8/5/22

Hartzman's History

    George Hartzman began working as a Financial Advisor in 1993, taught CPA and attorney continuing education including financial ethics, and has been an independent fiduciary since 2012.

    Objective; Leave others better off for my having existed

President; Hartzman Tax & Fiduciary
Jan 2007 - Present; Greensboro, North Carolina
    - Tax Preparation, Medical Underwriting and Financial Consulting
            - Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) Certification
            - America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Certification
            - AFSP Record of Completion and Quickbooks Certified ProAdvisor (2020)
    - Author of "Medicare Audit", comparing costs and benefits in Guilford County, North Carolina as an example of how to determine the best way to protect families in the near and long term.
    - Investment and Qualified Retirement Plan Consulting
    - Developed low cost retirement plan adopted by the City of Greensboro, saving Greensboro 457 retirement plan participants $391,000 per year (2017)
    - Author of "Questions for America", "Think, Fiduciary Guide for Retirement Plans", "Think, Investors Guide", and "Hartzman's Inquisition" for CPA and Attorney professional continuing education and financial ethics symposiums (2001-2012)
    - Greensboro Shepherd's Center Instructor; Senior Citizen guest lecturer and group interaction facilitator covering economics, local politics and financial ethics
    - Author of "Too Connected to Jail", documenting events which took place surrounding the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-9 within the political, regulatory, banking and investment advisory industries

Vice President/Investments; Wells Fargo Advisors

Mar 2003 - Oct 2012; Greensboro
    - Hartzman Tactical Allocation Discretionary Portfolio Manager
    - Top 1% client account performance firm wide (2008)
    - Foresaw and successfully navigated the 2007-9 financial crisis
    - Internship Manager

Senior Financial Consultant; Merrill Lynch
May 1997 - Mar 2001; Greensboro
    - Top quintile client account performance firm wide through dot.com bubble
    - 2000 Masters and Executive Club winner

Investment Broker; J.C. Bradford & Company
Apr 1994 - May 1997; Greensboro
    - Top rookie producer 
    - Developed fundamental and technical analysis based investment strategy

1982 - 1993; Student, Athlete, Cashier, Gas Station Attendant, Tire Tech, Dish Washer, Cook, Ride Operator, Laborer, Mechanic Apprentice, Courier, Waiter, Limousine Driver and Bartender. 

Girls Fastpitch Softball Coach; City of Greensboro; Assistant at Lincoln Middle and Grimsley High
2006 - 2012; Greensboro
    - 2008 City of Greensboro Champions, Killer Tofu

Have as much fun as soon as possible with the least amount of Risk for as long as you can, while leaving others better off for your having existed

Begin. Write down thoughts and questions as you go. Note interrelations, contradictions, anecdotes, analogies etc… to initiate debate, encourage independent verification and promote self-examination.

Question what did, is, could, should and shouldn’t. Investigate unknowns. Weigh author and self-bias. Confirm assumptions. Learn from misconceptions. Focus, observe and contemplate. Reduce to the least common denominators, weigh choice and calculate risk.

Debate. Consider what may happen after what’s probably going to happen next. Hypothesize and experiment, commit, execute, acknowledge mistakes and compare.

Maximize what works and minimize what doesn’t. Examine new information. Consult wisdom. Begin again.


The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot

Once upon a time, this is exactly what happened, right here and now. If thought is both logical and emotional, what we Do is too. Within Time, we Do in the Present.

If not Thinking isn’t, it’s not about what could’ve been or what may someday, it’s about what we Do now. Time eliminates inaction. Doing nothing is doing something.

Thinking of what to Do and when relative to what was while accounting for probabilities of what could happen after what may happen next can provide opportunities for more Time to enjoy Want by taking care of Need first in less Time.

If Present Thought determines current emotion, one is as happy as decided upon. Living in and for the moment is one way to live happily ever after. 

If we Think, we are. As what was, is, or will be is uncertain, the most likely singular circumstance encompassing consciousness is Present thought. We were who we Think we were. We are what we Think we are. As time passes, we may or may not be who we Think we’ll be. We Do in the Present.

Choices will be made individually and/or externally. What some Think was, is and may isn’t what others Do. External decisions may not be in any given individual's best interests. Chances are less emotional based decision making is better than more. We benefit from contributed causes, or are deterred by imposed effects. 

Procrastination buries opportunity. As Risk is probability of suffering harm or lack thereof and Return is potential gain or loss, an Efficient Frontier (the hook looking line below) describes expected Return for a given level of Risk. If most begin as equal, the Do in Present Time creates inequality.

