Deal Alert! - Lifetime Senior National Parks Pass for $10

Deal Alert!

The U.S. Geological Survey is offering a $10 Lifetime National Parks Pass for Senior Citizens. Anyone over the age of 62 can take advantage of this deal, which expires August 27th.

This pass gives anyone with the pass lifetime access to all 417 national parks and over 2,000 other recreational areas. This includes sites under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. After August 27th, the lifetime pass can be purchased for $80 or for $20 annually. The passes can be purchased without a processing fee at any of these Federal Recreation Areas, or alternatively online for $20 with a $5 shipping fee.

This lifetime pass makes a great gift for a new retiree or as a way to treat yourself in retirement. Even if you don’t plan to use the pass immediately, it can be used for any future travel as you explore the country or your own backyard in retirement!

Should you take a lump sum or annuitize for your retirement?

This recent article by Richard Eisenberg over at Market Watch perfectly illustrates the advice we give to soon-to-be retirees on a daily basis. The benefits of Guaranteed Lifetime Income cannot be overstated. Creating a personal pension for yourself and your spouse is one of the wisest actions one can make to ensure financial stability and security in retirement. The link to the article can be found here and is re-posted below. If you are having second thoughts about your retirement strategy or simply don't know where to begin, give our office a call, we can help!

By Michael Eisenberg

It turns out, many retirees choosing to take their employer’s 401(k) or pension as a lump sum for retirement are taking their lumps.

About a fifth of retirement plan participants (21%) MetLife surveyed who received their pensions or 401(k)s as lump sums depleted that money — in just 5½ years, on average. And among those who took a lump sum from a 401(k) and didn’t get a pension, the money ran out in four years, on average, according to the MetLife Paycheck or Pot of Gold Study (though the sample size for this particular statistic was small).

The retirees selected the lump sum over an annuity, which pays out in guaranteed monthly installments — and has a few drawbacks of its own, as I’ll explain shortly. But why are so many taking the lump sum finding the money gone so soon?

The ‘lottery effect’ and retirement

“When people retire and are handed a lump sum, there’s sometimes what’s known as ‘the lottery effect,’” says Roberta Rafaloff, vice president for Institutional Income Annuities at MetLife. (The company is one of the biggest sellers of annuities.) “They get more money than they’ve ever seen in their life and say ‘Wow! I can do something I never could when I was working!”

She describes the chief finding of the survey of 1,069 adults as “troublesome,” adding that “people have to start thinking about their retirement plan not as a pot of gold, but as money that has to last as long as you do in retirement.”

In fairness, many who use up their lump sums aren’t being wholly frivolous with the cash.

How the lump sums are being used

While 12% of the lump sum recipients surveyed said they took a vacation or bought a new car within the first year of receiving the money, 27% paid down debt, 20% fixed up their homes and 4% used some of the money for either medical or long-term care expenses or for education. Nearly a quarter (22%) gave some of the money to friends, family or charity.

Regrets? They had a few: 31% who took a lump sum told MetLife they had regrets about their major purchases and spending in the first year; 23% regretted having given money away.

Why people prefer lump sums over annuities

I can totally see why some people might choose to take their employer-based retirement funds as a lump sum rather than an annuity.

They might prefer having control over the money so they can invest, save or spend it as they choose. In fact, in MetLife’s study, “wanting to maintain control over my money” was the No. 1 reason people took a lump sum.

The annuity option might have another drawback: no inflation protection. While some annuity payouts rise with inflation, many don’t. Fidelity recently noted that a 3% annual inflation rate will cut the value of a fixed benefit in half in 24 years.

Then there’s the “hit by a bus” thesis. By this reasoning, you take the money as a lump sum because you could be hit by a bus tomorrow and if that happens, your heirs will get what’s left after you die. An annuity, by contrast, often stops when you do. One exception: a return-of-premium or cash-refund feature that guarantees a minimum amount of money will go to your estate or beneficiary if you die before receiving this total.

Lump sum or annuity? Maybe both

That said, with only 21% of Americans feeling very confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, according to the most recent Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, you have to worry about the news that lump sums are turning into dim sums or no sums at all.

So, if your employer offers you the choice between taking your retirement money in lump sum or an annuity, what should you do?

