The Importance of a Balance Sheet

An individual has two primary tools for managing personal finances. The Personal Balance Sheet is ignored and the Budget is the darling of Financial Consultants and the media. The key to understanding personal finances is that you have to understand your Budget and Balance Sheet individually and also how they work in combination to give you a complete snapshot of your personal finances.

Your balance sheet is extremely important because it shows you where the gold is. It is your personal Fort Knox. It is also extremely important because you need to have a stash of gold in your personal financial picture. The gold in your Balance Sheet is not the Assets. They are the positive side of your Balance Sheet but the real picture of how much gold you have in your Fort Knox is your Net Worth. So just as important to your Balance sheet is your Liabilities. The total of your Liabilities is subtracted from the total of your Assets to give you your Net Worth.

You fill out your Balance Sheet and total up your Assets and Liabilities. You subtract the total of your Liabilities from your Assets. That number, your Net Worth will come out to either a negative amount, an amount of or near zero, or it will be substantially positive. These are the only 3 scenarios possible.

• If your net worth is a minus number, you are not managing your financial resources properly. Your Balance sheet is your report card and you are failing. It is that simple. If you are managing your money to deal with life's challenges and planning your personal finances with your retirement in mind, your Net Worth should be positive and growing. If your net Worth is positive, you can ride out financial storms like the current situation. At the time of your retirement, your Net Worth must be substantially positive so that you will be able to keep costs down and have investment income to replace your working income. During your working years, your Net Worth should be growing steadily because a retirement nest egg does not grow without years of nurturing.

• There are circumstances where where it is acceptable to have a Net Worth of Zero or near Zero. The first is when you are just starting out. It just makes sense that it would be zero. You may have student loans but that is offset by some form of education that will allow you to make more money in the course of your lifetime. The key is that this is the best time to start building your net worth. It allows the principal of compounding value to work its magic on your assets for decades. That saves you a lot of work later in life. However, most of us are not that wise and we find ourselves in our 30s and 40s with little or no Net Worth. This means you have less time for compounding to work. So you have to work harder and especially manage your money smarter to prepare for the financial challenges you face going forward. The nice thing is that you have probably made some mistakes that have made you much wiser. You should be able to recover much faster than you would have in your undisciplined youth.

• If you have a positive net worth that means that you are building assets. Just as important is that you are controlling your debt. This is the key that has probably gotten you to this situation. The key to a positive Balance Sheet is that debt offsets the value of your assets when you look at your personal finances as a complete picture so your debt / equity ratio should be less than one and get smaller and smaller. Debt servicing saps cash flow on your budget that could have been used to build assets that can be used to produce income in your retirement years. Clear title ownership of assets such as your home reduce cash draw and this is incredibly important as you approach retirement.

The financial crisis we are in now is described as a Balance Sheet crisis. We are in this crisis because nobody was paying attention to their Balance Sheets, not even at the rising heights of our financial infrastructure. The symptoms were everywhere. While researching I found that the top sites on the internet for Balance Sheet are those who want to sell you something so that they can gain access to any assets on your balance sheet that might be left after this disaster. Before the disaster, the only thing that had any importance was whether a potential buyer of anything could afford to make the payments on whatever he was buying assuming he made 120% of his declared income. The most outrageous symptom was that people would take appreciating home equity and borrow against it to buy depreciating assets and consumer goods. They overbooked their budgets and now they have gutted their balance sheet.

The resulting loss of home values ​​is the disaster we have now where people have either a zero or minus Net Worth. The other aspect is that we are now wiser. For the good of our society and our financial infrastructure we had better be. Going forward we must pay attention to our Balance Sheets and recognize that is where the gold is. You must save and protect your gold. Net Worth is where financial power is and that is the Importance of a Balance Sheet.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Importance of a Balance Sheet

The “Contents Pack-out” Trap and How to Escape It

“Contents Pack-out” is a term used by water and fire restoration contractors, and insurance companies. It is the process in which the contractor sends trucks, boxes and workers to your home. They pack up all of the damaged personal property in your home or business and transport it back to their warehouse. Once the personal property is at the warehouse, the contractor begins the cleaning and restoration process.