If the Present embodies the Past and Future, rational analysis maximizes Present accomplishment and chances of success are better for those who more accurately prognosticate the farthest into the Future, the who and why to find first is you, before the when and how to achieve what for the longest time and least risk.


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, 
but the one most responsive to change.

Charles Darwin

Don’t sacrifice Future unhappiness for an unnecessarily pleasant Present.  

Most don’t comprehend what may actually be. If the difference in Return between first and second place is usually enormous but can be measured in fractions of a second, success via a better understanding of what most don’t should be exponential. You either got the job, the sale, the contract, the votes or won the war, or you didn’t.

What some Think was, is and may isn’t what others Do. Threatened Need or Want can alter Present thought.  Life Needs sustenance, hygiene and a temperate climate. Want is everything else. Without Need, Want is unobtainable. Some of what we Need is unknown or un-chosen, like hunger and thirst. 

Over-prioritizing Want can sacrifice future Need. The less considered as Need, the easier it is to take care of. Want can be eliminating unneeded. If Want depends on purposefully not understanding Need, what looks obtainable may not be. 

What to Think should be an optimal point between Need and Want. High risk, high return courses of action compared to low risk, low return alternatives have dissimilar likelihoods of outcome. Weighing how much of each to Think before Do may achieve a higher rate of return with less risk, especially when compared to only Need without contemplation of Want;

No alt text provided for this image

Don’t believe everything you Think or Think you know what you don’t. Don’t Think you Need Want. Don't want what you can’t get. Don’t over-adore Wanted acquisition. Don't Do what you don’t Want to get what you don’t Need. Don’t over-sacrifice Need for Want and vice versa. Don’t acquire what you don’t Need to convince others you are what you’re not unless you Need to. Don't Think more of what could have than what may be. Don't conclude what you Want because you Want to.

Want more of what lasts longer, and less of what doesn’t.

Accept and embrace uncertainty, concentrate, question the status quo, consider the counter-intuitive, anticipate anticipation, find strength in weakness, weakness in strength and advantage in disadvantage. 

There are 9,183,421,888 ways to play the first nine moves in the game of chess, 9,417,681 the first six, 72,078 the first four, 5,362 the first three and 20 to play the first. Early moves are more important than later. Chances of success are better for players who more accurately calculate probabilities the farthest into the Future.  

Whatever failures I have known, whatever errors I have committed, 
whatever follies I have witnessed,
have been the consequence of action without thought.

Bernard Baruch

Tick tock. Remaining stationary isn’t optional. Every move is followed by a counter move. Every cause, action or winner has an effect, reaction or loser. 

The more captured opposing pieces the less Risk, and vice versa. The more competitors, the harder it is to win. One bad move can erase a hundred good and one good can overcome.

Known and unknown, we were, are and will be pieces of varying value in an infinite number of games. Observation can alter the perceptions of the observed. If challengers don’t begin with pieces of the same number and value and players can Think they’re winning when losing, influencing others’ thoughts can enhance results. If an opponent Thinks another has more influence, power etc…, they Do until otherwise. If some players believe they can’t necessarily control some of their pieces, they can be obliged to move and/or sacrifice into disadvantageous positions.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

George Orwell

If big print can give what fine print takes, winning the wrong game can forfeit the right one. Greed and/or fear can lead some to believe moves are less or more Risky than they actually are. Most of the time, Thinking you’re better is better than thinking you’re worse.  

Never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end 
with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.

Admiral Jim Stockdale

If there’s less Risk in fear than courage, hate than love, greed than selflessness and death than life, some Risks are worth taking more than others. If a pawn can become a queen, weakness can become and overcome strength and defense can be a form of offense, sometimes tactics should be merciless. Tear band aids off swiftly and play to win.

Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you, unless you Need to. 

If causes, actions or winners have effects, reactions or losers and A is caused, allowed, accelerated, held back or prevented, it’s better to pre-think what could happen to B, C and D than not. If an opponent’s position can be used against them and the pinnacle of vulnerability is the moment of assault, it's usually better to commence attack from defended positions. If there isn’t a good move, choose the best of the bad. Bypass irrelevancy. Don’t let small mistakes become big ones. Eliminate what’s not working and doing more of what is sooner than later.

If at first you don’t succeed, you are about average. If the worst player’s identity is unknown, it could be you.  The players who don’t make the last error usually win.  

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

Napoleon Bonaparte

What could have or should be isn’t as important than what was, is and may. If life is a room of open doors leading to other open doors, what we and/or others Do or don’t determines what doors stay open or lock us in or out. If positive thought outperforms negative, faith in open doors is better than fearing them closed. When doors close, find those open and minimize lethargy within disappointment.

