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Archive for October, 2014

31 October
Comments Off on Vet Your Financial Advisor in 3 Easy Steps

Vet Your Financial Advisor in 3 Easy Steps

Financial
advice is a field unlike any other. The term, financial advisor, can have different meanings depending on who you ask.
There are also varying degrees of services afinancial advisor can offer. Before
choosing a financial advisor,
do some basic homework by following these easy steps:

1.Find out what your financial advisors qualifications are.There are
many different topics an advisor can choose to focus their business on. Some
individuals are specialized, such as a chartered retirement planning counselor, whereas other individuals have a more generic focus, such as a certified financial planner. The alphabet soup behind a person’s name is validation for
the effort and focus applied to one specific area. Investopedia offers an
understanding of each designation and the steps involved to receive them.

It is
important to realize there are many designations out there, and some of them dont require a lot of work to attain. For instance, an accredited asset management specialist may sound lofty, but in reality, it requires only 28 hours of
curriculum that can be learned through a self-study program.

Once the advisor
is ready to move forward, the advisor can complete an exam and use the designation
if he or she meets further requirements. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with
this designation, but if it were the only one my advisor holds, I would be
reluctant to follow advice he or she would offer on estate planning or another topic
outside of that designation’s curriculum.

Other
designations, such as CFP,are more demanding and require
greater effort to attain. Not only does the candidate have to have
prerequisites of three years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree before using
the designation, they also must pass a 170-question test administered
over two sessions, which each last three hours. The exam covers eight primary domains, ranging from investment management to estate planning. As of 2013, the overall pass rate was 63.3 percent, according to the CFP Board.

The lengthy prerequisites and number of topics the CFP exam covers give
assurance the person who holds the designation has done a significant
amount of work beforehand and is committed to their industry. They
are also better qualified to make recommendations for an overall financial plan. Different
designations can be used for advice on specific topics. As
a consumer, you should understand what qualifies the person advising you to give such
advice, and how much work it took to allow them the ability to do so.

2.Find out which securities licenses
your financial advisor holds.The
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is an independent regulatory body authorized by Congress to write and enforce rules applied to
securities firms and brokers. Any advisor licensed to deal securities or
financial advice is registered with this authority.

As a result, you have
access through its website to check which licenses your advisor holds. More
importantly, you can check the advisors background and see if there are any infractions
against him or her. This tool does not tell you all you need to know about an
advisor, but it can provide insight into an advisorsbusiness background before you choose to work with the individual.

3.Discuss how your financial advisor is paid. Is your advisor fee-based or
commission-based?The way someone is paid should not dictate the quality of
advice you receive. However, if you have a clear understanding of how
someone is paid, you have a better chance at understanding the persons motivations.
The biggest difference between fee-based compensation versus commission-based compensation is the advisor’s obligation toward his or her client.

Individuals
who are paid commissions must ensure any advice meets a
suitability obligation. This can be defined as making recommendations that are
consistent with the best interests of the customer. Instead of
having to place the advisors interests below that of the client, the
suitability standard only requires the advisor must reasonably believe any
recommendations made are suitable, in terms of the clients financial needs,
objectives and unique circumstances.

Fee-based advisors are bound to a
fiduciary standard that requires them to put their client’s interests above
their own. They must also act with a duty of loyalty and care, meaning the
advisor must always act in the best interest of his or her client. This fiduciary standard is a much higher responsibility than the suitability standard.
Offering this higher level of care can lead to better advice.

The world of retirement planning can
be complicated, yet rewarding. By following the three steps, you will have
a better understanding of who you are working with, and what you should expect
by engaging their services.

31 October
Comments Off on Danielson man arrested on motor vehicle break-in charges — again

Danielson man arrested on motor vehicle break-in charges — again

DANIELSON – A Danielson man charged several months ago with breaking into several motor vehicles was arrested again Friday on larceny charges, state police said.

State police at approximately 1 pm responded to Green Hollow Road in Killingly for a report of a suspicious man walking back-and-forth in front of a house. A witness said the man, later identified as Donald Lefevre, of 273 Main St., Apt. B, then retrieved a black bag from nearby woods before fleeing after being confronted, police said.

The recovered bag contained multiple items stolen from a motor vehicle parked at Squaw Rock Road residence, police said. Police said they investigated numerous complaints of motor vehicle burglaries between Thursday night and Friday morning on Squaw Rock Road.

