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6/26/18: 10 Ways to Save Money Eating Out

After a full day of work, the thought of cooking dinner tonight was just a bit too much to contemplate. The allure of a nice dinner, eaten on a lovely patio on a beautiful night was irresistible. So, my husband and I went out to eat at a local restaurant. Italian inspired, locally sourced food, small plates for sharing – it was yummy. It was also expensive for a quick dinner on a Tuesday night. Budget? What budget? I suspect we are more typical than not for your average working couple.

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6/26/18: Fun Activities to Teach Your Kids About Money

With summer vacation quickly approaching, kids are anticipating being outside, playing with friends, trips to the beach, going to the farmer’s market, even just getting an ice cream with the family. Everyone looks forward to more relaxed time together whether at home or on vacation. As parents, aunts, uncles and babysitters, we want our children to enjoy themselves but we also want them to retain what they have learned during the school year.

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4/26/18: New Medicare Cards/ New Medicare Card Scams

Beginning this month, Medicare will begin sending out new Medicare cards to the 44 million Americans who are currently enrolled in the program. The change is an effort by the government to protect seniors and other users from identity theft. Previously, Medicare used Social Security numbers as its’ medical identity number and required recipients to carry the cards with them to assure access to their health care benefits, therefore putting people at risk of having their social security numbers stolen.

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4/26/18: Financial Planning Tips for Newlywed and Almost Wed Couples

It’s wedding season. Or moving in together season. It’s exciting and scary and hopefully will be one of the best things that will happen in your life.

You have spent hours talking about your childhoods, your jobs, your dreams for the future, your wedding and decorating plans. But have you spent time talking about your finances? Your attitudes toward money may decide whether your marriage or relationship will last.

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3/1/18: A St. Bernard Reads Across America

The National Education Association's Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. They provide materials, resources and activities to keep children excited about reading throughout the entire year.

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3/1/18: IRS Issues Alert About a Refund Tax Scam

IRS Tax Tip 2018-32, March 1, 2018

The IRS is warning taxpayers of a new twist on an old scam. In this one, cyber-criminals are depositing fraudulent tax refunds into individuals’ actual bank accounts, then attempting to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers.

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3/1/18: 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Information for Individuals - Part 2

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018 is the most extensive tax change legislation to be passed in the past 30 years. It effectively cuts individual, corporate and estate tax rates with the intention of fostering economic growth. With the title of “An Act to Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018”, it is not surprising that our tax professionals have been consuming many cups of coffee as they work to understand and apply the changes made in the legislation to 2017 taxes and for tax planning for upcoming seasons..

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2/1/18: Financial Resolutions for the New Year

With the advent of a new year, many of us commit ourselves to making some improvements in our lives. Many make financial resolutions but quickly become overwhelmed with the abundance of options available. Just typing in ‘saving plans’ to Google elicits 9,160,000 results! How does one begin to determine which goals are realistic and meaningful?

Before setting specific resolutions, do some background work to assess what can realistically be accomplished. 

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2/1/18: 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Information for Homeowners

On December 22, 2017, the US Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which effectively cut individual, corporate and estate tax rates. It is the most sweeping overhaul of tax laws in 30 years.  The primary focus of the law was to lower domestic corporate tax rates with the intent that tax savings would stimulate the economy and be a precursor to increased new job creation.

The bill is over 500 pages in length and will have extensive impacts on taxpayers over, at least, the next 10 years.  Some of the new provisions are permanent in nature, while other ones “sunset” after 12/31/25 and revert back to what the law was in 2017.  The bill was passed by Congress within a very narrow period of time, with parts of the bill not fully detailing how the new law will or should be interpreted for the varying fact patterns of the country’s diverse set of taxpayers.

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2/1/18: Herb Geiss, CFP® has Retired

It is with sincere appreciation, along with some sadness, that we announce that Herb Geiss, CFP® has retired from his position as Tax Manager/ Tax Preparer with Shapiro Financial Security Group effective as of January 1, 2018.

We have had the pleasure of having Herb as our co-worker, colleague and friend for the past 13 years. Herb invariably began his day with a huge smile and a hearty greeting to all. We have enjoyed many conversations on very diverse topics throughout the years and his presence will be sorely missed. We will also miss the delicious cookies and cakes that his wife, Pat, would bake and which he would bring in to the office.