Insurance companies do not like to replace personal property. They would rather clean or repair it and give it back to you. That drastically slashes their claims cost, which makes them happy.

I’ve been an insurance adjuster for over 16 years, and in the insurance business for over 35 years. I’ve seen very few instances where seriously damaged personal property can be just cleaned or repaired successfully. Most fires burn or infuse toxic chemicals into personal property, like wood or textiles. Same goes for a flood loss. My personal opinion is that replacement of damaged personal property is better than repair or cleaning.

So, what is the trap?

Insurance adjusters like to swoop in with their favorite approved restoration contractor and do a “pack-out.” But your insurance policy has a limit on Personal Property. All of the money that the insurance adjuster authorizes to have your contents cleaned is paid against the policy limit. So, if the restoration contractor cleans a bunch of your damaged property, but you reject it as damaged, the contractor still gets paid. But you have less money now to replace your damaged personal property.

The trap is that a pack-out can penalize you when you are submitting your insurance claim!

Here’s the Escape Strategy

1. You own the personal property…not the insurance company and not the restoration contractor. It is YOUR DECISION what gets repaired and what gets replaced, not the adjuster.

2. Call in your own restoration contractor for a second opinion. It shouldn’t cost you anything, but even if it did, it would be money well spent.

3. Make sure every single item that gets removed from your home is listed on an inventory sheet.

4. Based upon your contractor’s opinion, negotiate the replacements with the adjuster and settle the claim.

If you have experienced a property loss, whether fire, wind, flood or other, you need to know winning insurance claim strategies. The insurance company will not tell you the claims process, but I will. I will show you how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, go to the website listed below.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The “Contents Pack-out” Trap and How to Escape It

Know About the Consequences of Not Having Public Liability Insurance Coverage

Public liability insurance is an important insurance policy that protects your business during the time of adversities. Especially, if your business handles risky activities like construction, plumbing, etc., or if the public enters into your business premises like in retailing, then this insurance plan is a must have. Owing to the uncertainty of accidents and the huge costs of legal claims, your business may run into crisis if you are not properly guarded by the right insurance plan, i.e. public liability insurance.

This article gives you a little insight into the consequences your business might face, if you do not have public liability insurance coverage.

Financial burden: Depending on the damage or loss caused to the third-party, the amount claimed may vary. But the third parties generally sue the company for heavy amounts as small amounts do not matter for both company and the sufferers. These claims will add up to the company’s existing costs and become a financial burden to the company. Managing the finances between the company’s needs and legal claims is not wise as it halts the business operations.

Legal battles: Apart from the amount to be reimbursed, a company has to face legal battles which occur as a result of lawsuits filed against the business by the third parties. The legal costs and expenses are generally high. You need to deal legal authorities with utmost care. These legal battles are hectic. The time and effort required to fight these legal battles is also high. It diverts you from your core business. But if you have a public liability policy, the insurance company assists you and takes charge in fighting these legal battles till the case is closed, besides paying the legal expenses.

Chances of bankruptcy: Inability to pay the outstanding charges claimed by the third parties may lead the business to go bankrupt. Unless a business has outstanding capital, it cannot afford to pay these legal expenses. Moreover, you are needed to provide additional financial assistance in the form of medical aid as in case of accidents and repairing charges in case of property damage, besides paying the lump sum amount and the legal costs.

Investment at risk: In case your business is facing a third-party legal claim, and if you are in a position where you cannot pay the claimed amount instantly, then, the bank or the court gives permission to seize your various monetary investments or fixed assets such as land, furniture or machinery to cover the legal expenses and the claimed amount.

Lack of mental peace: With the all the above issues, you will surely lose mental peace. These legal claims not only eat away the business’ time and effort but in some cases may ruin the business’ existence. Legal claims should be dealt instantly; any delay will only aggravate the tension and loss.