You could use a free online calculator, like this one from CalcXML, to determine whether you’re better off taking a lump sum and investing the cash or going with an annuity. And the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s online brochure, Pension Lump-Sum Payouts and Your Retirement Security, is worth reading.

But I think for many people who want peace of mind, it’s best to see if you can take the cash both ways — through a partial annuity, which is something that growing numbers of employers with 401(k)s offer. As I wrote on Next Avenue, when 5,000 Americans age 50 to 75 were given a hypothetical partial annuitization option in Harvard Business School assistant professor John Beshears’ 2013 survey, 60% chose it.

Fortunately, a new U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service rule kicking in this year encourages employers to let pension participants split their retirement payouts between annuities and lump sums. “It removes the all-or-nothing choice” workers must make, Cathy Weatherford, CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute, told Benefits Pro reporter Nick Thornton.

How to do a partial annuity

A partial annuity will help ensure you don’t outlive your money without fully tying your hands or surrendering to inflation. “People should have the flexibility to decide how much guaranteed income they want,” notes Rafaloff.

Annuitizing at least a portion of your retirement funds is also worth considering if you’re not confident about your investment capabilities or worry about being able to make smart investment decisions as you age.

One way to structure a partial annuitization, says Rafaloff: “Think of the expenses you know you will have to pay every month, like your car payments and a mortgage, and allocate money to pay those with a guaranteed income stream from an annuity.”

What employers aren’t doing

One reason so many lump sums are disappearing: employers aren’t doing a great job explaining to their employees the pros and cons of lump sums vs. annuities.

For example, among the pension plan participants surveyed who were given a choice between a lump sum or an annuity, only 45% recall being given information comparing the total amount of the lump sum and the annuity payments when they had to make their decision. And just 23% of the 401(k) participants were given information about the risk of outliving their plan savings.

Washington might help employees make better decisions. Last week, bipartisan legislation was introduced (The Lifetime Income Disclosure Act) that would require employers to provide 401(k) participants with a projection of how much monthly income they’d receive in retirement based on their current account balance.

I’d like to see that bill become law, but I wouldn’t bet my retirement on it.

Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of “How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis” and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS Moneywatch. Follow him on Twitter @richeis315.

This article is reprinted by permission from, © 2017 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

Free $3000 Accidental Death Policy

Free $3000 Accidental Life Insurance Coverage from Retirement Advisory Consultants, LLC through United American Insurance Company.


Did you know that unintentional injury is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, and the leading cause of death overall for those under the age of 45?


You can protect yourself and your loved ones with a $3000 benefit for you and a spouse and a $2000 benefit for each child for a full year at no cost to you.


Less expensive than a whole Final Expense policy most appropriate for the older generation, this coverage can help ease the financial burden associated with a sudden and unexpected passing.


100% of first year premium paid through agency rebate. No commitment to keep the policy after the first year. If you do choose to keep the policy, it is only $10 a year (less than $0.03 a day) to keep. If you choose not to keep the coverage, the policy simply terminates. No payment or payment information is collected for the application.


Guaranteed renewable. The policy is noncancelable by the insurer until the policy year after your 70th birthday. Rates cannot increase and benefits cannot decrease. Coverage begins the date of application.

For more information or to take advantage of this free year of coverage, please fill out the short form below or contact Retirement Advisory Consultants at (727)807-2343.

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Saving $1 Million for Retirement

How many of us will retire with $1 million or more in savings? More of us ought to – in fact, more of us may need to, given inflation and the rising cost of health care.


Sadly, few pre-retirees have accumulated that much. A 2015 Government Accountability Office analysis found that the average American aged 55-64 had just $104,000 in retirement money. A 2016 GoBankingRates survey determined that only 13% of Americans had retirement savings of $300,000 or more.


A $100,000 or $300,000 retirement fund might be acceptable if our retirements lasted less than a decade, as was the case for some of our parents. As many of us may live into our eighties and nineties, we may need $1 million or more in savings to avoid financial despair in our old age. 


The earlier you begin saving, the more you can take advantage of compound interest. A 25-year-old who directs $405 a month into a tax-advantaged retirement account yielding an average of 7% annually will wind up with $1 million at age 65. Perhaps $405 a month sounds like a lot to devote to this objective, but it only gets harder if you wait. At the same rate of return, a 30-year-old would need to contribute $585 per month to the same retirement account to generate $1 million by age 65.