Don't confuse effort with result.

Circumstance ≠ Performance

Ability ≠ Justification

Pleasure ≠ Consumption

Busy ≠ Productive

Efficiency ≠ Effectiveness

Doing ≠ Achievement

Don't underestimate irrationality. Increasing unpredictability can lead to greater misguided reliance on other's predictions. If what you Think effects what you Do, which effects what you and others Think afterwards, and what others Do effects what you Think, which effects etc…, Think before Do should get farther faster with less risk than Do before Think.

Absorbing more small losses sooner and keeping winners longer can increase accomplishment. The more you lose, the longer it takes to break even. A 7% loss only takes a 7.5% gain to break even. A 50% loss needs a 100% gain. A 90% loss needs 1,000% gain.

Don’t catch falling knives. A 25% gain after a 50% loss is still a 37.5% loss. The more large losses are avoided, the higher the propensity for profit/success.

If a loss is inescapable in the short term, sacrificing the less valuable pieces first to protect the most valuable, like a pawn before a rook or a stranger before family.

   What do you if you die if you don’t fight or lose?

If you can’t get in through the front, check the back. If winning is getting up after falling and losing is falling and not getting up, win by not losing. Stand up going down and overcome.

If chance favors preparation and everyone is below average at something, practice should increase the likelihood of luck. 

The most successful have usually failed more times than failures. If a kid thinks falling 100 times equals knowing how to roller skate, praising persistence is better than highlighting failure. If 7 out of 10 fail means 30 in 100, 300 in 1,000 and 3,000 in 10,000 succeed, counting attempts increases the likelihood of success.

If arrows feel gravity, aiming a little higher can increase the likelihood of hitting a target. Concentrate resources to create, diversify assets to preserve. Be incremental, simplify and minimize.

Don’t do what you don’t understand. If you can’t Think of everything, increase Time and Risk efficiency by leveraging experience and/or resources other than your own, then Think and act accordingly. There’s usually less risk and greater return in learning from other people’s mistakes and achievements before having to learn from your own. Accept and learn from criticism. Consult wisdom and practice with someone better.

It can be difficult to choose whom to play as good, better or unfortunately worse than you. Protect your flanks. Many tend to act in self-interest before moral obligation or loyalty. Question those who may Think you have what they need and who may be saying what you want to hear while urging you to Do what they don’t want to or wont. It's usually better to learn and/or prosper from trusted advisors, but be prepared to limit losses.

Most overestimate average intelligence. If the wise measure what they say and listen well, most disclose what they shouldn’t and dismiss assistance with arrogance. Identify who’s listening before speaking. Ask adversarial questions after considering probable replies. It’s better to know the answer to some questions before asking. 

Do more than hope. Don’t let ego override rationality. Look within for faults found in others, acknowledge and embrace differences. Rise above and control emotion, respect momentum, adjust, accept responsibility and pay yourself forward. Know what you own. 

Relax, respect, listen, question, learn more than one way, reflect, accept, balance, affirm, teach, praise and improve by helping others. 

Don’t criticize if it won’t help, lose temper unless it would be bad to keep it, do guilt or offend many to benefit few. Under promise, over deliver. Don’t say you’re going to and don’t. If you don’t know an answer, say so and try to find it. Say “it looks like” or “it appears to be” instead of “it is” if it could be wrong. Don’t cut what can be untied. Stay out of instead of get out of where you shouldn’t be. Breath enthusiasm. 

Don’t self-fulfill prophesy. Prepare for instability when stable. Be counter-intuitive. Learn to live without certainty, think outside the box and find alternate routes. Make luck happen. 

Respect privacy. Don’t tread on others unless they’re treading on you. Apologize when you’re wrong, when you’re right and you say it wrong or when what you say doesn’t want to be heard. Don’t stereo-typically generalize, resent, envy, slur or avenge.

Do the right thing when no one’s looking. Do the most good in the best way with as many people for as long as possible. Perceive others' pain. Be polite, fair, compassionate, tolerant, appreciative, sincere, flexible, grateful, loving, enthusiastic, patient, supportive and responsible. 

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone 
who can do him absolutely no good

Samuel Johnson

Leave the world a better place than you found it. Give anonymously. Create a better chance for offspring to succeed than prior generations gave current elders. Don't be unloved.       

Forget given, value received, return borrowed, replace broken and forgive quickly.

Want happiness, love, joy, bliss, harmony and family. See good in everything. Publicize the best in others. When eyes close, think of the good that was and why and dream of making others’ dreams come true. Slow down, sing, laugh, cry, don’t worry, let go, feel good and get wet in warm summer rain.

