$500 College Scholarship Opportunity

$500 College Scholarship Opportunity

$500 College Scholarship Opportunity from Birmingham Christian Family Magazine

Birmingham Christian Family will provide a $500 scholarship to a graduating 2018 senior high school student. Recipient may apply the $500 scholarship to education at any college or university.

Here’s How It Works:

Must be a high school senior living in Alabama who is graduating in the spring of 2018 and planning to attend college fall 2018. Tell us in 400 words or less,

“How will you use your college education to better live out your Christian faith in your community?”

SUBMIT ESSAY TO: bcfscholarship@gmail.com

Include: Name, Mailing Address, Phone Number, High School and Graduation Date

Finalists may also be asked to submit high school transcript and ACT score.

DEADLINE TO SUBMIT ESSAY: January 31, 2018

The winning essay will be published in the March Issue of Birmingham Christian Family magazine.

Special Thanks to our sponsor, Belhaven University!

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Holiday Conversations

Holiday Conversations

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

As families gather to enjoy food and holiday time together, it can be a good opportunity to discuss estate planning issues for parents. Consider your own family situation and decide if some of the following questions will be beneficial for your family to discuss:

  1. Do your children know that you have an estate plan? If so, do they know where to locate the documents when they are needed? Ideally, the person(s) that will be in charge should already have copies of these documents.
  2. Are your estate documents old? Do they need to be updated? Laws change and your documents may not have all the necessary powers that are needed.
  3. If you need to name a person(s) to act on your behalf for financial and medical decisions, have you told this person that you have nominated him or her? Will this person be prepared to act? If not, you may need to reconsider this person as your choice for agent.
  4. Do the children understand your wishes about how to care for you as you age? How do you feel about in-home caregivers, assisted living, memory care and nursing homes? Take into consideration what the family should do if you are no longer able to care for yourself and caregiving in the home is not working. This occurs most often when the person has serious medical needs or is an escape risk due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Giving permission to your children to place you in a nursing home can ease the guilt experienced by children when they feel forced to place a parent in a nursing home for safety issues.
  5. How do you feel about end of life decisions? Do your children know if you want to be kept alive by life support or feeding tubes; or, have you clearly stated you do not want to be kept alive if you cannot recover and have a meaningful life?
  6. Do you believe there will be disputes about your assets at your death? If so, a conversation clearly stating what you wish may help to prevent future disputes. Of course, in some families, this tactic will not work and you must judge your own situation.

These topics are not festive; but, discussing these subjects is crucial to a peaceful aging and estate process. Take time when everyone is available to make sure everyone clearly understands your estate plan; or, make the decisions necessary to create an estate plan.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Steps to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Steps to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Money Matters

presented by Vision Financial

Whether they’re snatching your purse, diving into your dumpster, stealing your mail, or hacking into your computer, they’re out to get you. Who are they? Identity thieves. You may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Check yourself out. Review your credit report periodically. Check to make sure that all the information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity. You may get your credit report for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Secure your number. Your most important personal identifier is your Social Security number (SSN). Guard it carefully. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll need it. The same goes for other forms of identification (for example, health insurance cards) that display your SSN.

Don’t leave home with it. Carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any one trip. And keep a written record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place–at home.

When you toss it, shred it. Before you throw out any financial records such as credit or debit card receipts and statements, cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail, shred the documents, preferably with a cross-cut shredder.

Keep a low profile. The more your personal information is available to others, the more likely you are to be victimized by identity theft. To help minimize your exposure:

  • Stop telephone calls from national telemarketers, list your telephone number with the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry by registering at www.donotcall.gov
  • Remove your name from most national mailing and e-mailing lists, as well as most telemarketing lists by registering with the Direct Marketing Association at www.dmachoice.org
  • Remove your name from marketing lists prepared by the three national consumer reporting agencies, register online at www.optoutprescreen.com

Take a byte out of crime. Try to avoid storing personal and financial information on a laptop; if it’s stolen, the thief may obtain more than your computer. If you must store such information on your laptop, make things as difficult as possible for a thief by protecting these files with a strong password–one that’s six to eight characters long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. And when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, remove all your personal information from the old one before you dispose of it. Overwrite the hard drive by using a “wipe” utility program. The minimal cost of investing in this software may save you from being wiped out later by an identity thief.

