IRS Finalizes ABLE Account Regulations: Here’s What to Know

Disabilitis

The IRS recently published final regulations for Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, accounts for disabled Americans. ABLE accounts aim to help people with disabilities and their families save and pay for disability-related expenses. Even though the contributions aren’t deductible, distributions such as earnings are tax-free to the designated beneficiary if they’re used to pay for qualified disability expenses. These expenses can include housing, education, transportation, health, prevention and wellness, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, along with other disability-related expenses.

The regulations come in response to and finalize two previously issued proposed regulations from the IRS. The first proposed regulation was published in 2015 after enactment of the ABLE Act under the Obama administration. The second proposed regulation was published in 2019 in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which made some major changes to ABLE. 

Eligible individuals can now put more money into their ABLE account and roll money from their qualified tuition programs (529 plans) into their ABLE accounts. In addition, some contributions made to ABLE accounts by low- and moderate-income workers can now qualify for the Saver’s Credit.

The new regulations also offer guidance on the gift and generation-skipping transfer tax consequences of contributions to an ABLE account, as well as on the federal income, gift, and estate tax consequences of distributions from, and changes in the designated beneficiary of, an ABLE account.

In addition, before Jan. 1, 2026, funds can be rolled over from a designated beneficiary’s section 529 plan to an ABLE account for the same beneficiary or a family member. The regulations provide that rollovers from 529 plans, along with any contributions made to the designated beneficiary’s ABLE account (other than certain permitted contributions of the designated beneficiary’s compensation) can’t exceed the annual ABLE contribution limit.

Lastly, the final regulations offer guidance on the record-keeping and reporting requirements of a qualified ABLE program. A qualified ABLE program must maintain records that enable the program to account to the Secretary with respect to all contributions, distributions, returns of excess contributions or additional accounts, income earned, and account balances for any designated beneficiary’s ABLE account. In addition, a qualified ABLE program must report to the Secretary the establishment of each ABLE account, including the name, address, and TIN of the designated beneficiary, information regarding the disability certification or other basis for eligibility of the designated beneficiary, and other relevant information regarding each account. 

For more information about ABLE accounts or if you have any questions regarding these regulatory changes, please contact us at info@shermanwealth.com or check out our other relevant blogs

What to Do If You Don’t Have a 401(k)

Piggybank on wooden table with stacks of coins beside it. A hand putting a coin into the piggy bank.

As the coronavirus sweeps the world and people take a step back to look at their financial picture, they are realizing that they do not have a company 401(K). 

Even though some of these people work at a company where they offer a 401(k), they may not be eligible due to not meeting criteria, such as length of employment, or they are not a full-time employee.

So, as people are stressing more about the importance of having a hefty savings account, it’s a great time to discuss options for individuals who are not eligible for their company 401(k) or do not have one through their workplace.  Below we will share several options for people in this situation according to an article by MorningStar.

1) Invest in an IRA.

A good first step for someone without a 401(k) is setting up an IRA. An IRA is a great other step to save for retirement and seek tax benefits. You are eligible to contribute $6,000 a year to your IRA.

2) Look Into Self-employment accounts are an option.

For self-employed individuals, there are several options to consider. Some of them are similar to 401(k)s but are just set up a bit differently. Speak with a financial professional to see what options you can set up for yourself. 

3) Consider an HSA 

If you have a high-deductible health care plan you can consider setting up an HSA in order to save some of those dollars and grow your money tax deferred. 

4) Open a Taxable brokerage account.

While its always nice to grow your money tax deferred, investing in a regular taxable account is always a great option. You can speak with a tax professional to see how to do so in a tax efficient manner. 

5) Be part of the solution.

Lastly, if you work for a small employer without a 401(k), maybe ask them to see if it’s something they are interested in starting. Never hurts to ask! 

As always, if you have any questions about your current 401(k) or need help investing money in order to supplement a lack of one, please reach out to us and we would be happy to discuss your future financial goals.  

Money Mistakes You Might Make in a Recession

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It’s very common to make mistakes when it comes to your finances and managing your money. We read a Wall Street Journal article discussing the biggest money mistakes people tend to make during an economic downturn and we want to bring light to a few of them and talk about ways to avoid them.

By reading and addressing financial mistakes people make, hopefully you can avoid them in the future. Below we will discuss some common financial mistakes people often times make. 