Finish started.

Don’t over Think.  

Don't give up.

Have as much fun as soon as possible with the least amount of Risk for as long as you can, while leaving others better off for your having existed.
.
.
This is the most recent culmination of 25 plus years’ of exploration to discover how to navigate life during what were some of the most troubled times in recent Past and what will be worse times in the Future as the largest financial bubble in history plays out.

The format was originally intended for my kids and their kids etc… as suggestions for how to sort through problems and survive if and/or when I’m not around to bug them, which morphed into a logic based approach for financial planning, managing investments and course books for CPA, attorney, investor and adult continuing education courses covering economics, financial ethics, science and politics etc..., which led to a personal awakening around the turn of the century. 

If fewer words many know mean more than multitudes not understood, with more time, less would’ve meant more. The writing style is kind of like poetry, only enigma cocooned in inquiry surrounded by random chaos and Socratic thought. 

It’s not supposed to be easy.

To learn, some info may need to be unlearned, relearned or realized by breaks in cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.

Planning can enhance the chances of creating a higher likelihood of a better present by securing need and achieving want in the shortest time with the least risk.

There are 100 random numbers below. In 5 seconds, find number 1, and in order, try to reach 10 before time runs out; Go


People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves 
than by those found by others.

Blaise Pascal

Same thing only different, except for the cross hair line pattern. Touch number 1 in the upper left corner then 2 in the upper right and then down etc… clockwise for 5 seconds; Go

Were the numbers easier to find from experience or that there was an organized way to find them or both? Chances are you found more numbers in the same amount of time with the pattern to follow on top of prior experience.  

The fifth attempt should be faster than the second. Remembering where the numbers were creates higher probabilities of getting farther the next time you try.

If patterns are identified, documented and optimized, when others with coincident interests engage, those who stand to mutually benefit can be integrated into the plan at higher levels of productivity in less time faster than competitors. Planning can enhance the chances of creating a higher likelihood of a better present by securing need and achieving want in the shortest time with the least risk. Since it usually takes less time to reach an objective with a plan, chances are you should be able to get farther in less time than those without, leaving more time to do more of what you want. 

There can be patterns to find and follow to exponentially increase the likelihood of out-performance. 

If non-material Want can provide actualization and obtaining material Want doesn’t necessarily create happiness, it’s better to be miserable with a high standard of living than unhappy and poor.

Saving $5 a day with a 10% return accumulates $1,000,000 in 40.3 years, unless it doesn’t and/or you didn’t.

If failing to plan is planning to fail, the standard of living and quality of life of those who plan should be higher than those that don’t. If achievement takes less time via preparation, you should get farther faster than those didn’t. 

Hope is not a plan. What is putting off until tomorrow what should have been done yesterday?

A bank deposits $86,400 in your account every day, but only for one day. What you don’t use you lose until you get another $86,400 the next day. 

You get 86,400 un-redeem-ably finite seconds every day. 

Begin at a goal and prepare backward.

Turn a few options into many and enjoy the possibilities of what could be. 

Coffee tastes better if the latrines are dug downstream from an encampment.

US Army Field Regulations, 1861

8/1/22

On FICO Scores and Building, Repairing and Maximizing Credit scores

Credit scores are designed to measure default risk.  Understanding how the lending industry determines creditworthiness can accelerate building, rebuilding or maximizing borrowing ability and financial stability.

A credit report details residence, credit and payment activity for the previous seven to ten years.  A FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score is a mathematical measurement of the likelihood of debt repayment.  FICO (or ‘Beacon’) scores vary based on data from three main credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, depending on how each bureau analyzes data.

Higher scores indicate lower credit risk.  Mortgage scores are between 300 and 850, but most FICO bankcard and auto scores are between 250 and 900.   Generally, those with high FICO scores consistently pay bills on time, keep balances low on credit cards and other accounts and apply for new credit only as needed.

Collateral, Capital, Capacity and Character measure credit risk and determine credit scores;

1. Collateral:  The value of an asset which lenders can repossess in lieu of payment.

2. Capital:  Accessible financial wealth to repay debt including checking, savings accounts and equity in relatively liquid, 'sellable', available assets.

3. Capacity:  Ability to repay measured by income, banking and employment history.  Rising income and steady employment is better than higher debt and uneven work and earning histories.

4. Character:  A credit score and report review to predict trustworthiness.  Have both a savings account and pay bills with a checking account.  Have credit accounts and manage them responsibly.