A good business will always be prepared for the future crisis. Having a public liability insurance policy is a wise decision. It provides timely financial help to pay the claimed amount and the legal costs without putting the business at stake.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Know About the Consequences of Not Having Public Liability Insurance Coverage

Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

Secret #1: Don’t spend too much time on a life insurance quote.

Do not be fooled by the low price quotes you get online – they don’t apply to you unless you are extremely healthy. Statistically only 10% of people who apply actually get the lowest priced policy. The premium you end up paying has nothing to do with the initial quote you get online or from an agent. It is amazing to me how often I see people getting duped by an agent who quotes company X at a lower price than another agent.

Life insurance policies are the same price no matter who you buy from! One agent or website quoting a lower premium means nothing. Prices for any given policy is based on your age and health. There are a few exceptions to this but that is beyond the breadth of this article.

Most life insurance companies have 10-20 different health/price ratings and no agent or website can assure you the quote they give you is accurate. You have to apply, do a health check, and then go through underwriting (meaning you complete a mini-exam with a nurse in your home and then the company checks you doctor records and reviews and ‘rates’ your health) to get the real price of the policy. Remember that a health rating also factors in your family history, driving record, and the type of occupation you have. Only use quotes to help narrow down your choices to the top companies. You may want to consider a no load or low policy. The more that you save on commissions the more money builds up in your policy. You can even buy term insurance no load, and save a lot on premiums. You will not get the help of an agent, which may be worth something if they are very good.

The most important factor determining price is matching your particular health history with the company best suited for that niche. For instance company X might be best for smokers, company Y for cancer survivors, Company Z for people with high blood pressure, etc.

Secret #2: Ignore the hype on term versus cash value permanent insurance.

You can go crazy reading what everyone has to say on buying term insurance versus a whole or universal life policy. Big name websites give advice that I think borders on fraudulent. Simply put there is NO simple answer on whether you should buy permanent cash value policies or term insurance.

But I do think there is a simple rule of thumb – buy term for your temporary insurance needs and cash value insurance for your permanent needs. I have read in various journals and run mathematical equations myself which basically show that if you have a need for insurance beyond 20 years that you should consider some amount of permanent insurance. This is due to the tax advantage of the growth of the cash value within in a permanent policy. I am divorced and have taken care of my children should I die. I probably no longer need as much insurance as I now have. I have earned a great return on my policies and have paid no taxes. I no longer pay the premiums, because there is so much cash in the policies. I let the policies pay themselves. I would not call most life insurance a good investment. Because I bought my policies correctly, and paid almost no sales commissions my policies are probably my best investments. I no longer own them, so when I die my beneficiaries will get the money both tax free, and estate tax free.

Since most people have short term needs like a mortgage or kids at home they should get some term. Additionally most people want some life insurance in place for their whole life to pay for burial, help with unpaid medical bills and estate taxes and so a permanent policy should be purchased along with the term policy.

Secret #3: Consider applying with two companies at once.

Life insurance companies really don’t like this “trick” because it gives them competition and increases their underwriting costs.

Secret #4: Avoid captive life insurance agents.

Look for a life insurance agent who represents at least fifty life insurance companies and ask them for a multi company quote showing the best prices side by side. Some people try to cut the agent out and just apply online. Just remember that you don’t save any money that way because the commissions normally earned by the agent are just kept by the insurance company or the website insurance company without having your premium lowered.

Plus a good agent can help you maneuver through some of the complexities of filling out the application, setting up your beneficiaries, avoiding mistakes on selecting who should be the owner, the best way to pay your premium, and also will be there to deliver the check and assist your loved ones if the life insurance is ever used.

Secret #5: Consider refinancing old life policies.

Most companies won’t tell you but the price you pay on your old policies has probably come down dramatically if you are in good health. In the last few years life insurance companies have updated their predictions on how long people will live. Since we are living longer they are reducing their rates rather dramatically. Beware the agent may be doing this to obtain a new commission, so make sure it really makes sense.