  • Refusing to Tap the Emergency Fund
  • Avoiding Credit Score
  • Avoiding Savings For Retirement
  • Ignoring Money Conversations

As mentioned above, an economic recession is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and discuss and organize your finances. Saving for the future, talking to someone about your investments, and organizing your portfolio are all smart moves when setting yourself up for financial success and the ability to navigate an economic recession. If you have any questions or want to talk about your personal finances, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com. To read some of our other blogs, check it out here

Top 5 Pieces of Financial Advice

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As we are all adjusting to the new norm that the coronavirus pandemic has created in our world, we are also learning pieces of advice that we could share from this experience. When going through an economic crisis, it’s important to keep some tips at top-of-mind to help you navigate the bumpy waters. In a CNBC Select Article, we found 5 great pieces of financial advice that we want to share with you to put in your financial repertoire.

First and foremost, try not to accumulate credit card debt. Racking up credit card debt can have very negative long term consequences, so it’s important that you pay the full balance on time. When you do not pay the full balance on time, your card will quickly accumulate interest, which often can get so high that it’s hard to pay off. 

According to recent Federal Reserve data released in September, the average interest rate for all credit card accounts is 14.87%. Among accounts assessed interest, or accounts with outstanding finance charges, the average interest rate rises to 16.88%. But for consumers with credit scores below 670, interest rates can near 30%, CNBC Select reports.

Next, make sure you don’t buy things you can’t afford. Although this one seems obvious, it’s much more common than you think. Avoid overspending and spending on things you can live without. Start putting that extra money into savings accounts where you can be accruing interest and earning money. 

Third, invest the year’s expenses or anything saved after you have the year’s expenses saved? Before the pandemic, many people were saying how you should have several months of rent and expenses in a savings account for a rainy day, but as we have seen the economic hardships the coronavirus has inflicted upon our society, we are suggesting to save about a year’s worth of expenses before investing it elsewhere. 

Fourth, start to think like a savvy businessman or woman. Learn to negotiate. Especially in the world we are living in today, make sure you are constantly looking for deals and inquiring about credit card versus cash options. Oftentimes, places will charge you less if you pay in cash. So, before swiping that card, make sure you think about all your options. 

Lastly, buy in bulk. With Amazon becoming increasingly popular and making it possible to get what you need in a matter of hours, take advantage of deals and places you can buy in bulk. If you can save a few dollars here and there, take advantage of it. It’s important to be a smart shopper, especially when buying something pricey, such as groceries for a large family. 

By implementing some of these basic money management tips into your daily routine, you will find yourself becoming a more savvy shopper and saving more money. It is especially important during an economic recession to take these concepts into consideration and make the most of your finances. If you have any questions on other ways you can maximize your financial portfolio and find places in your budget where you can save money, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com or visit our site at www.shermanwealth.com. Check out our other blog posts for more financial advice and tips! 

 

Paying Hidden Costs Because your Broker’s not a Fiduciary?

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Investors often choose big banks and investment firms over smaller financial advisors because they think the brand name and size makes the service and product offerings better. In actuality, it’s often the reverse.

Unless your firm is a Fiduciary, chances are there are sales quotas and contests for the non fiduciary, “suitability” reps, who are often paid extra to put clients in proprietary funds that are not in the clients’ best interests, but that reap commissions for the brokerage house.

Last Friday the SEC issued a statement announcing that three investment advisers “have settled charges for breaching fiduciary duties to clients and generating millions of dollars of improper fees in the process.” The release goes on to say that “PNC Investments LLC, Securities America Advisors Inc., and Geneos Wealth Management Inc. failed to disclose conflicts of interest and violated their duty to seek best execution by investing advisory clients in higher-cost mutual fund shares when lower-cost shares of the same funds were available.”

And according to an article in Investment News last week, it turns out smaller credit card and savings customers may not have been the only ones who were misled in the Wells Fargo “fake account” scandal. The article states that “according to inside sources, some clients of the bank’s wealth-management division were steered into investments that maximized revenue for the bank and compensation for its employees.”

When will this stop and why would any one continue to do business with one of these non Fiduciary firms?

The big problem is lack of transparency. Most investors don’t understand how the business works and how broker-dealers make their money. That means the investors are, in effect, investing blindfolded. And while there are many good, principled people at the larger firms, because they are not bound by the Fiduciary Standard, there is lots of potential for recommending something that is “almost as good” as the best product for you.