FICO doesn't disclose exact credit score calculation formulas, but does disclose the following weightings:

1. Payment History = 35%;  Responsibly managing financial accounts and timely payments leads to higher scores.  Consumers without credit cards, checking and saving accounts tend to appear to be higher risk to lenders than those who've maintained assets, managed debt and dealt with the financial industry responsibly over time.  Making payments on time has the greatest effect on improving scores.  The longer bills are paid on time over time, the better the score.  

Delinquent payments negatively impact scores.  The presence of bankruptcy, liens, judgments, settlements, charge offs, repossessions, foreclosures and late payments harm scores.  

The impact of past problems fades as time passes and more recent better payment patterns appear, the higher scores should rise.  Paid off collection accounts usually stay on a report for seven years, but older problems count less than recent issues.  

Working with a retailer or business who may provide credit on a purchase regardless of credit standing can help.  Consider a secured credit card or a secured loan to repair damaged credit.  Most financial institutions will provide a credit card or a loan in exchange for a sum of money deposited with them until the loan is paid in full.  

2. Debt Burden = 30%;  A measure of a number of financial metrics; Debt to limit ratio, number of accounts with balances, amount owed across different types of accounts and amounts paid down on loans.  High outstanding debt relative to available credit can affect a report and score.

Rebuilding or increasing the ability to finance or refinance purchases with lower interest rates and payments begins with checking the data used to calculate reports.  Confirm amounts owed, interest rates charged and check for errors.  If a credit report correctly shows missed payments, get and stay current.  As long as a report is ordered from a credit agency or authorized organization, requesting credit reports won't affect scores.  Credit agencies are required to provide credit history information correctly, completely and confidentially.  Reports can be obtained without expense www.annualcreditreport.com.   Free credit reports can be reviewed three times per year if requests are alternated between www.transunion.com, www.equifax.com and www.experian.com

Apply for and open new credit accounts slowly, only as needed and responsibly pay them off.  If managing credit for a short time, don't open a lot of new accounts too rapidly.  Rapid account buildups by new credit users can be seen as risky to lenders.  New accounts lower average account age and has a larger effect on scores for those with little credit history.

As such a large part of a FICO score is determined by the ratio of credit used to credit available, one way to increase scores is to increase the credit limits on current credit card accounts.  The higher the credit limit on credit cards and revolving credit accounts, the lower the utilization ratio of total available credit.  Higher limits on existing credit lines can help a credit score.  Try to keep balances low relative to credit limits by staying at least 30% away from available limits.  When practical, pay off debt instead of moving it around.

Remove incorrect credit report information by disputing errors;  If a error is found, send requests for correction by certified mail with phone follow up to the reporting creditor and all three reporting agencies.  If a collection is paid or a debt is settled, ask the creditor to delete the credit report item, instead of a “paid collection” entry.  Document dates, phone numbers, times, names and titles of everyone spoken to etc...  Ask for written confirmation of corrections and a Universal Data Form (UDF), documents consumers and lenders can send to credit bureaus to update reports.  Also send confirmations and UDFs to all creditors, as interest rates on other accounts may have increased even if not related to erroneously reported entries.

3. Credit History = 15%;  Timely paying on credit card and installment loans raises credit scores. 

Pay bills on time by setting up payment reminders prioritizing paying down principal of the highest interest debt first while maintaining minimum payments on other accounts with lower rates.  Don't open unneeded credit cards to increase available credit.  For newer credit users, rapid account buildups can appear riskier to lenders.  Newer accounts usually lower average account age, which affects scores for consumers with little other credit history.  Lenders consider average age relative to the oldest accounts.  The older the average age of the total number of accounts, the better the score. Don't close unused credit cards or open unnecessary accounts to increase available credit, as doing so could lower credit scores.

4. Credit Type = 10%;  Financial institutions look for a positive history of managing different types of installment, revolving, consumer finance and mortgage accounts. 

5. Recent Credit Search History = 10%;  Too many recent 'hard' credit inquiries, when consumers apply for credit or a loan, especially if done in large numbers over too long of a time frame can hurt scores.  

Search for credit in a relatively short time frame.  Looking for mortgage, auto or student loans may cause multiple lenders to request reports for only one loan.  Credit Bureaus consider inquiries falling in a typical shopping period as just one inquiry.  FICO's model considers auto loan inquiries within two weeks as only one and will likely not meaningfully decrease scores.  Generally, most scoring systems ignore credit inquiries within thirty days while shopping and don’t consider multiple inquiries a negative after 12 months.

Have as much fun as soon as possible, with the least amount of risk for as long as you can.

7/25/22

Financial (Investment) Plan Manipulation

Financial Plans can be altered to sell investment clients and prospects on new investment ideas or staying on a current course with a Financial Adviser by showing misleadingly rosy computer generated long term wealth accumulation outlooks. 