-S. Joey Elmore 

Vision Financial Group, Inc.

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

 

Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc. Investment Advisory Services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA & SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. is independent of ProEquities, Inc.

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Serving Veterans in Our Community

Serving Veterans in Our Community

Special Feature

Are you a veteran or know someone who is? The Alabama based non-profit Still Serving Veterans (SSV) was founded in 2006 to specifically assist veterans, at no charge, with securing employment.

SSV offers in person employment counseling to Veterans, transitioning military and members of the Guard and Reserves at its offices in Birmingham, Huntsville and Phenix City. SSV also has a virtual employment team that assists clients across the United States. Last year, SSV conducted over 10,000 one-on-one free counseling sessions and through SSV, 737 Veteran clients were hired resulting in 34.9 million in new salaries and benefits to clients. “Our approach to employment counseling is holistic: we help our clients not just during military-to civilian transitions but during life transitions, engaging one-on-one and person-to-person, not via webinars or chat rooms,” explains Al Wood, the Regional Director of SSV, Birmingham.

“My work with SSV helped me translate my military skills into civilian competencies which boosted by confidence.” said U.S. Army Veteran Jurann H. “Being unemployed for two months, I began to lose faith and doubt my abilities, but I am grateful for the SSV team which was proactive in following up with me even on unsuccessful interviews and helped me identify how to be better prepared for the next opportunity.” Another Still Serving Veterans client, Janice T, U.S. Air Force, adds, “Finding a job is a full-time endeavor. Many of the same jobs and companies that I applied to previously were opportunities that SSV sent me on a daily basis. The key difference this time was that I had an advocate on my side that was able to connect me with a recruiter; a real person. It was a game changer when SSV connected me to a real person, not only did I get an interview, I was offered the job.”

To learn more visit www.ssv.org or call 1-866-778-4645. †

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Financial Advice for Grieving Widows

Financial Advice for Grieving Widows

Money Matters

I recently heard award-winning author Kathleen Rehl speak on the grief stages of widowhood and how to relate to this growing segment of our population. She shared that 70% of women will be widowed and the median age of widows in America is 59.  Widows make up 3.5% of our population with over 1 million added each year. Rehl explained that financial advisors often try to solve all problems widows face immediately with charts, graphs and analysis; but many recent widows need time and space to grieve before making important financial decisions. Also, each situation is different depending on the circumstances of the loss. Here are some steps taken directly from Rehl’s website (www.KathleenRehl.com) that could help you as a family member, friend or financial advisor of a recent widow.

Communicate with Empathy. Don’t use clichés like: “You have my deepest sympathy; I’m sorry about all this; At least you have your children.” Rather, say: “When I heard about [spouse’s name]’s sudden death, I was shocked. I don’t know what to say to ease your pain. I’m here for you. There’s nothing you have to do immediately. Just take care of yourself, and let your family and friends step up. They love you. How about if I call you on [set a date] and we’ll talk more then?”

Focus on the Financial Triage. A new widow in the first stage of widowhood is highly stressed. Often, she’ll say she “feels numb,” “in a fog,” or like she’s “going crazy.” As a grieving spouse, she needs to be heard and understood. She wants to feel safe.

  • Don’t encourage a new widow to make major, irrevocable decisions like moving to a new home.
  • Do check on her cash flow. Be sure bills are paid and insurance is in force.
  • Do assist in applying for death benefits, but don’t invest new money immediately. Park life insurance proceeds in a safe account until new goals are set. Help her guard against well-meaning friends with hot investment tips.