The result is that, according to a survey just released by the CFA Institute, a majority of investors believe that their advisors fail to fully disclose conflicts of interest and the fees they charge. Only 35% of individual investors polled believe that their advisor always puts their clients’ interests ahead of their own and only 25% of the institutional investors who participated in the survey.

April is National Financial Literacy month and one of the most important Financial Lessons investors – and potential investors – can learn this month is what “Fiduciary” means and why it’s so critical to your financial health.

When you’re working with a fee-only Fiduciary, they have sworn to only recommend financial products that are the best for their clients. Most broker-dealers in large wire houses have only agreed to uphold the “suitability” standard, which means they are allowed to recommend investments that are “suitable” – not best – for you but potentially yield a markup for their company or bonus or commission for them.

If you’re unclear about what fees you are paying, share classes you own, or how much your funds are costing you in annual expenses, contact us for a free analysis of your currents investments and the costs associated with them.

Particularly during Financial Literacy Month, make sure your Financial Advisor is working for you.

 

The Imperfect Fiduciary Rule just got Worse

Half-full glasses

Last Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, stating that it was “unreasonable’ that brokers handling investors’ retirement savings should be required to only act in clients’ best interest.

Unreasonable for advisors to only act in their clients’ best interests? Let that sink in for a moment…

In a nutshell: it’s still considered acceptable in the financial industry for advisors to give clients advice that is less than the best for the clients when it yields a higher commission for the broker.

In case you were wondering, the plaintiffs challenging the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the Financial Services Institute, Financial Services Roundtable, and Insured Retirement Institute. None of whom, clearly, are friends to the individual investor.

Because different Courts’ decisions have not been consistent about this Obama Administration effort to protect individual advisors, there is speculation the question will climb at some point to the Supreme Court, so this isn’t over. And while the Fiduciary Rule was not perfect, this is clearly worse.

Meanwhile, what can you as an individual investor do to make sure your interests are not being sacrificed for the benefit of your advisor? Very simple: make sure your advisor is ALREADY a Fiduciary. And if they’re not, switch. Why leave your money in a big brokerage house where conflicts of interest and commissions potentially eat into your gains and your future? Or where – instead of being given the full picture – you’re being steered toward a product that isn’t the best possible choice for you because of brokers’ sales goals or “contests”?

Individual investors have the power to tell the industry that this is unacceptable by voting with their feet (or computers.) Choose an advisor who has sworn to uphold the Fiduciary Standard and ONLY recommend choices that are in your best interest.

Just because the 5th Circuit is willing to settle for less doesn’t mean you should.

 

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If you’re concerned you’re not getting the fullest picture about what’s right for you and the best, un-conflicted advice, give us a call for a free portfolio review or learn more about our fee-only, Fiduciary approach.

A True Measure of Uncompromised Advice

Uncompromised Advice

Do you remember the scene from the movie Matilda when Harry (Danny DeVito) shows his son his dodgy-car salesmanship?

While highly over exaggerated in the film for the sake of comedy, it is true that whenever you buy something from a salesman, you should ask… what’s in it for them?  It’s safe to say that a healthy amount of skepticism should probably be given to anyone trying to sell you a product.  Shouldn’t that advice translate over to the world of investment products as well?

Especially following the financial crisis, the financial services industry is considered among the lowest trusted businesses.  It makes sense.  Individuals tend have a hard-time trusting people who look at making a quick buck for a living.  While that isn’t necessarily the case, it is true that there is a conflict of interest that often exists for many advisors (at wirehouses, independent broker/dealers, and insurance backed firms) who have an obligation to provide a standard of care for their client, but also have a sense of duty to their firms.  Their compensation structure (having sales targets and commission based compensation packages) fundamentally misaligns the interests of both parties. That strikes us as a conflict that is unmanageable and ultimately, comes at the cost of the client.

In the fallout of the financial crisis, regulators have tried to step in over the last decade to ensure that the world of retirement advice acts without conflicts of interest, specifically by holding all financial advisors to a status of “fiduciary.”  It means that these advisors who have potential conflicts of interest will have to increase their disclosures and explain what they do for clients as it relates to advice on retirement assets.  These advisors are upset!  While they might not admit it, they are concerned that this new rule will affect their income.  The increased pressure these advisors are putting on the administration has resulted in the Labor Department seeking an 18-month delay in its implementation.  While the rule is designed to protect the retirement savings of clients, the pushback could ultimately cause the rule to never get implemented.

So again, where do you as a client fall in this equation?  Just how valuable is your “trusted” relationship?