An example of a Financial Plan summary attached to client monthly statements;


In 2012, a Wells Fargo Envision Investment Plan Sales Manager said “There are 441,942 households with Envision Plans of Record.” and “The overwhelming majority of Envision Plans do not include investment costs."

If “the overwhelming majority of Envision Plans didn't include investment costs” and unachievable goals have been 'legally' presented to clients, hundreds of thousands of Wells Fargo clients and millions of others may be misinformed of the probabilities of achieving financial goals presented by Financial Advisors across the globe. 

As shown after the third main bullet point below, what was called Wells Fargo's “Annual Investment Fee” was changed to the vague "Return Discount Rate" to convolute understanding;

 
The following document states: "If left at 0%, the Return Discount Rate will not be displayed on any Envision report pages. If you choose a Return Discount Rate above 0%, this assumption will be displayed on the Investment Plan Assumptions report page."

Meaning if the "Return Discount Rate", otherwise known as Annual Investment Fees aren't included, the information is not reflected in client presentations;

Example; The following shows a comparison of two reproducible versions of the same Plan with one difference; Including the fees the client was paying, and not including them. 

"Harold Lynn" had $1,000,000 invested, and paid total Annual Investment Fees of 2.5%, stated as the Return Discount Rate;


With a 10% annually compounded return with 2.5% extracted for fees each year, Harold would have $8,754,955 in 30 years;


The same "Harold Lynn" with $1,000,000 invested, but the 'Return Discount Rate' doesn't show up as the Annual Investment Fees weren't included;


With a 10% annually compounded return, Harold could erroneously believed he could have $17,449,402 in 30 years;


The first example includes the 2.5% annual investment fees Harold was paying. The second doesn't. Excluding the investment fees makes Harold's future appear more prosperous than reality.

If “The overwhelming majority of Envision Plans do not include investment costs", which plan do most Financial Advisors show clients?

The Wells Fargo Envision Plan including what Harold was actually paying would need to begin with about $840,000 more to achieve his goals, meaning the plan not including the 2.5% annual investment fees was misleading. 

Wells Fargo information is public record.

6/1/22

IRS "Dirty Dozen" Tax Scams

Scams put taxpayers at risk.

Consumers can help protect themselves by choosing a reputable tax preparer.

Phishing: Taxpayers should be alert to potential fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email about a bill or tax refund. Don’t click on one claiming to be from the IRS. Be wary of emails and websites that may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information.

Phone Scams: Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat to taxpayers. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as con artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation and license revocation, among other things.

Identity Theft: Taxpayers should be alert to tactics aimed at stealing their identities, not just during the tax filing season, but all year long. The IRS, working in conjunction with the Security Summit partnership of state tax agencies and the tax industry, has made major improvements in detecting tax return related identity theft during the last several years. But the agency reminds taxpayers that they can help in preventing this crime. The IRS continues to aggressively pursue criminals that file fraudulent tax returns using someone else’s Social Security number.

Return Preparer Fraud: Be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. There are some dishonest preparers who operate each filing season to scam clients, perpetuate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.

Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should take note of anyone promising inflated tax refunds. Those preparers who ask clients to sign a blank return, promise a big refund before looking at taxpayer records or charge fees based on a percentage of the refund are probably up to no good. To find victims, fraudsters may use flyers, phony storefronts or word of mouth via community groups where trust is high.

Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should take note of anyone promising inflated tax refunds. Those preparers who ask clients to sign a blank return, promise a big refund before looking at taxpayer records or charge fees based on a percentage of the refund are probably up to no good. To find victims, fraudsters may use flyers, phony storefronts or word of mouth via community groups where trust is high.

Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns: Taxpayers should avoid the temptation to falsely inflate deductions or expenses on their tax returns to pay less than what they owe or potentially receive larger refunds. Think twice before overstating deductions, such as charitable contributions and business expenses, or improperly claiming credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.

Fake Charities: Groups masquerading as charitable organizations solicit donations from unsuspecting contributors. Be wary of charities with names similar to familiar or nationally-known organizations. Contributors should take a few extra minutes to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate charities. IRS.gov has the tools taxpayers need to check out the status of charitable organizations.

Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Avoid improperly claiming the fuel tax credit, a tax benefit generally not available to most taxpayers. The credit is usually limited to off-highway business use, including use in farming. Taxpayers should also avoid misuse of the research credit. Improper claims often involve failures to participate in or substantiate qualified research activities or satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses.

Offshore Tax Avoidance: Successful enforcement actions against offshore cheating show it’s a bad bet to hide money and income offshore. People involved in offshore tax avoidance are best served by coming in voluntarily and getting caught up on their tax-filing responsibilities.

