake celebrity obituaries designed to increase site traffic.

Tips for Navigating Content Safely:

  • Critical Thinking: Always question the authenticity of online articles.
  • Recognize AI Signs: Be cautious of sites with generic names or an overload of ads. Look out for errors and placeholders (e.g., “[date]”) that suggest AI-generated content.
  • Take Breaks: Regularly step away from the digital avalanche to avoid content fatigue and maintain cybersecurity awareness.
By
Diane Zing, CSA
May 18, 2018

Some people believe that one of the most frustrating words in the financial world is the word “taxes”. But it doesn’t have to be…and it actually shouldn’t be. Understanding the world of taxation takes enormous amounts of education, understanding and application. The average person doesn’t necessarily want to become an expert on taxes, but they certainly don’t want to pay more than they have to, either. Hence the reason many people and businesses reach out for help. Finding a tax professional can be complicated; hoping to find the right kind of tax professional for the services needed tends to be the number one challenge.

When starting a search to find the right tax professional, there are basically two major things to consider. Firstly, it’s important to understand the differences between the types of tax professionals. Secondly, it’s important to ask the right kind of questions to help discern if a working relationship with a particular tax professional is a good fit.

Start with having a basic understanding of a few different types of tax professionals.

TYPES OF TAX PROFESSIONALS:

Tax Preparer – A tax preparer can help individuals, families, and businesses prepare tax returns. They cannot represent clients during an audit. Their role is limited to tax preparation. A large percentage of the general population might find that a Tax Preparer is a match for their filing needs.

EA – An Enrolled Agent (EA) has passed an IRS examination that puts them in a position to not only help clients prepare tax returns, but they can also represent their clients in the event of an audit. Generally speaking, EA’s may tend to have more thorough knowledge and understanding in regards to tax preparation than that of a Tax Preparer. Individuals, families, and business owners might find that an EA is helpful due to the complexities that their tax preparation needs may entail.

Tax Attorneys – Tax Attorneys can not only prepare tax filings, but they can also represent their clients during an audit, as well as represent clients in court proceedings. Tax attorneys play a significant role in helping their clients through complications with tax liabilities, responsibilities, and other issues that may arise.

CPA – Certified Public Accountants are tax professionals who have a degree in accounting or a related field. They have passed the state CPA exam, and are able to perform a myriad of services for their clients. They can prepare tax filings, represent clients during audits, prepare and certify audit statements. They cannot, however, represent their clients in court.

There are additional types of tax professionals, but the above mentioned tend to be the most widely sought after by individuals, families, business owners, non-profit entities, and others.

Secondly, it’s important to ask questions that are relevant for finding a professional that might be best suited for the specific needs at hand. Here are a few questions to consider when interviewing a tax professional:

QUESTIONS TO ASK:

  1. What is your designation, or professional title?
  2. What industries or types of clients do you have?
  3. How many years of experience do you have?
  4. How many people do you have in your organization, and what are their roles?
  5. Do you help clients with tax planning strategies, as well as tax preparation?
  6. Do you work in collaboration with financial planners and other professionals?
  7. What kind of ongoing service model do you have?
  8. What is your fee structure?

When discerning which tax professional to work with, having a basic knowledge of the types of tax professionals might go a long way with helping to build a productive relationship, and subsequently, possibly more favorable tax solutions. Taxes are a major part of life, and having a strategy around how finances are built, managed, and maintained could possibly help significantly. It’s important to be responsible with taxes, and having a professional that can help discern taxation with efficiencies could have significant importance to overall financial planning.

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