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12/18/17: Lou Ottati, CFP® Receives Volunteer of the Year Award

Lou Ottati, CFP® is the proud recipient of the Financial Planners Association of NJ's Volunteer of the Year Award.

Lou was recognized at the FPANJ’s Fall Conference held at William Paterson University on November 9, 2017.

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10/31/17: SFSG Mourns One of Our Own

He may have served you a cup of coffee or a glass of water when you arrived for a meeting, you may have spoken with him to confirm an appointment, or you may have received one of the many tax return packages that he assembled each tax season.  Although he liked keeping a low profile, each of you probably had some form of contact with him over the years.

Unfortunately, it is with extreme sadness that we announce that Mark Schneer passed away on Thursday, October 26, 2017 after a short period of hospitalization.

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10/23/17: Reba Shapiro Receives Volunteer of the Year Award from Biddeford, ME Mayor in Appreciation of her Service to the Community.

Many of our long term clients may remember Ken and Sandi's daughter Reba as an adorable little girl who often visited the office. Well, she has grown into a beautiful and smart young lady who graduated with honors from the University of New England in Biddeford, ME this past May.

Reba earned her Bachelor of Science in Health, Wellness, and Occupational Studies with minors in Psychology and Medical Biology. While studying, she made time for extensive volunteering for which she received the Biddeford Volunteer of the Year award

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10/23/17: Ken Shapiro Receives 2 Accolades from NJCPA

On June 21, 2017, Ken was presented with a plaque commemorating his tenure and service as President of the Monmouth-Ocean Chapter of the New Jersey CPA Society for the 2016-2017 season.

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10/08/17: New Jersey Unclaimed Property Holder Reporting Reminder 2017

Special notification relating to State of NJ Unclaimed Property “Negative Reporting” Reporting Obligations

Alert from the NJ Unclaimed Property Administration To All Business Owners in New Jersey - October 31, 2017 Deadline

Background Commentary

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have varying rules for reporting abandoned or unclaimed property.  Abandoned or unclaimed property consists of many types of intangible and tangible properties that have remained unclaimed by its rightful owner for a specific period of time.

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9/14/17: The Equifax Breach and How to Protect Yourself

The massive breach at Equifax, one of the three main credit reporting bureaus, may have exposed the personal information of 143 million consumers. This represents almost one half of the U.S. population.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports:

“Here are the facts according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.”                              

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5/15/17: Adventures in Debit Card Fraud

This past Monday, I sat down to pay our bills. As usual, I pulled up our bank account information online to see what our balance was and which purchases or checks had cleared. As I reviewed the account, I noticed 3 unusual debits that had been made on my husband’s ATM card the previous day. They were each for a substantial amount of money totaling almost $2200! The withdrawals had all been made in places to which we had not been. Knowing that we always talk to each other before making a purchase or withdrawal over $200, I gave Tom a call at the office to alert him to the activity on our account. He called the bank, they cancelled his debit card and told him that he had to report the theft of funds to our local police precinct in Brooklyn, NY. I went along with him to the precinct as I had been the one to note the charges (and to offer moral support).                                

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WASHINGTON, March 27, 2017 - The Federal Communications Commission is alerting consumers to be on the lookout for scam callers seeking to get victims to say the word "yes" during a call and later use a recording of the response to authorize unwanted charges on the victim's utility or credit card account. According to complaints the FCC has received and public news reports, the fraudulent callers impersonate representatives from organizations that provide a service and may be familiar to the person receiving the call, such as a mortgage lender or utility, to establish a legitimate reason for trying to reach the consumer.                                

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4/14/17: Warning for our Fidelity Customers

To our Investment Management Clients:

We are notifying you of an alert we have received from Fidelity Investments concerning a scam that is affecting Fidelity customers.

Beginning on April 6, Fidelity customers have been targeted by an email 'phishing' campaign that seeks to fool the victim into providing their personal Fidelity PINs. Customers are enticed to click on links within the email and then find that their PINs have been blocked.

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3/17/17: New Medicare Cards are in Process

You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!  -Rod Serling                                

In 2015, the U.S. Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The act requires that all Social Security Numbers (SSN) be removed from all Medicare cards by April of 2019.

A Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim number (HICN) that is being used on the current Medicare cards. This MBI will be on all of the new cards and will be used for all Medicare transactions such as billing, eligibility status and claims…

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3/17/17: What do Waiting Tables and Financial Planning have in Common?

Do you ever have a song that just sticks in your mind after hearing a small portion of it?  Or watched a television program that leaves you hanging as to how the plot will resolve? Does your mind keep going over your ‘to do’ list as you are trying to fall asleep?

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12/22/16: Update: Governor Christie Reverses Decision/ Will Keep NJ-PA Tax Reciprocity Agreement

On November 22, 2016, Governor Chris Christie announced that he will keep in place a decades-old agreement that allows New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents who work across state lines to pay income taxes where they live rather than where they work.

According to, the governor credited finding $200 million in savings in a public worker union-backed health care bill that Christie signed into law on Monday. The legislation adjusts the process in which public workers receive their prescriptions by modifying the state's pharmacy benefits system.

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12/22/16: 2016 Post-Election Tax Update

Any change in Presidential Administration brings the possibility, indeed the likelihood, of tax law changes and the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States is no exception. During the campaign, President-elect Trump outlined a number of tax proposals for individuals and businesses. This letter highlights some of the President-elect’s tax proposals. Keep in mind that a candidate’s proposals can, and often do, change over the course of a campaign, during the transition phase and after taking office…

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11/10/16: Commentary on the 2016 Presidential Election

You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!  -Rod Serling                   

Wondrous?  Only time will tell.  Half our nation may have already allowed their imaginations to roam in this direction when they woke up the morning after Election Night 2016, while the other half of the voting public may have struggled to steady itself from the nightmare they experienced that disrupted their intended peaceful night’s rest. 

What is reality is that Tuesday night’s unexpected outcome has given the Republican Party control over both the White House and Congress, for at least the next two years.   The Clinton-Bush-Obama era is now officially over, and change is…

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9/26/16: Alert: Fake Tax Bill Emails Being Sent

Cybercrime continues to be on the rise and, despite all efforts by corporate and governmental agencies to improve security, there is increasing sophistication in the methods used to deceive taxpayers. That being said, the phishing email is still the most effective way in which scammers entrap victims.

The IRS has recently reissued warnings of a phishing scam that is aimed at taxpayers. These emails purport to be sent from the IRS and contain a fraudulent IRS tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act.

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8/24/16: Ken Shapiro elected President of the New Jersey CPA Society's Monmouth Ocean Chapter

Congratulations to SFSG's President, Ken Shapiro. He was elected President of the New Jersey CPA Society's Monmouth Ocean Chapter for the 2016-2017 year. Ken has long been active with NJCPA on both the state and local levels.

He serves on the NJCPA’s Investment Committee overseeing the financial investments for the Society. He is a past chairperson of both the NJCPA’s state and local chapter level Personal Financial Planning Committee & Financial Literacy Committees, and member of the local chapter’s Eldercare Committee.

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8/24/16: Taking a Vacation: Planning, Saving and Paying for Time Away

Congratulations on a really good decision. As explored in our article, “Should I Take a Vacation?”, time away from work and everyday life is necessary for good health, improved family bonding, and better performance at work. Vacations are good for your employers’ bottom line as well as the economy over all.[i]  Some suggestions for making it happen.

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6/27/16: The British Exit Vote (Brexit) - What will this vote mean for your investment portfolio?

Over the years, various events have become etched into everyone’s memory that appeared to be highly newsworthy at the time they happened, only to grow in diverse ways as to their ultimate historic significance.  Some of these events became famous for their global economic & political impact (the collapse of the Berlin Wall), while others became known for what did not happen (the Y2K computer clock conversion).

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6/1/16: Shauntel Lancaster Receives FPANJ Scholarship

Congratulations to Shauntel, our Investment Advisory Assistant!

Shauntel is currently enrolled in the CFP Certificate program at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She received the scholarship award at Financial Planning Association of NJ's Spring Conference held on May 4th in recognition of her hard work and dedication to the CFP(R) program and to her future profession.

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6/1/16: We are proud to announce that we have been included in Financial Advisor’s 2016 RIA Survey and Rankings.