The Census Bureau says that the median household income in this country is $53,657. A 45-year-old couple earning that much annually would need to hoard every cent they made for 19 years (and pay no income tax) to end up with $1 million at age 64, absent of investments. So, investing may come to be an important part of your retirement plan.


What if you are over 40, what then? You still have a chance to retire with $1 million or more, but you must make a bigger present-day financial commitment to that goal than someone younger.


At age 45, you will need to save around $1,317 per month in a tax-advantaged retirement account yielding 10% annually to have $1 million in 20 years. If the account returns just 6% annually, then you would need to direct approximately $2,164 a month into it.


What if you start trying to build that $1 million retirement fund at age 50? If your retirement account earns a solid 10% per year, you would still need to put around $2,413 a month into it; at a 6% yearly return, the target contribution becomes about $3,439 a month.


This math may be startling, but it is also hard to argue with. If you are between age 55-65 and have about $100,000 in retirement savings, you may be hard-pressed to adequately finance your future. There are three basic ways to respond to this dilemma. You can choose to live on Social Security, plus the principal and yield from your retirement fund, and risk running out of money within several years (or sooner). Alternately, you can cut your expenses way down – share housing, share or forgo a car, etc., which could preserve more of your money. Or, you could try to work longer, giving your invested retirement savings a chance for additional growth, and explore ways to create new income streams. 


How long will a million-dollar retirement fund last? If it is completely uninvested, you could draw down about $35,000 a year from it for 28 years. The upside here is that your invested retirement assets could grow and compound notably during your “second act” to help offset the ongoing withdrawals. The downside is that you will have to contend with inflation and, potentially, major healthcare expenses, which could reduce your savings faster than you anticipate.


So, while $1 million may sound like a huge amount of money to amass for retirement, it really is not – certainly not for a retirement beginning twenty or thirty years from now. Having $2 million or $3 million on hand would be preferable.


Retirement Advisory Consultants may be reached at (727)807-2343 or


Life Insurance Before Age 40

Do you plan to buy life insurance before you turn 40? Maybe you should. You may save money in the long run by doing so.


At first thought, the idea of purchasing a life insurance policy in your thirties may seem silly. After all, young adults are now marrying and starting families later in life than past generations did, and you and your peers are likely in excellent health with a good chance of living past 80.


In fact, LIMRA – a life insurance research and advocacy group – recently surveyed millennials and found that 30% thought saving for a vacation mattered more than buying life insurance coverage. The perception seems to be that insurance is something to purchase when you start a family or when you hit your forties or fifties.


Getting a policy before you marry or start a family may be a great idea. The reasons for doing so might be compelling.


Your premiums will be lower. The older you become, the more expensive life insurance becomes. Data compiled last summer by Life Happens, a non-profit life insurance education effort, confirms this.


Life Happens asked several prominent U.S. insurers to supply their preferred premium rates for healthy non-smokers aged 25, 35, 45, and 55 buying a $250,000 whole life policy (the kind designed to build cash value with time). The average preferred premium rates for 25-, 35-, and 45-year-olds fitting this description were:


25-year-old male: annual premium of $1,987

35-year-old male: annual premium of $2,964

45-year-old male: annual premium of $4,747


25-year-old female: annual premium of $1,745

35-year-old female: annual premium of $2,531

45-year-old female: annual premium of $3,947


The numbers starkly express the truth – whole life insurance premiums more than double between age 25 and age 45.


Premiums on term life policies are even lower. Term life insurance is essentially coverage that you “rent” for 10, 20, or 30 years – it cannot build any cash value, but in some cases, a term policy can be adapted or exchanged for a whole life policy when the term of coverage ends.


If you are young, term coverage is remarkably cheap. NerdWallet recently researched term life premiums for healthy 30-year-olds. It found the following sample rates for 20- and 30-year term policies valued at $250,000:


30-year-old male: annual premium of $156 for a 20-year term policy, $240 for a 30-year term policy

30-year-old female: annual premium of $141 for a 20-year term policy, $206 for a 30-year term policy


The downside of term coverage is that you are “renting” the insurance. Just as you cannot build home equity by renting a house, you cannot build cash value by “renting” a policy.