Lefevre was charged with fourth-degree larceny and was due today in Danielson Superior Court. Lefevre was arrested three months ago in connection with a string of car break-ins in Brooklyn.

31 October
Comments Off on TxDOT Commissioner Says New Funding Could Change Reliance On Toll Roads

TxDOT Commissioner Says New Funding Could Change Reliance On Toll Roads

In addition to the many candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot, Texans are voting on a constitutional amendment known as Proposition 1. If it passes, a portion of oil and gas tax money flowing into the state’s rainy day savings account will be used for transportation.

Officials, however, warn that Proposition 1 will only provide part of the $5 billion needed each year just keep traffic gridlock from getting worse. KERA’s Shelley Kofler talked with Texas Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff of Arlington about other options, including toll roads.

31 October
Comments Off on Parsippany man charged with driving while intoxicated after Randolph motor …

Parsippany man charged with driving while intoxicated after Randolph motor …

Police said that as medical emergency personnel were attending to one of the drivers, they detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Philip A. Decaro, 43, of Parsippany who was arrested for alleged DWI. Decaro was also issued several motor vehicle violations, police said.

Sunday, Oct. 5

o Vineta K. Lujan, 55, of Randolph was stopped for a motor vehicle violation and was subsequently arrested on an outstanding warrant issued by the Jersey City Municipal Court, police said.

Lujan posted bail and was released.

o Officer Brian Gallina responded to Morris Turnpike for a report of a car burglary. The victim stated that money had been stolen from a wallet that was inside the vehicle.

Wednesday, Oct. 8

o Officer Robert Coyle responded to the parking lot of the Canfield Mews Apartment complex for a report of a shattered car window. After examining the car and surrounding area, Officer Coyle was unable to determine what caused the damage, police said.

Friday, Oct. 10

o Officer Michael Shoudy took a report of money being stolen from a purse. The victim stated she had left her purse unattended while at a “Job Fair” on Emery Ave. $42 and medication was stolen from the purse, police said.

o Police responded to a residence on Old Shunpike Road for a report of a house burglary.

The dead bolt and latch on the top of the front door had been damaged, police said.

The intruders had ransacked the master bedroom. The Morris County Sheriff’s Office arrived to process the scene.

o Police responded to a residence on Musiker Avenue for a reported burglary.

The homeowner came home and noticed their double front doors had been pushed in. The intruders had ransacked the master bedroom, police said.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office arrived to process the scene.

o Several residents reported receiving scam phone calls from a person named Steve Martin. Martin states he is from the IRS.

Residents are reminded to never give personal information over the phone.

31 October
Comments Off on Financial Center put in new light

Financial Center put in new light

Downtowns skyline is set to get some new southern lights.

The Canadian investment firm that recently bought the Financial Center is installing a lighting system that will more brightly illuminate the 25-story tower and even change colors with a tap of the new owners iPhone.

The Financial Center, 666 Walnut St., is one of three buildings that Lawmark Capital Inc. is renovating in downtown Des Moines. The firm, which entered the metro-area market in 2011, is also working on the Des Moines Partnership Building at 700 Locust St. and the former Keck City Center parking ramp at 500 Grand Ave.

Between the three buildings, the firm plans to invest about $16 million, said CEO Mark Buleziuk.

30 October
Comments Off on FBI demands new powers to hack into computers and carry out surveillance

FBI demands new powers to hack into computers and carry out surveillance

The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement in order to seize significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the US and around the world.

Civil liberties groups warn that the proposed rule change amounts to a power grab by the agency that would ride roughshod over strict limits to searches and seizures laid out under the fourth amendment of the US constitution, as well as violate first amendment privacy rights. They have protested that the FBI is seeking to transform its cyber capabilities with minimal public debate and with no congressional oversight.

The regulatory body to which the Department of Justice has applied to make the rule change, the advisory committee on criminal rules, will meet for the first time on November 5 to discuss the issue. The panel will be addressed by a slew of technology experts and privacy advocates concerned about the possible ramifications were the proposals allowed to go into effect next year.

“This is a giant step forward for the FBI’s operational capabilities, without any consideration of the policy implications. To be seeking these powers at a time of heightened international concern about US surveillance is an especially brazen and potentially dangerous move,” said Ahmed Ghappour, an expert in computer law at University of California, Hastings college of the law, who will be addressing next week’s hearing.