I really am amazed at how often we find that our client’s old policies are twice as expensive as a new one. If you need new life insurance consider “refinancing” your old policies and using the savings on the old policies to pay for the new policy – that way there is no extra out-of-pocket costs. We like to think of this process as “refinancing your life insurance” – just like you refinance your mortgage.

Secret #6: Realize life insurance companies have target niches that constantly change.

One day company ‘X’ is giving good rates to people who are a little overweight and the next month they are super strict. Company ‘Y’ might be lenient on people with diabetes because they don’t have many diabetics on the books – meaning they will give good rates to diabetics. At the same time company ‘W’ might be very strict on diabetics because they are insuring lots of diabetics and are afraid they have too big of a risk in that area – meaning they will give a bad rate to new diabetics who apply.

Unfortunately when you are applying a life insurance company will not tell you, “Hey, we just raised our rates in diabetics.” They will just happily take your money if you were not smart enough to shop around. This is the number one area a smart agent can come in handy. Since a good multi-company agent is constantly applying with multiple companies he or she will have a good handle on who is currently the most lenient on underwriting for you particular situation. The problem is that this is hard work and many agents are either too busy or not set up to efficiently shop around directly to different underwriters and see who would make you the best offer. This is a lot harder than just running you a quote online.

Secret #7: Don’t forget customer service.

Most people shopping for insurance focus on companies with the lowest price and the best financial rating. Unfortunately I know of some A+ rated companies with low rates who I would not touch with a ten foot pole simply because it’s easier to give birth to a porcupine backwards then it is to get customer service from them.

Before I understood this I used a life insurance company that gave a client a great rate but 2 years later the client called me and said, “I have mailed in all my payments on time but just got a notice saying my policy lapsed.” It turned out the company had been making lots of back office mistakes and had lost the premium payment!

We were able to fix it because we caught the problem so early. But if the client happened to have died during the short period the policy had lapsed, his family might have had a hard time proving that the premium had been paid on time and they might not have received the life insurance money – a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in that case.

Secret #8: Apply 3-6 months ahead of the time you need the insurance if possible.

Don’t be in a hurry to get a policy if you already have some coverage in force. But go ahead and apply right away knowing that you might need months to shop around if the first company does not give you a good rate. Even though the life insurance industry is getting more automated your application will still often be held up for weeks or months while the insurance company waits on your doctor’s office to mail them a copy of you medical records.

If you are in a hurry and buy a quickie ‘no-underwriting’ policy without going through the full health checks and underwriting that a mainstream life insurance company requires, you will end up paying 20%-50% more because the insurance company will automatically charge you higher rates because they don’t know whether you are healthy or about to die the next day.

Secret #9: Avoid buying extra life insurance through work if you are healthy.

I am sure there are exceptions to this “trick” but I have rarely found one. By all means keep the free life insurance your employer provides. But if you are healthy and you are paying for supplemental life insurance through payroll deduction you are almost certainly paying too much. What is happening is that your ‘overpayments’ ends up subsidizing the unhealthy people in your company who are buying life insurance through payroll deduction.

Usually the life insurance company has cut a deal with your employer and will waive the required health exam for all employees – instead they just average the price for all the employees and offer one or two rates for males or females at any given age. Life insurance companies know they will pick up lots of unhealthy clients this way so they jack up the price on everyone so that the healthy people end up overpaying so that the unhealthy employees get a cheaper policy. Also, unlike the guaranteed term policies which we recommend, most life insurance you buy through work will get more expensive as you get older.

Also group life insurance is generally not portable when you retire or change jobs meaning that when you retire or change jobs you might have to apply all over again even though you will be older and probably not as healthy and risk being turned down for a policy. If the group plan does allow portability they generally limit your conversion choices and force you to go into expensive cash value plans.

I remember helping someone evaluate his supplemental life insurance. He was sure it was a better deal than any policy I could find him. Little did he know that the price of his group plan would go up every year? By the time he retired his premium would have risen to over $10,000/year. I found him a policy for around $1000/year that would never go up. Also, unlike his old group life policy, he could take the individual policy with him when he changed jobs or retired.