That is where we come in.  At Sherman Wealth Management, we have always been a fee-only fiduciary.  That means while competitors are off arguing about fees, disclosures and conflicts of interest, we already subscribe to the status of “fiduciary” and will remain unaffected by the changes.  We provide uncompromised advice and our compensation is not based on commissions or any salesmanship of a product.  The only thing we are “selling” is our best customized advice for your unique financial situation.  We believe that working with an advisor who is already committed to functioning in your best interest will give you peace of mind about your retirement savings.

Feel free to reach out to us anytime with questions or comments.  Unlike Matilda’s Mrs. Trunchbull, you won’t have to hunt us down.

 

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.

Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth in Financial Advice?

Measuring value

Recent news about a new fiduciary rule has left many folks more confused than ever about fee structures, and concerned about whether they’re getting the best value from their financial advisor’s fees or their brokerage firm’s fee structure. According to a recent podcast from the Wall Street Journal, it’s not only how much you pay – but also what you are paying for – that’s a source of communication breakdown between those clients and their advisors.

While the Department of Labor is pushing to get advisors and brokers to make it easier for clients to understand their fee structures, so far it doesn’t look like many of the bigger firms are taking them up on it.

Since any firm or advisor can claim to be client-driven, transparent, and “fee-based,” how can you be completely sure about what you’re getting and how much you’re paying? If your advisor is fee-based, rather than strictly fee-only, they may be earning commissions when they recommend certain investment products. Obviously, that creates a potential conflict of interest: those advisors have incentives to trade more frequently, and to recommend specific products in order to generate higher commissions for themselves and their firm, whether or not they’re best for you.

One way to avoid uncertainty – and the potential headaches it brings – is to work with a fee-only registered investment advisory firm (RIA). Fee-only RIAs and advisors do not earn commissions so they are not motivated by the frequency of trades, so they are less likely to encourage buying and selling unless it’s the best choice for you. Because RIAs are held to a fiduciary standard, they are legally bound to always – and only – act in your best interest.

Do your advisor’s feed include additional services?

Even if you are working with a fee-only RIA, however, you may be still not getting your full money’s worth. Many clients neglect to take advantage of untapped services that are included in their advisor’s fees, such as tax and estate planning, insurance advice, and financial coaching, among other services. If you’re not sure what additional services your advisor – or the advisors you are considering – provide, ask them. It’s the best way to ensure that there’s an open path of communication and that you are getting the most value out of your wealth management experience.

Only you can decide what kind of fee structure is best for you, what you feel is the appropriate amount to spend on investment management and financial planning, and what additional services are important to you to help you grow your wealth.

If you’re concerned you’re not getting your money’s worth, though, or that you’re paying too much, here are some good questions to ask yourself: How adequately served do you think you are? Are you confused with what services you are getting and what you are paying for? Do you feel valued? Are your goals being met and are you being listened to?

If you’re not satisfied with the answers to any of these questions, remember that you have options. Sherman Wealth Management is proud to be a fee-only independent RIA firm, because we feel it is the best way to meet our ethical standards and guarantee that all potential clients have a simple and cost-effective way to access investment management and financial planning.

Knowing what those options are, and getting clarity in your fee structures – whatever kind of advisor you ultimately choose – will allow you to feel more confident about the decisions you make, now and for your future.

This article was originally published on Investopedia.com

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Potential Changes to the Fiduciary Rule Mean Trouble for You?

Trust in your Fiduciary

A year ago the Department of Labor expanded the number of financial advisors required to adhere to the fiduciary standard for retirement asset and accounts. This was clearly good news for investors. Adoption has now been delayed, however, and the future of this consumer protection is not clear.

Fiduciary means “Trust”

The word “Fiduciary” (from a the Latin word for “something inspiring trust”) describes a category of registered independent investment advisors who – like Sherman Wealth – are required to act solely and exclusively in the best interest of their clients. Our decisions are not colored by any expectation of additional income from the products we recommend.

Don’t all advisors work in their clients best interests?

Not necessarily. While it seems obvious that giving you the best advice is what you expect your advisor to do – it’s what you pay them for after all – broker-dealers are not required to operate as fiduciaries.

Broker-dealers have only been required to recommend products that are deemed a “suitable” choice for a client, not necessarily the best choice. Broker dealers can therefore recommend investments they receive commissions for selling or that their firm has an interest in, whether or not they are the best choice for you.

Let’s put it this way: as long as their recommendations are in the ballpark, they don’t have to aim for hitting it out of the park for you.

