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Guide to Real Estate Banking & Finance A Blank Slate Media/ Litmor Publications Special Section May 18, 2018

38 REAL ESTATE, BANKING & FINANCE • Blank Slate Media Newspapers, Friday, May 18, 2018

New estate tax and capital gains taxes You may have heard that the current federal estate tax threshold is $11.18 million. What, if anything does this mean for the 99 percent of Americans who are below this level? Can we happily tune out of the estate planning discussion? Not if you engaged in any type of estate tax planning during the past 20 years. Here’s why: Most estate tax planning has historically focused on reducing the amount of assets includible in a decedent’s ‘gross taxable estate’. If, for example, we did estate tax planning in 2002, our goal was to reduce the gross taxable estate to $1.0 million. Anything above this would have been taxed at a rate of 40 percent upon death. Some people made a gift of the excess directly to children. Others (wisely) concerned about the children ’s possible liabilities such as divorce, gifted the excess assets to various types of estate tax trusts. These moves were correct at the time, but triggered a lurking capital gains tax problem for the gifted assets.

The reason for this is that a completed gift (whether to a trust or outright to a person) results in what’s called a ‘carryover’ basis. The original purchase price becomes the recipient’s â€œďŹ‚oorâ€? to measure future possible (capital) gain upon sale. Let’s say I bought stock for $20 and gifted it to my son during my life. If it is worth $50 upon my death, he will have to pay capital gains taxes on the $30 dierence when he sells. By contrast, if I keep the stock and Junior inherits it through my will, living trust, or beneďŹ ciary designation, he gets a so-called ‘step-up’ in cost basis to the fair market value ($50) as of my date of death. He would then pay no capital gains taxes upon sale of the asset. SpeciďŹ cally, the Internal Revenue Code (Sec. 1015) provides that assets includible in a decedent’s gross taxable estate go to the new owner with a date of death cost basis. To reduce capital gains taxes as much as possible, our goal was always to maximize what passed through the gross taxable estate

ANN-MARGARET CARROZZA without overshooting the mark. Remember that every dollar in excess of the applicable threshold incurred 40 percent estate taxes. We, therefore, opted to move these ‘excess’ assets, even though doing so triggered a (historically 15-18 percent) capital gains problem. Using numbers to illustrate, if my estate was $1,100,000 in the year 2000, I wanted my children to avoid having to pay 40 percent tax on the $100,000 estate taxable amount. I would have been correct



more favorable provisions. In addition to the tax savings motivation to amend old trusts, there are numerous other reasons to do so. We may wish to build in more comprehensive protections against long-term care expenses. Amending an existing trust will also enable us to better protect a beneďŹ ciary with problems such as mental illness, substance abuse, compulsive spending, developmental disabilities or other family dynamic challenges. The bottom line is that a fresh review of stale documents can yield tremendous beneďŹ ts. Ann Margaret Carrozza is a practicing elder law and trusts and estates attorney who also served as a state Assemblywoman for 14 years. She is a legal contributor to Dr Phil and other TV shows and is the author of Love & Money, Protecting Yourself from Angry Exes, Wacky Relatives, Con Artists and Inner Demons- available on Amazon. She can be reached at 718.224.4746

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to gift the excess $100,000 to an ‘estate tax’ type trust even though doing this saddled them with built-in (15-18 percent) capital gains tax consequences. Fast forward to the present: The current estate tax threshold of ($11.18 million) means that we can unwind some of the old planning to allow more assets to pass through one’s gross taxable estate, thereby deriving the capital gains beneďŹ ts otherwise lost if we leave the documents as is. This is especially important now that the Capital Gains Tax rate has crept up in recent years. The impediment to revisiting this planning is the widespread but mistaken notion that irrevocable trusts can’t be changed. This is not true. Statutory reformation allows irrevocable trusts to be revoked or modiďŹ ed with the written consent of the grantors and beneďŹ ciaries. When the consent of a key player isn’t possible, such as a Credit Shelter Trust of a nowdeceased settlor, or a beneďŹ ciary that we may now seek to exclude, we can look to “Decantâ€? trust assets into a new trust with




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Blank Slate Media Newspapers, Friday, May 18, 2018 • REAL ESTATE, BANKING & PERSONAL FINANCE