Secret #10: Do a trial application on a COD payment basis.

Only send money with the application if you need the life insurance coverage right away. Sending a check with the application is a traditional practice agents used to do – I think mostly because it got them their commissions faster. If you send money with an application you usually get temporary coverage immediately but if you already have plenty of coverage and are just trying to get better rates ask your agent to do a trial application on a COD basis so you only pay once the policy is approved. If you do not send money, and you die before paying for the policy there is no coverage.

Secret #11: Wear your shoes when the nurse measures your height.

When the insurance company sends out the nurse to do your health check try to be as tall as possible if you are overweight? In most states you are allowed to wear shoes and if you are a little overweight your taller height/weight ratio will look a little better to the underwriter who is determining your health rating and policy price. Also do your exam early in the morning with no food in you – this will make your cholesterol count and various health ratios look the best.

Secret #12: Be careful with extra perks and riders.

Most policies come with options like accidental death benefit, child riders, disability riders, return of premium etc. If you do the math on most of these “extras” they usually don’t make smart financial sense. Life insurance companies are out to make money and these riders are usually profitable because they either cover something that rarely happens or they are so stringent that the benefit never gets paid out. Keep things simple and focus mainly on getting a life policy to cover your life without many strings attached. Again a good agent can help you weigh the benefits of the extra riders. But be wary of an agent who tries to tack on every possible extra rider.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

10 Reasons Why People Travel

When people decide to leave the comforts of their home and venture to other locations there is usually a reason behind it. Whether the cause to travel was a last minute whimsy or had an actual purpose, it makes one think about all of the reasons why people travel. Reflect on the last time you left your location and ventured to another one. Did it have a purpose behind it? Let’s look and see if your motive to travel matched any of the one’s listed below. These are not listed in any particular order.

1. Romance- There are thousands of people who are involved in long distance relationships. At some point though, they need to see each other. For the sake of love, people will travel for hours to spend as much time as they can with the love of their life.

2. Relaxation- All work and no play is not a good thing. People need to get away from the stress of everyday life, and a nice sunny location with a beach might just be what the doctor ordered.

3. Family/ Friends -Many people have family/friends that are located in different parts of the world. They need to visit with them even if it’s for a short period of time.

4. Religion- There are places in the world that hold religious importance for many people. Religious travel is often related to a purpose such as seeing where the last pope was buried, or traveling to the town where Jesus was born.

5. Death- A relative, friend or acquaintance has passed away and travel is required to attend the funeral which is located out of town.

6. Honeymoon- You’re getting married and are going somewhere special to celebrate. This usually occurs right after the wedding, but there are many occasions where people celebrate a honeymoon years later.

7. Education-You’re getting your education somewhere other than where you live or you are going away on an educational school trip.

8. Celebration- Wedding, Anniversary, Birthday, Birth- There’s always something to celebrate and it doesn’t always happen where you live.

9. Medical/Health- Sometimes the treatment you need isn’t available in the city/town where you live. Often the best medical care is costly and requires travel to receive it.

10. Work- Job requirements might mean a fair bit of travel is involved. Even if the travel is within your own country it still has a purpose attached to it.

Overall, traveling can be a wonderful experience or it can be draining, expensive and just plain torture. Nonetheless if you need to go then embrace it for what it is, and try to make the best of it even if it wasn’t planned.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on 10 Reasons Why People Travel

Insurance Claims – Get an Advance Payment!

Insurance claim advance payments are not widely known by people who file claims. Often, when an insured has a loss of significant size, such as a flood, tornado, wildfire, hurricane loss or a big water damage loss, an advance payment of a portion of the anticipated settlement is issued by the insurance company. This situation also happens regularly when a business has a loss and needs money up front.

It is a customary and widely accepted practice for the insurance company to issue an advance payment in this type of instance. Be aware that there’s nothing in the standard property insurance policy that deals with advances. It is usually just a courtesy that the insurance company extends to their policyholder.

However, they don’t usually offer to do it. You have to request the advance.

