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article imageOp-Ed: Summer school for financial topics now in session in Sonoma Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jun 5, 2014 in Business
Sonoma - 'Investing for the Long Term' was the theme of financial advisor Daren Blonski's talk on June 3 held at the Sonoma office of Zainer Rinehart Clarke.
The warm evening prompted Blonski to move the meeting from its usual spot at the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce to the CPA office next-door where air-conditioning was available. The more than two dozen people who attended appreciated the last minute accommodation.
Blonski who works for Edward Jones wanted to introduce to the public his "summer school" of financial investing and preparedness. Speaking mostly to seniors that Tuesday evening, Blonski provided information that is helpful to just about everyone at any age.
Stick to your investment strategy. As this graph illustrates  for a one-uear holding periond in the ...
Stick to your investment strategy. As this graph illustrates, for a one-uear holding periond in the stock market the difference between the "best" and "worst" is dramatic. In fact, it might look as if an investor gambled with money rather than invested it. However, adding more time to the holding period of an amount invested helps to paint a different picture. (Sources for this info are from Morning Star and Edward Jones monthly data, 2014).
Courtesy of Daren Blonski and Edward Jones Investments
"Just like summer school over the next four weeks I want to provide an overview of information for people to get more acquainted with so to help them in their financial decision making." Last year, Blonski and his staff provided monthly informational talks and workshops on various financial topics ranging from Individual Retirement Accounts to Estate Planning to details about Social Security benefits.
With no pressure to sign up or buy anything, Blonski simply wants to help the community. He wants them to better understand the complex and often frustrating rules, regulations and codes that accompany most financial products and services such as an IRA, an annuity, CD, Dividends and so on.
Blonksi emphasized that when people invest for the long term the rewards are more significant and gratifying. "So much out there in the stock market and such has what I call a 'recency bias,' that means, he said, that the approach to the investing is based upon recent indicators and not looking at the long-term aspects."
Blonksi also pointed out that human emotions often are a stumbling block to sound and proper investing. "No matter how much we think we know everything, people behave emotionally," he said. "It is hard to stay on a financial investment strategy course, but staying on the course and not wavering will reap greater rewards. Over the long-term you will win," he said.
"Nothing is absolutely certain or predictable, but what I often say to clients is 'focus on what you can control.' Following a sound financial strategy is one tangible way of securing an investment for good financial outcomes."
Blonski invited three guest speakers to the first of his "summer school" financial talks. Kerri Berry, CPA of Zainer Rinehart Clarke, estate planning attorney Jennifer Hainstock of Sonoma and Julie Jones, an estate documents organizer/consultant.
While all three specialize in particular aspects of financial planning, all three agreed with Blonski that making decisions now about financial situations in the future is vital.
Berry who works at the Zainer Rinehart Clarke office in Sonoma and Santa Rosa, emphasized how important it is that people understand the way investments are taxed. She also mentioned that when making a decision about which financial product to buy, take the time to learn all the various tax laws, codes and regulations about that particular investment. Know the difference between investment earnings and income. Know the details about bonds, annuities, IRA's, etc. and how they will be taxed. "Ordinary dividends and Qualified Dividends, these are taxed differently. And, she noted, it is important to understand the rules about 'Capital Gains and what the Capital Gain rate' is for your investment strategy.
Understand the distinctions between "Short term Capital Gains (held less that 12 months), and Long Term Capital Gains (held over 12 months)". "Short term is taxed at ordinary rates and long term, the rate is determined based upon your marginal tax bracket." Understanding these differences and distinctions will help you not only make decisions but will help you with your particular financial circumstances and investment goals.
Kerri Berry is a CPA with Zainer Rinehart Clarke. She told the gathering of about two dozen people t...
Kerri Berry is a CPA with Zainer Rinehart Clarke. She told the gathering of about two dozen people to pay close attention to the tax rates of Investment Earnings. And, to know the distinctions between how interest is taxed and how dividends are taxed.
Taxes on investment income can vary depending upon not only the type of financial product but also on income bracket and marital status. Taking time to understand all the tax rules and ways in which financial products work, especially when pass on to beneficiaries is important.
Estate planning attorney Jennifer Hainstock agreed with Berry as she said in her brief presentation, "knowing the costs and how that will impact your money and what you wish to leave to loved ones is essential." Understanding the rules about probate and probate costs is important. "Probate is not only complicated it is costly," she said.
And, as Hainstock emphasized making provisions for health care, especially long-term care is crucial. "Having a directive regarding one's healthcare is important especially for your loved ones," she said. "Having not only a clearly designated beneficiary (or beneficiaries) is essential but also an appointed Power of Attorney.
"Think about not only who you want to receive your money upon your death but also, who should have Power of Attorney with the Healthcare Directive if something should happen. Take some real time to think this over and get it taken care of."
 Who should have Power of Attorney with the Healthcare Directive if something should happen?   Take ...
"Who should have Power of Attorney with the Healthcare Directive if something should happen?" "Take some real time to think this over and get it taken care of," said estate planning attorney and specialist Jennifer Hainstock.
She and Blonski then shared some instances were a beneficiary was not clearly indicated and a Power of Attorney was not clearly appointed. "This causes all kinds of problems and headaches for us in the financial planning field," said Blonski. "And, lots of heartache for the loved ones too," said Hainstock.
Hainstock's talk about Estate Planning segued into Jone's subject of having all of one's estate documents in order. "These days people are experiencing two aspects of living, one is their life 'on-line' in this digital age and the one lived 'off-line." "Having everything about your estate planning documents set all in order is tremendously important," she said.
"Think about it for a moment, since just about everything is digital these days, you must recognize your digital life as an asset," she said. "Knowing your online ID codes, passwords and various security questions with answers is vital." A usable list of this information becomes 'Information Insurance.' She clarified that "this information is your digital asset." Jones in her work as consultant provides an estate document organizer. She created an A to Z records book, "The Estate Document Organizer." Her organizer system can be used as a tool to simplify the organization process. In it a person can have all their important documents, such as a will, bank account statements, safe-deposit box info and so forth. The document organizer can also list the location of where other important documents, accounts and items are.
And, as Jones' reiterated, have all your important ID codes, passwords and security questions kept in one spot in that one organizer or binder as a hard copy is an important safeguard.
 ...since just about everything is digital these days  you must recognize your digital life as an as...
"...since just about everything is digital these days, you must recognize your digital life as an asset," said Julie jones. She is a consultant who specializes in estate document organizing and provides an A-Z Estate Document Organizer-binder and planning guide.
"In addition to your formal will and testament you need to put all that together in what I like to call a 'digital' will and testament," she said. Jones also mentioned that once a person has selected their trusted Power of Attorney and Executor of the estate, "go over with them the security questions and passwords as you put together all your important paperwork." "Have that person help you select and form the various security questions, codes and passwords that way that person can help you remember if you forget." "And, that trusted person will be the one to know if something were to happen to you unexpectedly. The time spent going over all this saves not only saves money (Blonski noted that if a beneficiary is not clearly defined then it must go to the courts to decide), it also saves from any delays and further heartache for loved ones.
The next "summer school" session of talks will be held on June 10 and two more will follow on each Tuesday of the month of June. For more information contact financial advisor Daren Blonksi at the Edward Jones office on Broadway in Sonoma, at 707-938-8585.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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