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

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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Summer Signals a Great Time to Find Your Dream Home

Summer Signals a Great Time to Find Your Dream Home

The Home Front 

presented by: HomeTown Lenders

For several reasons, summer is a great time to launch your search for a new home. The inventory is broader right now, so you are more likely to find the house that checks off all your dream home boxes. The nicer weather and longer days make house hunting more pleasurable. Plus, if you have children to consider, summer means the kids are more likely to be available to look at homes with you and give you their buy in on home prospects. You also have the advantage of transitioning to your new home while school is out.

But before you start looking, remember to first make sure you are approved for the mortgage loan you will need to make your home dream a reality. Our team here at HomeTown Lenders offers you the most innovative and creative mortgage financing solutions available in our community and we operate from a core belief that “exceeding expectations is the only way to do business.”

We do business:

  • Treating every customer the same
  • Showing respect
  • Taking time to find the loan that is right for the customer
  • Shaking hands
  • Putting a name with a face and becoming friends
  • Celebrating with you in finding the loan you need and being in the home you want.

A home loan is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make so at HomeTown we strive to do what is best for you and treat you like family. In today’s world of “it’s just a click away” wouldn’t you rather put a face with a name? Be able to talk, vent or just ask for the right information from a person that lives in the same city, town you do? Local, hometown support at every stage of home ownership is what we are all about.

Call or visit us today!

Scott Moulton 

Central Alabama Division Manager, HomeTown Lenders

NMLS#40425

“Local, Hometown Support at Every Stage of Home Ownership”

Contact us today for all your mortgage needs.

Call Scott Moulton at 205-986-4200

Visit us at www.htlenders.com

501 Riverchase Parkway East, Suite 200.Birmingham AL, 35244

 

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5 Steps to Handling Finances When Your Spouse Has Died

5 Steps to Handling Finances When Your Spouse Has Died

Money Matters

Losing a spouse is a stressful transition, and the added pressure of having to settle the estate and organize finances can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make dealing with these matters less difficult.

  1. Notify others. When your spouse dies, your first step should be to contact anyone who is close to you and your spouse, and anyone who may help you with funeral preparations. Next, contact your attorney and other financial professionals. These professionals can help you prepare to contact life insurance companies, government agencies, and your spouse’s employer for information on how you can file for benefits.
  2. Get advice. Getting expert advice is essential. An attorney can help you go over your spouse’s will and start estate settlement procedures. Your funeral director may help you obtain copies of the death certificate and applications for Social Security and veterans benefits. Your financial advisor or life insurance agent can assist you with the claims process.
  3. Locate important documents and financial records and keep them organized. Before you can begin to settle your spouse’s estate or apply for insurance proceeds or government benefits, locate important documents and financial records. You may need to obtain certified copies of certain documents. For example, you’ll need a certified copy of your spouse’s death certificate to apply for life insurance proceeds. To apply for Social Security benefits, you’ll need to provide birth, marriage, and death certificates. Having all of the information you need when you need it is important. Start by organizing all the documents by topic area, setting up a file for each. For example, you may want to set up separate files for estate records, insurance, government benefits, tax information, etc. Store your files in a safe but readily accessible place.
  4. Evaluate short-term income and expenses. When your spouse dies, you may have immediate expenses to handle, such as funeral costs or credit card debt. If you expect money from an insurance or estate settlement, it may take time for this money to arrive. Don’t panic- you have several options. If you are a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you may be able to get the life insurance proceeds soon after you file or ask the insurance company if they’ll give you an advance. In the meantime, you can use credit cards for certain expenses, take out a cash advance against a credit card, or negotiate with creditors to allow you to postpone payment of certain debts for 30 days or more, if necessary.
  5. Avoid hasty decisions. Don’t think about moving from your current home until you can make a decision based on reason rather than emotion. Don’t spend money impulsively, or loan money to others without reviewing your finances first. When you’re grieving, you may be especially vulnerable to pressure from salespeople or others. Finally, don’t make quick decisions about your investment portfolio. Take time to create a financial plan to fit your new life and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of risk you are taking. This may change over time.

Mike Mungenast, Sr. 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.

 

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Avoiding Probate When You Die: The Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust

Avoiding Probate When You Die: The Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust

Legal Matters

presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning 

Many people prefer to avoid the probate court process stating that they want to avoid the time constraints the court system imposes before distributing to beneficiaries, the cost, and the fact that the contents of a Will are available to the general public for review.  Some try to outsmart the system by making gifts to children and others before death. However, this can have adverse tax consequences. Additionally, gifting is a poor option if there is a need to control how the beneficiary uses the money and assets after your death. For example, do you want your assets to be controlled by a trusted person for a beneficiary if you die or do you want your assets controlled by your ex-spouse for the benefit of your minor child? Do you want to leave assets to your child; but, not to the child’s ex-spouse in the event of a divorce?  Do you have an adult child that has substance abuse issues or poor money management problems? Are you worried that your spouse might re-marry and not leave your assets to your children?

An appropriate option to avoid probate and to address all of these complicated issues is the use of a revocable living trust. The trust is a contract that you create that has the terms that would normally be contained in a Will. At death, the person you name as a successor trustee steps into the role of trustee and begins to carry out the document according to its instructions without court interference. Your wishes can be implemented quickly and privately. Further, the cost is generally much cheaper than the cost of probating. A trust, allowing you to avoid probate and create conditions for how and when money and assets are to be used or given to beneficiaries can be complicated; but, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you to create a plan that will carry out your wishes and make it easy on your family at your death.

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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