Be Her Thinking Partner. You’re not there to tell her what to do. Help her make decisions that are right for her and the family. She used to do that with her husband, but now she needs some wise assistance in moving forward. It may be up to a year or so before a widow transitions through the various stages of grief, so plan accordingly. The later stages of grief, will be the time for general planning such as repositioning investment portfolios, making career or postretirement decisions, education planning, and housing issues.

GO SLOW…  Any suggested transitions or change will be an opportunity for grief to manifest itself.  Grieving is not only for the loss of the loved one but often it is also over the death of the financial dreams they shared together. For more resources visit www.kathleenrehl.com.

-R. Heath Morris, CFP®

Vision Financial Group 

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243

205-970-4909, www.visionfinancialgroup.com

Investment Advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA & SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. and West Alabama Bank are independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no bank guarantee, are not FDIC insured, and may lose value.

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Do you have your STAR-ID yet?

Do you have your STAR-ID yet?

Money Matters

presented by: Vision Financial Group

In response to terrorism committed against the U.S. and to help ensure the safety of our fellow citizens, the U.S. Congress passed the real ID act of 2005. The act requires individual states to modify and enhance their procedures and standards for issuance of state driver’s licenses and identification cards.

In Alabama, our Department of Public Safety has developed the STAR- ID program (Secure Trusted And Reliable). It is indicated by a gold star on the top left corner of one’s driver’s license or non-driver ID card. Implementation of this program has been delayed by the U.S. government until October, 2020. When fully implemented, one will need this enhanced ID to enter any government facility and to board any domestic airline flight if you don’t have a valid passport. Alabama is compliant with this program; supposedly on January 22, 2018 residents of noncompliant states will be required to have their driver’s licenses and a passport to board a domestic flight originating in their state.

If your license expires between now and January, 2020, our advice would be to tag your calendar for the month before expiration and visit the www.alea.gov website for the latest information. If you have renewed your license in the last year, you don’t have to wait until the next expiration date. You can go ahead and get the STAR- ID. It will cost the same as a license renewal. Be sure to bring proper documentation and know that your license will have the same expiration date. Our advice is to get this taken care of sooner rather than later. A few points to understand:

-You must have an appointment.

-Issuance is only available at license issuing offices such as Pelham and Bankhead Hwy. The Inverness license office does not issue STAR- ID.

-Pay very close attention to the required documentation outlined at www.alea.gov.

-If you are married and took your spouse’s name and your Social Security card has not been updated, you will need a copy of your marriage license.

-STAR-ID’s must be renewed every 12 years, similar to passports needing renewal every 10 years.

Avoid the rush, which is sure to come. Make your appointment, double check your documentation, and get your STAR-ID.

Larry Anderson

Vision Financial Group 

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

 

Advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor and a division of ProEquities, Inc. Securities are offered through ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Broker Dealer and Member FINRA & SIPC. Vision Financial Group and West Alabama Bank are Independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no guarantee, are not FDIC insured and may lose value.

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Asset Protection & the Elderly

Asset Protection & the Elderly

Legal Matters

presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning   

Asset protection for the elderly is a complex subject and the legal advice given can be very different based on the assets of the family, estate planning goals, and other family problems such as children that do not get along or children that have creditor problems, mental illness, or other issues. Typically, the elderly client wishes to establish an estate plan that avoids the probate process (a court process that is required with a Last Will and Testament). The client’s goals usually include protecting assets that will ultimately be distributed to the children regardless of the client’s future long-term care needs while also maintaining optimal tax rates and advantages.

These goals can be achieved using an asset protection trust if certain time factors are met and the proper provisions are stated in the trust agreement. This type of planning is generally much more in-depth than is necessary for the standard Last Will and Testament; however, the extra work involved in preparing the estate plan is worthwhile when assets are preserved and the process of distributing assets at death is simplified.

Individuals that give gifts directly to children or, unknowingly, have the wrong type of trust may fail to protect assets and cause the children to lose favorable tax advantages. These mistakes typically cannot be corrected once they are finally discovered and can cause lasting regret to a family.