The new fiduciary rule should be a win-win, right?

Again, not necessarily. The new rule, which was passed under the previous administration, was set to go into effect this week and would have required the widespread adoption of the fiduciary rule for investment accounts and assets.

That would have given investors greater protection and greater confidence in the advice they are getting from their advisors.

The DOL has delayed the date of adoption until June 9, however, as the result of an executive order by the new administration. The current administration says it needs time to examine and review it, given, among other things, the Financial Industry’s concerns about costs to them, including the money they are earning on commissions from clients like you.

How does this affect your Financial Future?

If you are already working with a fiduciary, not at all. You are already covered, for all aspects of your investments, not just retirement funds.

If you are not already with a fiduciary advisor, even if the new rule is adopted in some form or another, it only applies to retirement investments and potentially not the full spectrum of your investing strategy, so you are still not getting the most transparent, trustworthy advice you can.

What should you do to insure you’re getting conflict-free advice?

Find out if your investor is a fee-only Fiduciary. Ask them. They are required to tell you. And don’t be fooled by “fee-based.” A true fiduciary does not take commissions and is conflict-of-interest free.

Hopefully the DOL will act in the best interest of consumers and investors. Even if the future of the new ruling is unclear, you can protect yourself by working with one of the many advisories that has – like Sherman Wealth – already adopted the Fiduciary Standard for all investment categories.

At Sherman Wealth we are proud to operate as fee-only fiduciaries, which means that our decisions are based on your goals, your risk tolerance, and your plan. Nothing more and nothing less. We couldn’t imagine bringing anything but our best advice to our clients’ financial futures.

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions, please Contact Us.

Know the Difference between Fee-only vs. Fee-based Financial Advice?

Fee-Only Financial Planning

Confused about the difference between Fee-Only Financial Planning and Fee-Based planning? You’re not alone. Financial planning jargon can be daunting when you’re just getting started.

Understanding the difference between Fee-Only and Fee-Based, however, is important and could be the key to your long-term planning success.

What is Fee-Only Financial Planning?

Fee-Only financial planners are legally registered as investment advisors and have a fiduciary responsibility to you to create a plan in your best interest. Fee-only advisors cannot accept any compensation as a result of product sales. In other words, they can’t make a commission from specific investments they recommend you purchase. They are paid directly by you – and only by you – either through an hourly fee, a retainer fee, or an agreed-upon percentage of your assets that they manage.

As a result, in most cases, Fee-Only advisors have fewer conflicts of interest. They are more focused on your needs, rather than on selling you specific investments, since their compensation is not determined by sales volume or choice. A Fee-Only advisor will not try to steer you toward commissioned annuities; a Fee-Only planner’s advice must be completely free of attachment to financial products. The role of Fee-Only advisors is to only provide you advice that fits your current financial situation and your goals and therefore not recommend products and services that don’t support that goal and that are not the best choices for you.

What is Fee-Based Planning?

“Fee-Based” is a category the brokerage community has created to take advantage of the success – and attractiveness – of Fee-Only advising. Because the terms sound so similar, it’s easy to think they are similar, but there is a major difference between Fee-Based planning and Fee-Only planning.

In Fee-Based planning, the advisor is compensated with a set percentage of your assets instead of a retainer or a flat hourly fee. In addition to that percentage, Fee-based advisors can also accept commissions from financial products, annuities, and insurance products they sell you. Each time you purchase one of those products, their earnings increase.

This leads to a fundamental conflict of interest. Your advisor wants to earn as much as possible while you want someone to provide honest and trustworthy guidance.

If one fund offers advisors a significant commission and another one doesn’t but is better for you and your financial goals, how likely is it that the advisor will forego the opportunity to earn the commission by recommending the better fund?

That is why the legally-binding Fiduciary Rule that Fee-Only Advisors follow is so important: the definition of a fiduciary relationship is one based on trust.

How to Make Sure Your Advisor is Fee-Only

Before selecting an advisor, ask how and what their compensation plan looks like. Ask them to disclose what their compensation fees are in writing and whether or not they accept commissions. By choosing an advisor who provides Fee-Only services, you stand a greater chance of avoiding any conflicts of interests. Remember, Fee-Based advisors are obligated by their brokers or by specific deals to sell certain products. Fee-Only advisors are under no such requirements and have a legal, fiduciary, obligation to work for you, and you only.

This article was originally published on Investopedia.com

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.