Potential long-term expenses to account for in retirement


etirement planning involves more than just investing in a 401(k) and/or IRA. Individuals who hope to live comfortably in retirement must account for various expenses, including those associated with their health. A 2013 report from the U.S. Senate’s Commission on Long-Term Care found that each year an estimated 12 million adults in the United States require some type of long-term care. Planning for the following potential expenses can help men and women ensure they will have enough money to live well in retirement. Housing: Many individuals would prefer to spend their golden years living in their own homes. However, adults who can no longer take care of themselves and/or their homes may need to move. Homeowners who simply want to downsize may be able to finance their transitions to retirement communities by selling their existing homes. But those who need to move into assisted living facilities may find that even selling their homes might not provide enough capital to pay for such residences. According Genworth’s 2016 Cost of Care Survey, the annual cost of assisted living facilities greatly varies by state, with costs as high as $65,550 in Massachusetts and as low as $30,438 in Missouri. Whether they invest in long-term care insurance or develop another plan with their financial advisors, men and women must consider ways to finance potential housing costs in retirement. Renovations: Home renovations are another potential cost in retirement. Aging men and women who can no longer comfortably navigate staircases but are otherwise healthy may need to renovate their homes to account for their limited mobility. Such renovations might include the installation of a staircase chair lift and/or a ramp connected to the entryway of a home. Some may even need to convert a first-floor den or living area into a bedroom, which may also require adding a full bathroom. Maintenance: Homeowners who want to stay in their homes in

retirement must also factor potential maintenance costs into their retirement plans. Aging men and women may no longer be capable of maintaining their properties in retirement. Consider the potential costs of landscaping, home maintenance and maid services when making a retirement plan. Transportation: Diminishing vision and slower reaction times compel many retirees to give up driving. But retirees who still enjoy getting out and about will still need a way to get around. Moving to a retirement community with daily shuttle service to and from town centers is one way for seniors who no longer drive to get around. But men and women who do not want to move to such communities will need to find alternative means of transportation, the costs of which can add up quickly. Financial freedom in retirement is a goal for many working professionals. Attaining such freedom involves planning and saving for all potential expenses in retirement.



Progressive Credit Union recently has celebrated our 100th birthday – and looking ahead, the future is bright! In the early days, we got our start by working with immigrants in New York’s blossoming garment districts. Of these peer financial institutions that were founded alongside PCU, Progressive is the only financial institution that was able to weather the fiscal ups and downs of the 20th century. In the 21st, we’re continuing to evolve – all in the name of providing the best credit union membership experience around. Today, we are honoring our historic roots by serving a variety of financial needs, including deposit and savings products, commercial loans, and more.

Our member-owned financial institution continues to offer some of the best rates around, all while delivering some of the best personalized member service in the region. As an institution, we’ve always embodied the credit union philosophy of “people helping people,” and will continue to maximize the value of PCU membership. The best part is that thanks to our national charter, you can find PCU members across the country. If you’re interested in joining, be sure to check out www., or give us a call at 212-695-8900!

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40 REAL ESTATE, BANKING & FINANCE • Blank Slate Media Newspapers, Friday, May 18, 2018



good credit score can go a long way toward helping men and women secure their financial futures. When armed with a good credit score, men and women can secure lower interest rates on mortgages and auto loans, saving them thousands upon thousands of dollars over their lifetimes. Some people deftly use credit to their advantage their whole lives by never missing a payment or never digging themselves into deep holes with regard to consumer debt. Others fight an uphill battle, earning a great credit score after digging themselves out of debt accumulated in early adulthood. Regardless of how men and women made it to the top of the credit score mountain, once they’re there the work has only just begun. Credit scores are fluid, so high scores must be maintained in order for lenders to continue to view prospective borrowers as worthy investments. The following are a handful of ways consumers can maintain their high credit scores so they can continue to benefit from their well-earned financial reputations. 1. Routinely monitor your score. Credit scores change constantly, so it’s important that you continue to monitor your score to make sure there are no inaccuracies that can affect your standing. While each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) must supply one free copy of your credit report every 12 months upon your request, some credit card companies now offer free monthly credit report updates. Cardholders can take advantage of such offerings to monitor their scores. Report any discrepancies to the appropriate rating agency immediately. 2. Sign up for automatic bill pay. Credit scores can plunge quickly when