A whole life policy may become quite valuable. As Life Happens notes, the average such policy bought at 25, 35, or 45 may have a guaranteed cash value of anywhere from $100,000-200,000 when the policyholder turns 65, assuming the policy is kept in force and no loans are taken from it. Universal life policies permit tax-deferred growth of the cash value.


Make no mistake, a whole life policy is a lifelong commitment. It must be funded every year or it will lapse. That should not scare you away from the value and utility of these policies – the cash inside the policy can often be borrowed or withdrawn. Sometimes families use cash value to fund college educations or help with medical expenses or retirement. Such withdrawals can lessen the death benefit of the policy, but what is left is often adequate. Cash withdrawals from a whole life policy are usually exempt from taxes, just like the death benefit.  


Maybe this is the time to put time on your side. Age-wise, life insurance will never be cheaper than it is for you today. Getting coverage now – even if you are single – may be a money-smart move as well as a great life decision.  


Retirement Advisory Consultnats can be reached at (727)807-2343 or at


10 Frequently Asked 401k Questions

We wanted to share this great article we found from Matthew Frankel over at The Motley Fool. We are often asked many of these same questions about contributions to employer-sponsored IRA accounts, and give similar advice to our clients. Please don't hesitate to give us a call if you have questions about your IRA or 401(k) accounts, we're here to help!

Here are 10 things every employee should know about their 401(k) plan.

Matthew Frankel(TMFMathGuy)Jan 14, 2017 at 8:47AM

The 401(k) is the most common type of defined-contribution retirement plan for U.S. workers. However, these plans aren't well-understood by most people -- even the millions of Americans who participate in them. To help workers make the most of these powerful retirement saving tools, here are the answers to 10 common 401(k) questions.


1. Can I use my money before I retire?

It depends. The bad news is that some well-known exemptions to the early-withdrawal penalties, such as first-time home purchases and college expenses, only apply to IRAs, not 401(k) plans.

However, there are some cases in which you may be able to tap your account early. For example, you can withdraw money early for medical expenses in excess of 10% of your adjusted gross income. Or, if you become permanently disabled, you're free to withdraw from your account without penalty. If your plan permits it, you may also be able to borrow from your 401(k), which I'll discuss later.

2. What if I retire before age 59-1/2?

There are two special provisions that apply to people who retire before the age of 59-1/2, which is when most workers can start taking withdrawals from their 401(k)s without incurring penalties. First, the "separation from service" rule says that if you stop working for your employer after you turn 55, you can withdraw your money penalty-free. This applies if you quit your job, get fired, or retire.

Furthermore, at any age, you may be able to access your account early if you agree to withdraw the funds in a series of "substantially equal payments" based on your life expectancy, as defined by the IRS' life expectancy tables. This arrangement is known as a substantially equal periodic payment. However, an SEPP comes with a couple of big caveats. Namely, you can't use an SEPP while you're still working for the employer that provides the 401(k), and you must continue those distributions for five years or until you turn 59-1/2, whichever comes last. So if you're a long way from retirement, you might end up draining your savings substantially.

3. How much can I contribute to my 401(k)?

For the 2017 tax year, the IRS' elective deferral limit for 401(k) accounts is $18,000, with an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution allowed for participants aged 50 or older. Keep in mind that this only refers to money you voluntarily choose to have withheld from your pay. It doesn't include employer matching contributions, required automatic contributions, or any other form of 401(k) contribution. Including contributions from allsources, the maximums are $54,000 for participants under 50 and $60,000 for participants over 50.

4. How much should I contribute?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this, but at a bare minimum, you should contribute enough to take full advantage of your employer's matching program. Contributing less than that is literally giving away free money.

You can use a method like this one to determine how much retirement savings you'll need, and this should be the determining factor. Most 401(k) plans have some sort of calculator that can tell you how much you're on pace to accumulate by retirement, based on historical investment returns. If your expected 401(k) value at retirement is less than it should be, then it may be a good idea to increase your contribution rate.

5. What does it mean to be "vested"?

Essentially, "vesting" means that you own the money in your 401(k). You are always 100% vested in your elective contributions to a 401(k) plan, but your ownership of your employer's contributions may be governed by certain vesting rules. For example, my wife's 401(k) fully vests after five years of employment. When she started her job, she was 0% vested in her employer's matching contributions, and she became vested in an additional 20% of her employer's contributions each subsequent year. Your plan may have a different vesting rule, so check with your benefits administrator.

