Top 3 Year-End Divorce Planning Considerations

Are you currently in the process of terminating your marriage or considering terminating your marriage? Either way, you may want to start considering all your options and planning ahead prior to year-end:

  1. How will you file your tax return for 2016? If you are married as of December 31, 2016, you will file as married filing jointly or married filing separately. If you are married as of December 31, 2016 and you have been separated for the last 6 months (spouse did not live with you), you may be able to file as head of household. If you are not married on December 31st of 2016, you will file as single or head of household. Filing as head of household is typically better financially, as you may be taxed at a lower rate. However, you must meet certain criteria to file as head of household (paying more than half the cost of maintaining your home, your spouse did not live there for the last 6 months of the year, a dependent lived with you for more than half the year, and if you are still married, your spouse must file as married filing separately). You should consult your tax advisor to discuss the options available to you.
  2. If you have children and/or you are still married and your spouse did not live with you the last 6 months of the year, track the nights your child/children spent at your home during the year so you may have the option as filing your tax return as head of household! Again, discuss with your tax advisor.
  3. If you make charitable contributions or have other large itemized deductions, can you postpone them until next year if you are still married and plan to be divorced in 2017? The itemized deduction(s) could be worth more to you in the year you are divorced.

At BRR Divorce Advisors, we are experts and leaders in the field of Divorce Financial Planning. Contact us today for an experienced and professional guide through your divorce and to help you consider all your options.

Amy Weldele, CFP®, CDFA™ Senior Wealth Manager

Identity Theft

As more and more Americans rely on online banking, online shopping and online access to pretty much everything else, the odds that they will become victims of identity theft at some point are rising every day. While it’s impossible to be 100% protected from identity theft, there are important steps that you can take as preventative measures, as well as knowing what to do if the worst happens and you find that your identity has been stolen.

How can people protect themselves from becoming victims? Many of the preventative steps are common sense, but things that not many of us actively do. One of the first steps is not making it easy for thieves by using the same simple password like “password,” or “123456.” Passwords should not be just a word or even a date. Use special characters, upper and lower case letters and numbers. Also, you shouldn’t use the same password for every online account. If a thief can crack the one password you use for everything, he then has the keys to the castle.

Another key step in protecting yourself is limiting the amount of information that you share on social networking sites. An overzealous sharer might reveal enough personal information that a thief could discover answers to security questions, or even your mother’s maiden name, which is often used when establishing credit or verifying your identity. Being careful about what and how much you share, as well as setting your privacy settings at the highest level, is an easy step you can take to protect yourself and your personal information.

Securing your computer, tablet and phone is another important step. Keeping your computer free of viruses by running anti-virus software is critical. If your computer is infected with a virus or malware, thieves can gain access to information stored on your computer, or in some cases they can log the keystrokes you use, granting them easy access to your usernames and passwords as you enter them. Another way to secure your devices is to avoid using public wi-fi. Thieves can easily intercept data on unsecure wi-fi networks. Use your cellular data, or wait until you are on your home network to login to sensitive online accounts. Also, make sure that you secure your home wi-fi network with a password to make it harder for thieves to access your network and your data.

One of the most important preventative steps people can take is actively monitoring their bank accounts, credit cards and credit reports. You don’t have to use one of the services that provide this monitoring, like ID Watchdog, Identity Force, or LifeLock. However, these services offer users the peace of mind knowing that they don’t constantly need to be checking things. If you want to take the do-it-yourself approach, actively monitoring your bank accounts and credit card accounts to keep an eye out for unusual activity is important, as is checking your credit reports on a regular basis. Consumers can access their credit reports, free of charge, every 12 months by going to the website www.annualcreditreport.com . Since there are three credit reporting bureaus, consumers can effectively get a free look at their credit report every four months by requesting from the different bureaus.

Even if you’ve taken all the preventative measures described above and perhaps even more, there is still a chance that your identity can be stolen. If that happens, it’s important to know what to do next. The first step is placing a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting one of the credit reporting bureaus. The bureau that you contact will then share this with the other two reporting bureaus. This will create hurdles to a thief trying to access credit in your name. You can also consider requesting a credit freeze, which will prevent creditors from being able to access your credit report and issuing credit in your name. Requesting a current copy of your credit report is also important to determine if any fraudulent accounts have already been created. You should also change all your online passwords to prevent continued theft. Creating an Identity Theft report on the FTC’s website, www.identitytheft.gov , is also important. The website will allow you to enter information and create an “Identity Theft Affidavit” along with a personal recovery plan. You should then file a police report using the Identity Theft Affidavit. Keeping copies of the Identity Theft Affidavit along with the police report that you file can be used as an Identity Theft Report and given to credit reporting companies, debt collectors and any businesses that opened accounts in your name. There is a great resource offered by the FTC called Taking Charge, which is a handbook of sorts for navigating through an identity theft incident.

Restoring or repairing your credit after a theft can be a very time consuming and labor intensive process. For those not wanting to take the do-it-yourself approach, most of the credit monitoring companies offer some sort of assistance in restoring credit in the event of theft. In addition, check with your homeowner’s insurance company to determine if you have ID Theft coverage, or if coverage can be added. Oftentimes, this coverage pays for the cost of legal fees or professional services to handle much of the work on your behalf.

Identity theft is a topic that more and more of us are becoming familiar with. A September 2016 Bankrate.com survey estimated that as many as 41 million Americans have had their identity stolen and another 49 million know someone who has been affected by identity theft. Utilizing some of these simple preventative steps can lower the likelihood that you become a victim, but it’s no guarantee it won’t happen. It’s important to know what steps to take if you do become a victim in order to restore your credit, your security and your name.

 

For additional information on identity theft, contact Budros, Ruhlin & Roe.

Budros, Ruhlin & Roe named one of Forbes and RIA Channels’ 2016 Top 100 RIA Firms

Since 2006, Forbes and RIA Channel have been showcasing the fastest growing RIA firms. To be considered for the list, each firm must be a registered investment advisor (RIA) with the SEC, provide wealth management services and serve individual clients. Budros, Ruhlin & Roe has climbed to number 72 on the list. Click here to view the full list.

Recently, Budros, Ruhlin & Roe’s Chief Investment Officer Dan Roe, spoke with RIA Channel’s Julie Cooling to give insights on BRR’s growth in assets over the last 10 years.

“We are based in Ohio with one office. We work with a wonderful group of high net-worth families and individuals and some foundations and retirement plans,” said Roe.

View the full interview here.

Disclosure: Forbes and RIA Channel’s 2016 Top 100 RIA Firms ranking recognizes wealth management firms by growth in assets over the past 10 years. In order to be considered for the ranking, each firm must be a registered investment advisor with the SEC, provide wealth management services, and primarily serve individual clients. As the RIA market continues to develop, RIA Database, sister company to RIA Channel, continues to adapt its ranking criteria to reflect the market environment. This year, Budros Ruhlin & Roe ranked 72nd on RIA Channel’s annual ranking of the Top 100 RIA firms with $1.1 billion in asset growth over the last 10 years. In 2015, Budros Ruhlin & Roe was ranked 91st with $2.1 billion in total assets under management. For more information, please visit: http://www.forbes.com/sites/juliecooling/2016/11/14/top-100-ria-firms-by-ten-year-growth/#5c6eb187247b