Here’s an example. Joe Smith’s house is hit by lightning, and a fire damages most of the house. Joe’s policy has Building limits of $100,000, Contents limits of $50,000, ALE limits of $20,000. The house can be repaired for $70,000, which is less than the policy limits. However, the adjuster expects that the Contents loss will exceed the policy limits of $50,000, and the ALE loss will be $15,000. The adjuster sends in his first report to the insurance company, and tells them to expect the loss to be approximately $135,000 on these three parts of coverage.

The insurance company could easily issue an initial advance payment of $25,000 to $35,000 for Contents and ALE, and $40,000 to $50,000 for the Dwelling loss.

So, what do you do if your Contents are damaged and you need the most basic things, like a change of clothes and shoes? What if you need to have a contractor secure the building and put tarps on the roof to keep further rain out of the building? Most people do not have tens of thousands of dollars just lying in their bank accounts that could be used to begin repairs, or begin replacing personal property. That’s when the insurance company issues an advance.

It’s best to make your request in writing. Even if it’s just a hand-written letter, it’s best if it’s in writing. Write or type your request, keep a copy for your records, and give the copy to your adjuster. It’s also a good idea to send a duplicate copy to the claims department of your insurance company. Send it by overnight courier or certified mail. NEVER rely on the adjuster to ask for an advance on your behalf. He might get delayed with other work and it could be days before he asks. DO IT YOURSELF.

Take control of your claim, my friend! Make an EARLY request in the claims process for your advance payment!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Insurance Claims – Get an Advance Payment!

Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

Rental Property – The Responsibilities of the Renter and the Owner

When you rent someone’s property, it’s good to know how what your responsibilities are in order not to have inconvenient situations. When some people rent someone else’s property they think that they are responsible only for a few little things and the rest of responsibilities should be taken care by a leasing agent. But usually it is vice versa. When someone rents a house or apartment, they are usually obligated to sign a contract where all the responsibilities of leasing agent and renter are fully described. In case if something happens both parties understand what they are responsible for.

Responsibilities Of Renters

Normally, renters bear responsibility for the area that is around their apartment and for the apartment itself. Usually, these are areas inside the apartment as well as their backyard. So this includes common sense responsibilities and rules of maintenance and cleanliness of the area. Such things such as repairing certain parts of the interior or the exterior or painting the walls are the responsibilities of the renter.

But still, this is not it. Renter is responsible for some other things in leasing agent’s house. If something happens with the bathrooms, the renter is also responsible for fixing it if it’s possible. But if such things happen and that renter doesn’t feel comfortable to accomplish this job she might contact the maintenance contractor for proper help.

Renters must know their responsibilities and always show respect to other renters in their area and not cause damage intentionally. Not picking up trash after yourself if you left it somewhere is the same as intentional littering. Renters that don’t follow these rules are fully responsible for their actions and might be forced to pay fines.

Responsibilities Of Leasing Agents

If something happens with that exterior of the building or the equipment is not working properly then it is the responsibility of the leasing agent. Leasing agent is always supposed to take care of his renters and make sure that they are always provided with all the necessary utilities and that everything is working properly in his apartment. For instance, if problems with water occur in the apartment then the leasing agent he supposed to contact maintenance staff.

And also, one more of responsibilities of a leasing agent taking care of public areas. This is usually that surround that area of the apartment, such as grassy parts of the land.

So basically, the leasing agent is always has to take care of his renters and make sure they don’t have any complaints or concerns. If the leasing agent doesn’t pay attention to any complaints that he’s renters might have, this may lead to having problems with clients or with the local housing authority. Again, if the client or the renter is not provided with what he expected and paid for, he will be very disappointed about the maintenance service. In these cases renter might call a maintenance company to resolve the situation and bill the expense to the owner.

So before you rent an apartment to a renter as a leasing agent make sure that both of the above are working fine. A renter faced with this kind of problems, can contact the department of housing and ask them to provide advice what to do in this situation.