consumers miss payments. No one is perfect, so it’s not out of the question that you might miss a payment one time. Numerous factors contribute to your credit score, but payment history is perhaps the most influential variable when determining the final score, so a single missed payment can do significant harm. One way to avoid that and protect your credit score at the same time is to sign up for automatic bill pay. When signing up, use a bank account that always has a relatively high balance so you don’t run the risk of having insubstantial funds when the money is automatically deducted from your account. 3. Don’t use too much of your credit. One of the benefits of having a great credit score is your available credit is likely to go up. That’s because lenders see consumers with high credit scores as good investments worthy of higher lines of credit. But using too much credit, even when you have a high score, can be detrimental to that score. Credit utilization is another factor used to determine your credit score. Your credit utilization rate is the sum of all your balances divided by your total available credit. A study from found a strong correlation between credit utilization rates and credit scores, as consumers who had lower utilization rates generally had higher scores. While it’s important to use credit (the study also found those with a zero percent utilization rate had lower credit scores than consumers with rates between 1 and 20 percent), avoid using too much of your available credit. Even if you pay your balances in full and on time each month, a high utilization rate may hurt your score. Achieving a good credit score is only half the battle for consumers. Once that credit score is high, consumers must take steps to maintain it so they can continue to benefit for years to come.



urchasing a house or property is about more than setting up a home. Although quite a number of people buy real estate to establish their future, long-term abodes, many others recognize the potentially lucrative investment that lies within a real estate purchase. Despite the ups and downs of the economy, real estate has become a common investment vehicle — one that has plenty of potential for making big gains for those who are willing to put in the effort. According to the experts at Entrepreneur, even in a bad economy, real estate investments will usually fare better than stocks. Real estate also continues to appreciate despite the occasional economical slow-down. Like any other endeavor, there is a right and a wrong way to go about investing in real estate. Novices may not know where to begin their first forays into the real estate market as investors, even if they already own their own homes. Buying a property as an investment is an entirely different animal than buying a home to establish a residence. However, with the right guidance, anyone can dabble in real estate. Establish financial goals. Before you even begin looking at properties or put forth the effort of meeting with an agent, you must determine what you expect from the investment. The days of buying real estate and flipping it for a fast profit may no longer be here. However, real estate can provide a steady stream of long-term income. Understand what you hope to achieve by investing. If it’s to become an overnight millionaire, you may be looking at the wrong investment vehicle in real estate. Establish a plan. New investors who do not have a plan in place will likely

spend too much or have more setbacks than others who have planned accordingly. When investing in real estate, it’s more about the bottom line than the property itself. According to Springboard Academy, a real estate academy for investors, look for motivated sellers and stick to a set purchase price. Try to make offers on a variety of properties that work in your financial favor. And know what you want to do with the property (i.e., renovate and sell, remove and rebuild, or rehab and rent) before you buy. Fit the house to the plan, and not vice-versa. Start small. If this is your first time out there, stick with properties that will turn over quickly. Research areas in and around urban centers or close to transportation and shopping. A good starter property is a small house or a condominium that can be refurbished and then rented. Rental properties offer steady sources of income when renters are properly vetted, offers Investopedia, an investment resource. Look at many different properties. Become an expert by learning as much as you can about what is out there. Attend open houses; look for vacant/unattractive properties; scour the classifieds in your local paper; or put the word out there that you’re interested in buying a property. Only look at properties that have motivated sellers, because then you’ll get closest to the price you want to pay. And don’t forget to research the area and the home turnover rate for the specific area where you are looking. Don’t make assumptions that a property will appreciate without doing your homework. Real estate can be a worthy investment opportunity. With research, a plan and the right price, just about anyone can be a real estate investor.

Blank Slate Media Newspapers, Friday, May 18, 2018 • REAL ESTATE, BANKING & PERSONAL FINANCE





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42 REAL ESTATE, BANKING & FINANCE • Blank Slate Media Newspapers, Friday, May 18, 2018



he cost of college tuition is a concern for many college-bound students and their families. The cost of a college education continues to rise, but it’s not just tuition and room and board that students and their families must account for. College students may underestimate cost-of-living expenses when planning their school-year budgets. But such expenses can be substantial, catching even the most well-prepared students off guard. Fortunately, there are several ways for college students to save money on living expenses and still make the most of their time on campus. Venture off campus. Towns that rely heavily on colleges or universities