If you want an estate plan that does more than simply distribute assets at your death; or, if you are unsure of whether your current estate plan is adequate, talk with an attorney that has experience in estate planning and asset protection and review your situation.

Melanie Bradford Holliman

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Using a Trust to Protect Your Children from Divorce & Creditors

Using a Trust to Protect Your Children from Divorce & Creditors

Legal Matters

presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

Parents frequently ask us how they can leave their assets to their children when they die without those assets being vulnerable to a child later divorcing or having problems with debt. The sentiments expressed by the parents are almost always the same: “We want our child to have our assets, we do not want an ex-spouse or creditor to have our assets.”

The typical Last Will and Testament that leaves everything to the child or percentages to children cannot provide this kind of protection because once the assets become the property of a child, they become subject to the laws governing divorce or other debt collection. However, parents can create trusts to hold the assets they leave for children that will protect the assets from divorce or other creditors. These trusts can be set up to provide assets to a child as needed. Since the assets are not placed into the child’s name, the assets do not become the property of the child which would be subject to division or seizure. Of course, not all trusts can accomplish this goal. The trust must contain the right provisions and restrictions to accomplish asset protection for a child.

Parents may choose to use a Last Will and Testament that has the proper trust provisions inside the Will; or, they may choose to use a Revocable Living Trust that completely avoids the probate court process at death while providing protection for the heirs. If you wish to provide protection for children or other heirs, talk with your estate planning attorney to determine the best way to achieve your specific goals.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Robo Advisors have arrived, but life often calls for a Human Touch

Robo Advisors have arrived, but life often calls for a Human Touch

Money Matters

After years of development, numerous robo advisors have entered the world of investment management. Still, many investors may not fully understand exactly what robos do, or how they do it. A robo advisor is a digital platform that uses advanced algorithms (based on various financial models and assumptions) to select and manage investments. To keep costs relatively low, portfolios are typically composed of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds that track market indexes. The recommended allocations, available strategies, and various other features can differ significantly from one service to another. To start the process, the investor fills out a standard online questionnaire designed to determine his or her risk tolerance and investment objectives. The software builds a portfolio with a mix of assets that align with the client’s stated short- and long-term financial goals, such as saving for a home purchase, a child’s college expenses, or retirement. This kind of cutting-edge technology may be especially appealing to younger investors, who are more comfortable with managing their lives on electronic devices — and who may not have as much at stake. However, some risks may not be fully understood. Robo advisors have yet to be tested by an economic downturn or times of extreme market volatility, when panicked and/or inexperienced investors may be more likely to abandon their investment strategies without a familiar voice to guide them through the storm.

A financial advisor can provide personalized, face-to-face guidance to clients as they accumulate wealth and their needs become more complex. To put it simply, there are still some critical things that people can do better than computers.

  1. Get to know their clients. The true value of a financial advisor may lie in emotional intelligence and interaction. When personal relationships are formed, advisors gain insight into each client’s unique financial picture, including their priorities, pressing concerns, and psychological tendencies.
  2. Offer more choices & comprehensive service. Robo advisors can manage investment assets for less than the fees normally charged by personal financial advisors. But robo services are typically limited to portfolio management, and their reliance on ETFs and mutual funds means that investors may not have access to individual stocks and bonds, or to some types of alternative investments and strategies.
  3. Provide accountability & perspective. What happens when an investor veers off track and is not making sufficient progress toward his or her stated financial goals? While it may be easy to ignore the recommendations of a robo advisor, it might be more difficult to disregard a trusted advisor. The prospect of regular checkups with a real person who cares about a client’s future might inspire more realistic decisions about spending and saving. A financial advisor typically can keep clients better informed by discussing the financial issues that matter to them, which may help give them more confidence in their decisions.

 – Hal B. Holland, Jr., RFC®

Vice President, Senior Advisor

Vision Financial Group 

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc. Investment advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Securities offered through ProEquities Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. and West Alabama Bank are independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no bank guarantee, are not FDIC insured, and may lose value.Prepared for: Save New Client

 

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