In some cases, leasing agents may break their rules of that agreement and disobey points of the contract. The department of housing is usually responsible for enforcement in this kind of situation and if the renters still have complaints, they have the authority to force the owner to provide a remedy.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Rental Property – The Responsibilities of the Renter and the Owner

Top 7 Reasons New Insurance Agents Fail to Reach Success

I would like to offer some insights as to why I believe such a high percentage of Insurance Agents fail in their first couple years in the insurance business.

There can be multiple reasons that contribute to a new insurance agents failure. Here are the most common reasons I have found that lead to failure.

  • Most Insurance Agents have a Limited product portfolio and are unable to cross sell other insurance products.
  • Agents do not have a proven sales track or sales system to follow which most new insurance agents need to get results quickly.
  • They do not create consistent cash flow from insurance sales quick enough and must leave the insurance business to go back to an hourly paying job just to survive.
  • New Insurance Agents start out in the insurance business with little or no reserves to fall back on. Most businesses require some upfront capital or reserves to get started.
  • A lot of agents do not get enough training (Product or Sales) to give them a fair chance of making it in the insurance business.
  • Insurance Agents are not taught effective prospecting and marketing techniques that generate a consistent flow of sales prospects.
  • Some people simply do not have the drive, work habits, persistence, self motivation or ability to handle rejection that it's takes to survive in an insurance sales career.

From my experience of hiring and training insurance agents over the past 23 years, I have found the following items need to be present in order to maximize a new agent's chances for success long term in the insurance industry.

  • A quality multi-product portfolio to offer multiple insurance solutions when different needs are uncovered during the initial fact finding process with a potential client.
  • A proven sales track and presentation that can be taught and implemented very quickly. One that gets sales results but also generates a generous flow of new prospects and referrals.
  • An advance commission system that provides weekly cash flow so the new agent can focus on their training and sales, not their bills that are due.
  • Tools that make learning and growing in the insurance business fun and automatic. (Ie Archived Training Videos, Health and Life Quote Engines, Live Product and Sales Training Webinars, etc.)
  • Quality contracts that provide immediate 100% vesting rights and commission growth opportunities to General Agent commission levels.

At National Marketing Group we have learned over the years the essential pieces that new agents need to not only survive but thrive in the insurance industry. Our mission statement says it all. "First, to offer the Independent Insurance Agent a support system that provides a platform for success in Insurance Sales. Second, to build long term relationships through a foundation of trust and commitment."

We sincerely believe the 80% -90% failure rate of new insurance sales agents entering the insurance industry can be significantly reduced when the right agent support system is in place. We encourage you and invite you to join us in this very exciting and rewarding career opportunity. Hope to hear from you soon!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Top 7 Reasons New Insurance Agents Fail to Reach Success

Important Issues For Green Card Holders to Remember and Consider When Traveling

Clients who are Green Card holders (ie permanent residents) frequently ask me about issues that need to be aware of when traveling internationally, outside of the United States.

Here are some things to consider to minimize the potential for problems at the border. After a long intercontinental flight, nobody wants to find themselves in a position of being subjected to lengthy questioning by CBP officers at the airport. Particularly in situations where the Green Card holder has spent significant time (more than 6 months, typically) outside the US, there are potential pitfalls one needs to be aware of – or risk risk losing the highly-prized Green Card. CBP, interestingly enough, in its operations manual, has some good guidance on what immigration inspectors are to consider when inspecting Green Card residents seeking re-admission into the US

Admission, generally The CBP officer shall admit a resident alien returning to an unrelinquished domicile, if not otherwise inadmissible, upon presentation of an unexpired Green Card (I-551), a reentry permit, refugee travel document (indicating lawful permanent residence), or Temporary evidence of LPR status such as an Travel Statmp (or ADIT stamp).

A returning resident alien is not required to present a valid passport for reentry into the US, although most will have one, since a passport is often required for entry into a foreign country. When presented, the passport is normally annotated with "ARC", and the alien's "A" number should be written on the page with the admission stamp.