Financial Advisor Magazine is a prominent financial services industry publication. For the past 11 years, the list has recognized and ranked the top RIA (Registered Independent Advisors) firms in the United States.

To be eligible, firms must be independent RIA’s, provide financial planning and other related service to individual clients, be SEC or State registered, and have at least $50 million in Assets Under Management (AUM) as of December 31, 2015. In addition to a firm’s AUM, the list weighs factors such as year-end assets, percentage of growth within the past year and the percentage of change in clients.

SFSG currently manages over $91 million in assets and is ranked #554 out of the 610 firms listed. In the past years, we have seen steady growth despite difficult market conditions and, with new technologies that we are implementing, we expect to see both a continuation of growth and services over the next year.

We would like to thank our clients for their continued trust and support that has enabled us to reach this level of recognition.

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6/1/16: Should I Take a Vacation?

The weather is getting nicer. The days are longer and our thoughts begin to turn towards summer and, maybe, taking some vacation time. Or maybe not.  Questions run through our minds: Can I take time off from my job or will the work pile up too much? Will it make my job less secure? Can I afford it?

If you lived in Great Britain, France, Australia or any of the 20 or more countries that guarantee vacations to their workers, taking time off would not be a question. It would be your right. In other countries, vacations are seen as ‘standard practice for maintaining health, family life and productivity”.[i]  In contrast, here in the United States, they are sources of anxiety. We worry that we will be considered disloyal, that we will lose that promotion to someone who didn’t take the time, or, because we don’t have guaranteed paid days to use, we cannot afford the time.

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3/17/16: Proxy Voting: Why am I getting these calls?

Recently our office has received a number of inquiries regarding phone calls that have been received requesting that the person cast their proxy vote as a shareholder in various investment companies. It seems that these calls have increased recently and there has been both annoyance and concern.

As most know, shareholders in a company have the right to vote on certain corporate matters such as mergers or election of directors. Most shareholders cannot or do not want to attend the annual and special meetings at which the voting occurs. Companies therefore provide shareholders with the option to cast a proxy vote – a vote in which one person gives another person or entity permission to cast a vote for them.

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1/26/16: 2015 Tax Year in Review

A large number of tax law changes have taken place in recent years. There are new, expired or extended tax laws, changes to tax brackets, standard deductions, personal exemptions, and other items that may directly affect your 2015 tax return. The purpose of this article is to alert you to changes that may present tax planning opportunities as well as potential pitfalls.

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12/7/15: Seven Steps for Making Identity Protection Part of Your Routine (and some additional IRS resources)

IRS Security Awareness Tax Tip Number 3/ December 7, 2015

The theft of your identity, especially personal information such as your name, Social Security number, address and children’s names, can be traumatic and frustrating. In this online era, it’s important to always be on guard.

The IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure you understand the dangers to your personal and financial data. Taxes. Security. Together. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

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2015 Tax Planning and Safeguarding Against Identity Theft   

According to the USPS, identity theft is America's fastest-growing crime with more than 9.9 million American victims last year alone, costing roughly $5 billion dollars.[i]

Check out ways identity thieves acquire information is theft of documents from mailboxes and what you can do to protect yourselves!

What we are doing to help safeguard against identity theft

In addition to sending tax organizers via encrypted email, to help further safeguard against the growing threats associated with identify theft we are now offering an optional online tax organizer. 

Seven Steps for Making Identity Protection Part of Your Routine (and some additional IRS resources)

The theft of your identity, especially personal information such as your name, Social Security number, address and children’s names, can be traumatic and frustrating. In this online era, it’s important to always be on guard.

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FPANJ Awards Kenneth Shapiro with Lifetime Achievement Award

Upper Montclair, NJ (NOVEMBER 2015) - A 2013 Heart of Financial Planning Award winner with the Financial Planning Association of New Jersey (FPANJ) has now also received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award. The accolade was given to Kenneth B. Shapiro at FPANJ's Fall Conference in late October.

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After 5 years of hard work, Lou Ottati has received his Certified Financial Planner® credentials!   

Congratulations to Lou Ottati, CFP®

After 5 years of hard work, Lou has received his Certified Financial Planner® credentials!  

Earning the CFP® credential is a long and arduous road that requires extensive education, passing the comprehensive CFP® Certification Exam and 3 years of practice prior to receiving the certification. CFP®'s represent the highest level of financial integrity, competency, ethics and professionalism. They look out for the client's interests above all.    