The proposed operating changes related to rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, the terms under which the FBI is allowed to conduct searches under court-approved warrants. Under existing wording, warrants have to be highly focused on specific locations where suspected criminal activity is occurring and approved by judges located in that same district.

But under the proposed amendment, a judge can issue a warrant that would allow the FBI to hack into any computer, no matter where it is located. The change is designed specifically to help federal investigators carry out surveillance on computers that have been “anonymized” – that is, their location has been hidden using tools such as Tor.

The amendment inserts a clause that would allow a judge to issue warrants to gain “remote access” to computers “located within or outside that district” (emphasis added) in cases in which the “district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means”. The expanded powers to stray across district boundaries would apply to any criminal investigation, not just to terrorist cases as at present.

Were the amendment to be granted by the regulatory committee, the FBI would have the green light to unleash its capabilities – known as “network investigative techniques” – on computers across America and beyond. The techniques involve clandestinely installing malicious software, or malware, onto a computer that in turn allows federal agents effectively to control the machine, downloading all its digital contents, switching its camera or microphone on or off, and even taking over other computers in its network.

“This is an extremely invasive technique,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union, who will also be addressing the hearing. “We are talking here about giving the FBI the green light to hack into any computer in the country or around the world.”

A glimpse into the kinds of operations that could multiply under the new powers was gained this week when Soghoian discovered from documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that in 2007 the FBI had faked an Associated Press story as a ruse to insert malware into the computer of a US-based bomb plot suspect. The revelation prompted angry responses from the AP and from the Seattle Times, whose name was also invoked in the documents, though the FBI said it had not in the end imitated the newspaper.

Civil liberties and privacy groups are particularly alarmed that the FBI is seeking such a huge step up in its capabilities through such an apparently backdoor route. Soghoian said of next week’s meeting: “This should not be the first public forum for discussion of an issue of this magnitude.”

Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford center for internet and society, said that “this is an investigative technique that we haven’t seen before and we haven’t thrashed out the implications. It absolutely should not be done through a rule change – it has to be fully debated publicly, and Congress must be involved.”

Ghappour has also highlighted the potential fall-out internationally were the amendment to be approved. Under current rules, there are no fourth amendment restrictions to US government surveillance activities in other countries as the US constitution only applies to domestic territory.

However, the US government does accept that it should only carry out clandestine searches abroad where the fourth amendment’s “basic requirement of reasonableness” applies. In a letter setting out its case for the rule 41 reform, the department of justice states that new warrants issued to authorise FBI hacking into computers whose location was unknown would “support the reasonableness of the search”.

Ghappour fears that such a statement amounts to “possibly the broadest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI’s inception”. He told the Guardian that “for the first time the courts will be asked to issue warrants allowing searches outside the country”.

He warned that the diplomatic consequences could be serious, with short-term FBI investigations undermining the long-term international relationship building of the US state department. “In the age of cyber attacks, this sort of thing can scale up pretty quickly.”

Another insight into the expansive thrust of US government thinking in terms of its cyber ambitions was gleaned recently in the prosecution of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of the billion-dollar drug site the Silk Road. Experts suspect that the FBI hacked into the Silk Road server, that was located in Reykjavik, Iceland, though the agency denies that.

In recent legal argument, US prosecutors claimed that even if they had hacked into the server without a warrant, it would have been justified as “a search of foreign property known to contain criminal evidence, for which a warrant was not necessary”.

30 October
Comments Off on Financial planning has gotten beyond a joke

Financial planning has gotten beyond a joke

When comedian Shaun Micallefs latest episode of Mad as Hell did a spoof on the scandal-ridden financial planning industry it was a signal that the shenanigans had well and truly entered in the public psyche.

It comes as the wind-back of financial planning reforms, the so-called Future of Financial Advice amendments are expected to be debated in the Senate this week.

And it also comes just as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission agreed on Monday to intervene in a court case relating to the collapsed Great Southern managed investment scheme. The regulators involvement based on public interest follows a request from a group of senators, including Bill Heffernan and Sam Dastyari, who last week said they had been inundated with complaints from investors worried about imminent foreclosures and who had lost a fortune when the scheme went belly up.

In other parts of the sector, thousands of Timbercorp victims are getting slapped with writs after the scheme collapsed leaving huge debts that the liquidator is calling in.