Admission after prolonged absences A Green Card holder, who has been outside the United States for more than one year (two, if presenting a reentry permit), may be seen by CBP to possibly have abandoned residence. Other indicators of possible abandonment of residence are:

(1) employment abroad,

(2) having immediate family members who are not permanent residents,

(3) arrival on a charter flight where most passengers are non-residents with return passage,

(4) lack of a fixed address in the US, Egypt

(5) frequent prolonged absences from the United States.

In questionable cases, it is appropriate for CBP to ask for other documentation to substantiate residence, such as driver's licenses and employer identification cards.

Green Card holder without Green Card? Lawful permanent residents (LPR) lacking evidence of alien registration because it has been left at home or in a safety deposit box, may obtain from CBP a visa waiver, with fee, or defer the inspection to another CBP office local to the Resident's home in The US

If the LPR claims the card has been lost or stolen, the POE may accept a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, with fee. These actions may be considered once the identity of the LPR has been confirmed, preferably by checking against the data contained in the CBP computer systems.

A LPR requesting a visa waiver must complete a Form I-193, Application for Waiver of Visa or Passport, if otherwise admissible. The applicant requesting the waiver is to review the information recorded on the printed form for accuracy and sign where indicated. If the waiver is approved, the LPR is to be given a copy of the Form I-193 and be acknowledged as a returning resident. If a waiver is denied, the applicant may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

CBP officers can also use something called "deferred inspection". This is usually limited to a Green Card or Visa holder who:

O will be able to produce the requisite document within a few days; Egypt,

O claims to have lost or had the Form I-551 stolen, is unable to pay the Form I-90 fee at the time of initial inspection and has not been previously deferred for presentation of the Form I-551 document.

The LPR will be required to file a Form I-90 with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the next 30 days.

Conditional Residents A conditional resident is generally admissible to the US if applying before the second anniversary of admission for conditional residence. The conditional resident may also be admissible if he or she has a lettering letter (or "transport letter") from a US Consulate, has been stationed abroad under government orders, or is the spouse or child of a person stationed abroad under government orders. Otherwise, the applicant for admission as a conditional resident must have filed a joint petition or an application for waiver, Form I-751 (marriage-based cases) or Form I-829 (investment-based cases), in the US within the 90 Days before the second anniversary but not more than 6 months prior to the application for entry.

Once I-751 has been filed, the applicant will receive a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) from USCIS, extending the conditional residency status for another year, allowing travel.

If none of those conditions exist, the inspector may defer the applicant to file Form I-751 or I-829 if there is a reason to believe the service will approve a petition or waiver. If the applicant is not admissible, CBP has authority to place him or her in removal proceedings.

Question of "Meaningful Departure" When examining a Green Card holder who has spent significant time abroad (usually more than six months), when there is a question as to whether the LPR may have abandoned his / her US residence, the CBP inspector has to Evaluate the situation and make a determination as to the LPR's intent and the nature and reason for the prolonged absence from the United States. Prior to 1997, if a lawful permanent resident was believed to be inadmissible, immigration inspectors had to first make a determination which his / her absence was "meaningfully interruptive" of permanent residence. Later revisions to immigration laws have formalized a 'test' for immigration inspectors to apply in this situation. Under this test, a lawful permanent resident is NOT considered to be seeking admission, unless the alien:

O has abandoned or relinquished that status;

O has been absent continuously for more than 180 days;

O has engaged in illegal activity after departing the US;

O has departed under legal process seeking removal;

O has committed certain criminal offsets;

O is attempting entry without inspection; Egypt

O has entered the US without authorization by an immigration officer.

If CBP believes an LPR may be inadmissible or no longer entailed to lawful permanent resident status, CBP should refer the alien for removal proceedings if a deferred inspection is not appropriate.

Special Rules for Dependents of US Service Members Spouses and children of US Armed Forces servicemembers, or civil employees of the US Government, are exempt from many normal requirements for returning residents. If a dependent is a temporary resident, and the period of conditional residence has expired, CBP should admit the person and advise to file Form I-751 within 90 days.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Important Issues For Green Card Holders to Remember and Consider When Traveling