Frivolous Tax Arguments: Frivolous tax arguments may be used to avoid paying tax. Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims about the legality of paying taxes despite being repeatedly thrown out in court. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000.

Abusive Tax Shelters: Abusive tax structures including trusts and syndicated conservation easements are sometimes used to avoid paying taxes. The IRS is committed to stopping complex tax avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them. The vast majority of taxpayers pay their fair share, and everyone should be on the lookout for people peddling tax shelters that sound too good to be true. When in doubt, taxpayers should seek an independent opinion regarding complex products they are offered.

IRS


5/3/22

Holiday Season Family and Friend Questions

If everyone had to die on their 60th birthday,
and your spouse had to go 3 months before you,
would you choose to die with your spouse 3 months early,
or live without them for 3 more months?

Have you ever received a phone call
and listened to the message on the answering machine,
when you could have picked up?

If you were to invite 2 famous people for dinner,
alive or dead, other than anyone you love or would like to love,
who would they be?

What was the worst job you’ve ever had?

Is everybody related
if traced back far enough?

Have you ever marched for or against anything?

If you were stranded on a desert island
with a case of batteries and a CD player,
what CD would you want to listen to?

Was man predestined to have free will?

Have you ever saved a fortune from a cookie?

Have you ever fought for a cause?

What is your favorite kind of cheese?

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

Satchel Paige
First Negro pitcher in Major League Baseball

What’s the most adventurous thing
you’ve ever done?

What was your first job,
and how much did you get paid?

What is the least you’ve ever paid for gas?

What’s the most dangerous situation
you’ve ever been in?

What part of a newspaper do you read first?

What’s your favorite hobby?

Have you ever collected anything?

If so, what?

What do you currently spend most of your money on?

If your spouse and/or family is out of the house,
what movie would you want to watch?

If you had out of town guests,
where would you take them?

What’s your favorite musical group?

If you were to have life-sized cardboard cutout
of a famous individual in your living room,
who would it be?

Would you go,
if you won a free trip into space?

What is your earliest childhood memory?

What’s your favorite TV show?

Have you ever won anything?

What?

What is the best gift you ever got when you were young?

Were your parents meant to meet each other?

If you were on a debate team,
what would be your favorite subject?

If you had to write a book,
what would it be about?

If you could wake up tomorrow having acquired any skill or trait,
what would it be?

Do horoscopes apply to people in prison?

What would you be,
if you could be anything other than what you are now?

What age would you not like to have lived?

Who is the greatest leader of all time?

Do you think the FBI has a file on you?

What is your earliest financial memory?

Could antiperspirants make people bigger?

What would you be,
if you could be anything other than human?

What’s the first movie
you remember seeing in a theater?

If you were Superman
what would you do about illegal immigration?

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

What was the last thing you enjoyed reading?

If you were a farmer, what vegetable would you grow?

What famous person would you pick to be your mother?

If you could do anything you did yesterday again,
what would you do?

Have you ever witnessed
a felony?

Where were you on 9/11?

Is throwing a cigarette butt out a car window
littering?

If you were going to buy some Band-Aids,
what theme would you choose?

If you are on a game show and you just won an unseen car,
which you wouldn’t have to pay any taxes on,
what car would you want to see when the curtain opens?

What was the hardest era
of your life?

Who’s your favorite talk show host?

If you were stranded on a deserted island,
what two movies would you want to watch over and over?

What is your favorite sentimental possession?

What was your proudest moment?

What’s the most courageous thing
you’ve ever done?

What is your favorite family tradition?

What childhood possession
do you still have?

Who was the first president you were aware of?

What’s the worst weather situation
you’ve ever been in?

What is the best thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?

What’s the worst?

Who is your favorite actor or actress of all time ever?

Four frogs sitting on a log,
one decides to get off,
how many frogs are sitting on the log?

If you won a $500 gift certificate to one store,
what one store would it be?

If you had to play a musical instrument,
which one would you choose?

What was the most difficult paycheck you ever earned?

If you had $5,000 to spend in one day,
what would you do?

What's the most bizarre thing you've seen someone else do?

What would be your talent,
if you were to be on a nationally televised talent show?

If a book is to be written about you,
what would be its title?

What movie have you seen more times than any other?

What’s the best thing you do everyday?

What is the most important invention in the past two thousand years?

If a movie was to be made about you,
what famous actor would you like to play your part?

If you could teach any subject in a high school,
which one would you choose?

If you were to get a tattoo,
where would you put it and what would it be?

If you could pick any costume for a costume party,
what would you be?