30 October
Comments Off on QUIZ: Do you know the answers that could cut your car insurance premium?

QUIZ: Do you know the answers that could cut your car insurance premium?

The trick to getting the cheapest car insurance

Getting the cheapest car insurance is, sadly, not as simple as just using a price comparison service. These websites – try Moneysupermarkets quote finder – provide an excellent starting point. But some major insurers only deal with customers direct so you will need to enter your details on their websites as well. These include Direct Line and Zurich.

Some insurers also offer special offers that are worth factoring in and are often not included on comparison websites. For instance, the Post Office will guarantee the over-50s that they will beat their renewal premium by £50 [click here].

All those taking car insurance with John Lewis before the end of October are entered into a draw to win a VW Golf Match, plus free insurance for a year. [find out more]

30 October
Comments Off on Don’t Bother Appealing a Financial Aid Award if…

Don’t Bother Appealing a Financial Aid Award if…

So what is it about these families that has me refusing to take their business and their money?

Its their unrealistic hopes. These families want a strategy. Theyve read that if you show a college a competing award, the college will match it. Or theyve heard that you can negotiate a better award by telling the college how much the student wants to attend the school.

If these are the only reasons they want more money, I tell them they can appeal themselves. These parents will probably be unsuccessful if the award they want a college to match is in a different category of selectivity. A highly competitive college that does not give merit awards will not match a school that has awarded a student an academic scholarship. That selective college will award only need-based aid, based on the familys income and assets; the other college uses merit awards to entice students to attend, regardless of their financial situation.

Financial-aid appeal letters are difficult for colleges to respond positively to, since a decision to change an award is limited by a colleges policies and requires consensus of the financial aid committee. There are no cut-and-dry rules of what will be accepted and what wont. The committee can use what they term professional judgment and override entries on financial aid forms.

30 October
Comments Off on Fee-Only Financial Advisers: What You Need To Know

Fee-Only Financial Advisers: What You Need To Know

The financial press has in large part touted the merits of working with a financial adviser who is compensated only by the fees he or she charges directly to clients and not via the sale of financial products.  To be clear on terms, an adviser who is compensated only by fees is fee-only.  These fees might be hourly, a flat retainer, or be based on a percentage of your investment assets.

Fee-based or fee and commission advisers generally are compensated via both fees for advice and commissions on the sale of financial products that may be used to implement their advice. Commissioned advisers are paid solely by the commissions earned from selling various financial and insurance products. (For more, see: Paying Your Investment Advisor: Fees vs. Commissions.)

Pros of Using a Fee-only Adviser

One of the major benefits of selecting a fee-only adviser is a freedom from the inherent conflict of interest that can arise when a significant portion of the adviser’s income comes from selling financial products.  The concern you should have as a potential client is whether or not the adviser is recommending a certain financial product because it enhances their bottom line and if the products recommended are truly in your best interest. Related to this, in some cases some registered reps and others who earn all or part of their compensation via commission may be required to favor products offered by their employer. These products may or may not be the best vehicles for your situation. (For more, see: Choosing an Advisor: Suitability or Fiduciary Standard.)

Another benefit of using a fee-only financial adviser is the opportunity for them to offer an objective second opinion of your situation. This is especially true if the adviser works with clients on an hourly, as-needed basis or perhaps will do a financial plan or financial review for a fixed project fee. Services here can range from addressing a specific financial question to a review of your investment portfolio to a full-blown financial plan. (For related reading, see: What you Need to Know about the Fiduciary Standard.)

Cons of Using a Fee-only Adviser

While I am admittedly biased towards fee-only financial advisers, I don’t really see any cons as such. However, a fee-only adviser is not the right solution for everyone and fee-only advisers are hardly perfect.  I do want to point out some of the things investors should be on the lookout for when hiring a fee-only adviser, or any financial adviser for that matter. (For more, see: Why the Best Financial Advisor Might Be You.)

No form of adviser compensation is totally conflict-free. If youre working with an adviser who is compensated via a percentage of the investment assets under management can you always be sure that their advice is not tilted towards keeping as much of your money under advisement as possible? For example, if you were to ask about withdrawing say $200,000 from your investment accounts to pay off your mortgage can you be sure the adviser’s advice against doing this wasn’t somehow motivated by the potential lost revenue? (For more, see: What You Get When You Pay for Investment Services.)