to support their economies typically offer great deals to students willing to venture off campus. Local businesses, including bars, restaurants and entertainment venues like mini golf facilities or bowling alleys, may offer student discounts to entice kids to leave campus. Students can take advantage of these offerings to save on food and entertainment, which tend to be among the more pricey costof-living expenses college students contend with. Buy secondhand furnishings. College students living in their own apartments or dorm rooms may not have the financial resources to purchase new furniture. Rather than purchasing brand new items they are likely to discard after moving out or graduating, college students can purchase secondhand items from local thrift stores or used furniture retailers that offer sturdy furnishings at low prices. Become a resident advisor. Resident advisors, often referred to as “R.A.’s,” typically receive free or reduced room and board in exchange for living in the dorms and monitoring the floors they live on. Competition to be an R.A. can be competitive, but students who

become R.A.’s can save thousands of dollars on room and board costs over the course of their time at school. Make your own meals. Meal plans may be ideal for college students during their freshmen years, when students may still be adjusting to campus life. But older college students can skip the meal plan in favor of preparing their own meals. Doing so can save students substantial amounts of money, and some students may even prefer the variety available at the local grocery store over the more limited offerings available at dining halls or other campus eateries. Move off campus. Some schools do not permit freshmen and sophomores to live off-campus, but older students may find that private housing is more affordable than on-campus apartments or dormitories. Students eligible to live in off-campus housing can contact local real estate agents to get a feel for the off-campus housing market before making a final decision. Cost-of-living expenses at colleges and universities can be considerable, but savvy students can find various ways to save money.



illions of people fund their college educations with student loans. Such loans can make it possible for students to attend the very best universities in the world, but they also can be burdensome when students graduate and face the unenviable task of repayment.

Student loan debt figures are staggering. According to Debt. org, student loan debt in the United States is roughly $1.2 trillion, while the Canadian Federation of Students reports that education-related debt in Canada is more than $19 billion, a figure that reflects the cost of college tuition rising more than 137 percent in the last quarter century. The college resource website estimates that the average student debt for members of the class of 2016 is $37,173, a jaw dropping 6 percent increase from the average debt held by members of the class of 2015 upon graduation. Paying down that debt can seem like a daunting task, but recent grads need not fret that they will still be paying off student loans when their own children are ready to enroll in college or university. The following are a few

homeowners can work to achieve that goal before age 30. Once that goal has been set, grads can research average home costs in their desired areas. Such information can motivate grads to pay off their student loans as quickly as possible so they can be on track to achieve their larger goal of buying a home in accordance to their preestablished goal.

strategies college grads may want to consider as they look for ways to pay off their student loans as quickly as possible. Create a monthly budget before the repayment period begins. Monthly budgets are an essential element of sound financial planning, but grads should not wait until their repayment period begins to develop their budgets. Even if the repayment grace period has just begun, grads should build at least the minimum required payment into their monthly budgets. Simply put the money into a savings account until the repayment period begins. Adjusting to repaying loans as early as possible can soften the blow once the repayment period actually begins. Pay more than the minimum. Grads will have a relatively brief grace period to start repaying their loans after graduating. For those who are not going on to graduate or professional school, that grace period may be six months. As the due date for that first payment draws near, grads will receive a letter from their lenders indicating their overall debt and their minimum monthly payment. Paying more than that minimum monthly

payment can help borrowers pay off their student loans far faster than simply paying the minimum each month. Many homeowners employ this strategy with their mortgages, and grads can do the same when repaying their student loans. Establish short-term financial goals. Short-term financial goals can motivate borrowers to maintain their financial discipline, especially in those initial years after college when many new graduates struggle with money management. Be specific about goals, making sure to pick a target date to repay student loans in full. Grads who want to become

Live with a roommate or roommates. Recent graduates who landed their first professional job may feel living alone is the ultimate illustration of their financial independence. But living with a roommate or roommates can free up more money for borrowers to put toward repaying their student loans. Roommates share utility and cable/internet bills, and room shares are often much less expensive than studio or one-bedroom apartments. Many young professionals, especially those moving to a new city for their first job, find living with roommates after college is also a great way to develop or expand a social network. Repaying student loans takes discipline, but that discipline is rewarded when loans are repaid long before reaching their maturity date.