6. Can I borrow from my 401(k)?

If your employer's plan allows it (87% of them do), you can borrow money from your 401(k) and pay yourself back, with interest. You can borrow up to half of your 401(k) balance or $50,000, whichever is less.

Borrowing money from a 401(k) is generally a bad idea. Your account's compound growth will be reduced while the money is in your hands, and there are hefty penalties if you fail to repay the loan on schedule. That said, there are some circumstances where it could make sense. The interest rates are usually much lower than the rates offered by credit cards or personal loans through a bank -- and after all, you're paying all that interest to yourself.

7. What are my options with an old employer's 401(k)?

When you leave employment, you have several options for your old 401(k) account. You can leave it where it is, as long as it has more than a certain minimum threshold ($5,000 is common). You can also roll it over into an IRA. Or, you may be able to roll it into your current employer's plan. Of course, you have the option of cashing it out, which is rarely a wise choice. You can read a thorough guide to these options and how to determine the best move for you here.

8. How should I invest my 401(k)?

This question is far too complicated to answer here, especially since there's no way for me to know your 401(k)'s specific investment choices, but that doesn't mean that you can't choose your own 401(k) investments correctly. You just need a primer on asset allocation -- that is, how much of your money should be in stocks, bonds, and cash. You should also brush up on the types of investments your plan offers, e.g., "small-cap" and "global stock" funds. Here's a quick but thorough guide to asset allocation that tells you what you need to know to make wise decisions with your 401(k).

9. Can I contribute to a 401(k) and an IRA?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can contribute to a 401(k) and an IRA simultaneously. However, your income will determine whether you can take a tax deduction for traditional IRA contributions or contribute directly to a Roth IRA at all. For example, if you're single and have a 401(k) at work, then you can only deduct all of your traditional IRA contributions if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $62,000 or less for 2017. Here's a guide to the income restrictions on both traditional and Roth IRAs for the 2016 and 2017 tax years.

10. Do I get a tax break for my 401(k) contributions?

Yes! 401(k) contributions are excluded from your federally taxable income. They do not reduce your income for Social Security or Medicare (payroll) taxes, but this is still a pretty good tax break. Furthermore, you don't need to itemize deductions to take advantage. When you get your W-2 for the year, your 401(k) contributions are automatically subtracted from the income you'll report to the IRS. I've referred to retirement saving as the smartest tax move you can make, and for good reason. Not only do you get some nice tax savings each year for contributing to your 401(k), but you'll help set yourself up for financial comfort years down the road.

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Am I Saving Enough For Retirement?


Have you ever wondered: “Am I really saving enough for retirement?”


Do you wonder how your retirement savings compare with others your age?


The average person in their twenties has around $16,000 in retirement savings.

The average person in their thirties has saved about $45,000.

Americans in their forties have median retirement savings of around $63,000.

Americans in their fifties have median retirement savings of about $117,000.

Americans in their sixties have median retirement savings of approximately $172,000.1


You may have saved much more – but have you really saved enough?


You may need to save more for retirement than you realize. It is very common for people to underestimate their retirement savings and retirement income needs. Whether you are 5 years or 35 years away from retiring, you need to be confident that you are doing the right things for financial future – saving enough, investing what you save in a way that is appropriate for you, and managing risks to your savings.  


Now is a great time to check and see if you are on track toward your retirement savings goal. Call me at 727-807-2343 or e-mail me at, so that we may quickly review how you are doing so far. If anything about your retirement saving or investing strategy needs adjusting, is it better to plan those adjustments now than to regret not making them later.

If Interest Rates Rise, What Happens to Bonds?



Investors in longer-term Treasuries could really be punished.


Provided by Retirement Advisory Consultants


Are bond investors facing the possibility of major losses? Recently, bond yields have climbed. From November 1-23, the 2-year Treasury yield went from 0.83% to 1.12%, while the yield on the 10-year note rose from 1.83% to 2.36%.


Quality bonds have a place in a portfolio, but many investors are moving their money elsewhere. They see a federal stimulus ahead in 2017, one that could potentially strengthen the economy and lead the Federal Reserve to gradually tighten interest rates. Assuming that happens and appetite for risk remains strong, what will happen to bonds and bond funds when rates begin to climb?


The impact of rising rates will vary. Bonds and bond funds are different animals; some might even call them different asset classes.