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Ken's Trip to China

As many of you are aware, this summer, my son Russell and I took advantage of a “once in a lifetime” trip to China.  My nephew, Zachary, who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and who was finishing up a year of studying in China, requested that we join him in touring parts of China before he returned to the US. He was excited to serve as our personal tour guide.  My sole responsibility for this trip was to make the arrangements getting us to Shanghai where he was living. Zachary handled the rest, setting the itinerary and travel arrangements, allowing me to relax and enjoy an amazing ten day “educational” experience.

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Fraud and Social Media: Phishing for Data

June 27, 2015

According to Experian Credit’s, social media is ‘a new venue for old frauds’.  The old fashioned ‘confidence man’ has gone online.
Social network sites encourage us to share the details of our everyday lives. We feel that because we build our networks around our families, colleagues and friends, we can trust the communications we receive via these sites. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have moved in to exploit this trust and serve their own nefarious purposes.

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Congress Passes the “Achieve a Better Life Experience” (ABLE) Act to Assist Disabled Individuals

March 2015

As part of the Tax Prevention Act of 2014, Congress has passed the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience   (529A ABLE Act) to encourage individuals and families to provide private funding to assist disabled individuals in maintaining their health and independence. The money saved may be used to pay for education, housing, health care, transportation, and other needs. President Obama signed it into law in December 2014.

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Good News for 529 Plan Savers: More Investment Flexibility

March 2015

Call it a holiday gift. Thanks to legislation passed in December, beginning in 2015, owners of 529 accounts will be able to change the investment options on their existing plan contributions twice per calendar year instead of just once. This increased flexibility is a welcome option for parents and grandparents who use 529 plans to save for their children's or grandchildren's college education. 

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Education Tax Credits and Deductions

October 2014

What are the tax credits and deductions relating to higher education?

There are two education tax credits--the American Opportunity credit (formerly the Hope credit) and the Lifetime Learning credit--that provide some relief to families in the midst of financing their children's college education. There is also a federal income tax deduction for certain taxpayers who pay qualified higher education expenses, as well as a deduction for certain individuals who pay student loans. As a general rule, a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction against taxes owed, and it is therefore more valuable than a tax deduction of the same dollar amount.

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Tax Information for Students Who Take a Summer Job

October 2014

Many students take a job in the summer after school lets out. If it’s your first job it gives you a chance to learn about the working world. That includes taxes we pay to support the place where we live, our state and our nation. Here are eight things that students who take a summer job should know about taxes:

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Financial Fitness for Freshmen

October 2014

As you get ready to go to college, now is a good time to expand your knowledge of day-to-day money management, including smart budgeting and debt management steps. The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) offers these tips to students who want to get through college with the right financial footing.

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Save Money on Your Vacation

June 2014

Are you planning to take a family vacation this summer? If so, it could become a pricey proposition. For those Americans with summer vacation plans, 41 percent expect to pay an average of $3,000 for transportation, lodging, meals, activities, entertainment and pet care, according to a new survey conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants by Harris Poll. The New Jersey Society of CPAs (NJSCPA) offers some tips on how you can set a budget for and hold down the cost of a family trip while still having an enjoyable break:

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Financial Planning for “Boomerang Parents”: 

March 2014

How to cope with your adult child returning home.

Some call it a perfect storm. A tough economy, lagging job market and burdensome student loan debt have created an environment where once empty nests are no longer all that empty. The US Census Bureau estimates approximately 22.6 million adult children are once again enjoying mom’s cooking on a regular basis. A decade ago, that number was closer to 5 million. If trends continue on this course, that number is sure to rise.

The media has coined the phrase “Boomerang Generation” to refer to the current crop of young adults (typically age 18 through 35) who’ve either returned home to live with their parents due to economic reasons after college or those who have not yet left.

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Tackling Taxes If You’re Self-Employed

March 2014

Tax time is tough, there’s no question about it, but it’s even more challenging when you’re self-employed and trying to deal with the sometimes confusing rules and recordkeeping that can go hand-in-hand with running your own show. The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) answers some of the most frequent questions about taxes and self-employment and offers tips that can help you lower your tax bill.

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