Blank Slate Media Newspapers, Friday, May 18, 2018 • REAL ESTATE, BANKING & PERSONAL FINANCE




ood is a necessity and an expense that simply cannot be avoided. A 2012 Gallup poll found that Americans reported spending $151 on food per week. Around one in 10 said they spent $300 or more per week, and those with higher incomes tend to spend more on weekly food bills than people who earn less.


n the digital era, many errands that once required leaving the house can be conducted from the comforts of home. Groceries can be ordered online and delivered to consumers’ doorsteps, while bills can be paid online, saving men and women from having to drive to their nearby post office. Online banking has revolutionized the way people manage their money. Investors can buy or sell stocks with the click of a mouse, and money can be moved across accounts just as easily and instantly. Many consumers now even do their banking on their mobile phones. In fact, a 2016 study from the Federal Reserve found that 67 percent of millennials use mobile banking, suggesting that mobile banking is the wave of the future. While online or mobile banking makes it easy for consumers to manage their money, it’s also potentially much riskier than in-person banking at the bank. Unseen hackers and thieves are lurking online and in places where Wi-Fi is open and free, so online and mobile banking enthusiasts must exercise caution when accessing their accounts. Sign up for two-factor authentication. Some banks and credit card companies now provide two-factor authentication, and some may even insist their customers use it. Two-factor authentication requires two forms of verification before users can log into their accounts. The first might be the traditional username and password, while the second might be a temporary code texted or emailed to users after they log into their accounts. Some consumers may feel two-factor authentication is tedious and slow, but it’s an effective safety measure that should only delay online or mobile banking by a few seconds.

Use only secure network connections. Public Wi-Fi can be convenient, but consumers should never use such connections to do their online or mobile banking. The American Bankers Association suggests consumers always do their online banking via their own private home networks. Consumers who routinely use public Wi-Fi, even if it’s just for basic internet surfing, should log out of mobile banking apps or websites before logging on to public networks. Change passwords frequently and avoid using the same password for more than one account. Many banking websites advise customers if their passwords are weak or strong when customers first set up their accounts. Even if customers’ passwords are deemed strong, it’s best to change them periodically so hackers or criminals cannot guess them. And consumers should never use the same password for more than one account, as that can make it much easier for criminals to steal consumers’ identities. Monitor credit scores. Consumers have the right to one free credit report each year, but many credit card companies now update customers regarding their credit scores once per month. Consumers many need to sign up to take advantage of this service, but doing so is typically free. If credit scores suddenly dip unexpectedly and without reason, consumers may have been victimized by identity theft and can then take the necessary course of action to address the issue. Online and mobile banking is convenient, but consumers must tread carefully when accessing sensitive financial information online.

Compounding high food bills is the fact that people tend to waste food. According to the American Chemistry Council, roughly 80 billion pounds of food are thrown out every year in the United States. Britons throw away around seven million tons of food and drink per year, says BBC Good Food. Saving money on food may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. With some smart strategies, individuals can reduce their food budgets and still have enough to eat. 1. Store food properly. Pay attention to the correct ways to store food, including promptly refrigerating or freezing items to prevent spoiling. 2. Do your own work. Prepackaged, presliced, or preportioned foods take longer for manufacturers to prepare, and those costs are passed on to consumers. Separating foods oneself and putting them into manageable portions may take a little time, but the savings for consumers could be considerable. 3. Buy in bulk when it makes sense. Bulk warehouse stores can make it easier to stock up on essen-

tials. But they also can entice people to buy items they really do not need. Consumers should only purchase items that make fiscal sense or ones that cannot be purchased elsewhere for less. Always compare the price per weight or per unit when shopping. 4. Stock up on staples. Be on the lookout for sales on items used frequently, particularly staples that can be stored away. Watch for low prices on coffee, oils and canned goods, stocking up when such items go on sale. 5. Embrace dried and canned beans. Beans offer filling fiber and protein for relatively little cost. They also can be added to meat or vegetable recipes to bulk up dishes. 6. Plan ahead. Planning ahead can save big bucks. Peruse sales before leaving the house and spend time visiting a few different stores to save more money. Make use of store coupon apps to preload savings that can be used at checkout. 7. Explore frugal recipes. Skipping meat or other expensive items once in awhile can help reduce food bills. Save expensive items for treats, which can make you appreciate them that much more. The same concept can be used for dining out. It is relatively easy to save money on the cost of food when consumers make a commitment to being more frugal.

44 REAL ESTATE, BANKING & FINANCE • Blank Slate Media Newspapers, Friday, May 18, 2018



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Guide to real estate, banking & finance 2018 05 18  
Guide to real estate, banking & finance 2018 05 18