In a rising-interest-rate environment, bond fund investors commonly see principal values decline until rates level off or dip again. The more intermediate-term and long-term bonds a fund holds, the bigger the hit it may take. A diversified bond fund will reinvest interest payments into new bonds with higher coupons, however – meaning investors will see larger returns with time.


Long-term bonds tend to be hit harder by higher rates. They may lose market value, but eventually the higher rates will result in extra income for the patient investor.


How about short-term and intermediate-term bonds? Some analysts warn against purchasing short-duration Treasuries and municipal and corporate bonds, contending that these debt securities might be hurt the most should the pace of rate hikes quicken. Others disagree.


Higher rates have not always imperiled the bond market. Before December 2015 (when the Fed decided to raise rates again), the economy had seen six rising interest rate environments in 40 years. Those periods lasted from two to five years, with T-bill rates rising between 2.3-11.9%. In those six instances, the total annual return for the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (the S&P 500 of the bond market) ranged from 2.6-11.9%, with most of the total annual returns at between 4-6%. In short, no disaster for a bond investor.


Still, if the federal funds rate rises 3% over a period of a few years, a longer-term Treasury might lose as much as a third of its market value as a consequence – and if bulls happen to run on Wall Street with only brief retreats between now and 2025, how attractive will a short-term or intermediate-term Treasury be?


What if you want or need to stay in bonds? Some bond market analysts see merit in exploiting short-term bonds with laddered maturity dates. The trade-off: accepting lower interest rates in exchange for a potentially smaller drop in the market value of these securities if rates rise. If you are after higher rates of return from short-duration bonds, you may have to look to bonds that are investment-grade, but without AAA or AA ratings.


If interest rates begin heading north soon, exploiting short maturities could position you to get your principal back in the short term. That could give you cash, which you could reinvest as interest rates presumably go up further. If you primarily see pain ahead for bond owners, you could consider limiting yourself to small positions in government bonds, investment-grade corporate bonds, and bond funds with durations of 10 years or less.


Bonds still belong in the big picture. In a bull market, putting money into an investment returning 1.5% for 10 years may seem nonsensical. It may make more sense in light of the goal of portfolio diversification and the need for consistent returns.


If interest rates rise continually during the next few years, current owners of long-term bonds might find themselves losing out in terms of their portfolio’s potential. On the other hand, bonds have never lost half their value; stocks have.


This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Many of my clients have expressed concern about the recent rise in identity thefts. If you’re concerned, here are some steps you can take to help defend yourself.

Don’t trash it; shred it. Shred anything financial, aside from your tax records: credit card statements, bank statements, old checks, deposit slips—you name it. A cagy thief can borrow thousands of dollars or order checks in your name with such data.

If you don’t want to spend time shredding them yourself, you can pay to have it done – there are office supply stores that now offer the service. If you really must keep these periodic records, hide them in the most unvisited place possible.

Hide your Social Security card. The only time you need to show it to anyone is when you start a new job. Otherwise, there’s no need to carry it around.

Don’t buy things through obscure websites or payment services. If you’ve never heard of the company or the payment method used by the seller, don’t take the risk – or, at the very least, do some Googling to see if there have been any identity theft problems linked to the seller or the payment engine.

Learn to recognize a phishing attack. Phishing is when an identity thief sends you an email message that mimics a legitimate communication from a credit card firm, bank, or government agency. Skillful phishing scams a recipient into handing over account passwords and confidential personal or financial information. Phishing is also becoming increasingly common on smartphones, and on social media hubs.

How can you spot a phishing scam? First of all, credit card companies, banks, and government agencies will never ask you for your password or account info by email – so if you see this, it is a red flag. Phishing emails usually tell you your account is going to be closed, or they promise you a big gift. They try to lure you to an unsecured website. A truly secure site address always begins with https://, and your browser should show an icon of a closed lock in the upper left-hand corner.

Ask for an annual credit report from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. These are the three American credit reporting agencies. Get an annual report from each of them; you are legally entitled to download one free credit report per year from each bureau. This will tell you if someone else has opened an account in your name.

I hope this information is helpful to you. If I can be of assistance, please feel free to call me at (727)807-2343, or simply send an e-mail to


Yours truly,


Tina Fontaine

Retirement Advisory Consultants