Who is the greatest US president of all time?

What was the first concert
you saw live?

If you opened a restaurant,
what kind would it be?

If you could own a professional sports team,
which one would you own?

If you could compete in the Olympics,
what event would you pick?

How many hours per week
do you watch TV?

If you could be a dog,
what kind would you be?

Have you ever been let off the hook
for punishment you should have received?

If you could have a super power,
what would you choose and why?

Where would you go,
if you could go anywhere for vacation?

What professional sport would you play
if you could?

When would you go to first
in a time machine?

What was your first real job?

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever tasted?

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

If you tear a pair of pants,
do you mend them or get another pair?

Where did you see your most memorable sunrise or sunset?

If you could speak a foreign language,
which one would you choose?

If you got $500 gift certificate to any restaurant anywhere,
where would you go and what would you get?

If you could have a heightened sense,
would you choose taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing?

Have you ever boycotted anything?

What’s something you did when you were young
that your parents never found out about?

Have you ever told someone
the battery on your phone was low when it wasn't?

3/19/22

401k, 457, 403b's and the Federal Government's Thrift Savings Plan

Most U.S. retirement plans offer high-cost, growth retarding investment choices for employees hoping to retire with comfortable incomes.

Unlike expensive financial industry provided plans, the U.S. Federal Government's Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), designed by U.S. Federal Government employees for themselves, may be one of the best performing lowest cost retirement/investment plans in American history.

As of December 31, 2013, there was about $397 billion invested in the TSP with approximately 4.6 million participants.

The TSP is similar to 401(k) plans offered to private sector employees, except with much lower advisor, administrative and investment costs.

For every $100,000 in most financial industry provided retirement plans with a one percent fee, the cost to participants is about $1,000.  

For every $100,000 thousand in the TSP, federal employees pay about $45, at least about 95% less than most private sector designed plans.

If two thirds of the expenses could be removed from any given traditional retirement plan, the difference for employees over time can be substantial.  A recent study reported a “seemingly small 0.75 percent fee difference could cost a worker almost $100,000 in fees over a lifetime” and “the corrosive effect of high fees in many of these retirement accounts forces many Americans to work years longer than necessary or than planned.”

A study of more than 3,000 employer-sponsored 401(k) plans found average plan participants in actively managed funds paid almost a full percentage point more in annual fees than for low-cost index funds like those found in the TSP.

Over a span of decades, many businesses in the financial services industry, with the acquiescence of most members of Congress, the Executive Branch and some U.S. regulators, are responsible for not acting in the best interests of consumers, as many retirement plan fiduciaries don't know what they should and are overcharged almost across the board.

Replicating the TSP's structure would dramatically lower participant costs, which over time should substantially increase returns, effectively providing a "raise" for participants via less hard earned savings leaking profits to the financial industry.

The single biggest predictor of mutual fund performance is fund expenses. The lower the expenses, the higher returns should be.  In the unlikely event an actively managed fund charging 1% consistently beats an index benchmark by 0.5%, a typical retirement plan investor would end up with a constant return of 50% less than its benchmark.

The less investors pay for investment and administration services, the more money should accumulate for retirement.  Passive portfolios holding stocks in broad-based market indices have substantially outperformed average active managers.  The one-third of active managers who outperform indices in any given period are usually not the same as in the next period.

S&P Dow Jones Indices analyzed 715 top-performing mutual funds, 
focusing on U.S.-stock funds for the past four years through March, 
and found that only two stayed in the top 25% through a four-year period.

Wall Street Journal
9/8/2014


Just like most private label retirement plans, TSP expenses include management fees for five low cost index investment funds and expenses related to operating the TSP’s record-keeping system, providing participant services, printing and mailing notices, statements, and publications.

The TSP's five funds;

The C Fund, which is based on Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) index fund.

The S Fund, an index fund based on the Dow Jones U.S. Completion TSM Index, which is comprised of stocks of small to medium-sized U.S. companies not included in the C fund.

The I Fund, with stocks of 21 developed countries matching the Morgan Stanley Capital International EAFE (Europe, Australasia, Far East) index.

The F Fund, which is an debt related bond index fund with government, corporate, and mortgage-backed bonds representing the Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index.

And the G Fund, essentially a Government Securities Money Market Fund.


In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on September 16, 2014, Vanguard Group founder John Bogle said: “A person saving for retirement who chooses low-cost investments could have a standard of living throughout retirement more than 65% higher than that of a comparable investor in high-cost investments.”  Bogle assumed expenses accounted for about one percentage point of the cost difference between actively managed funds and index funds.
.
.
In 457 plan land, the Vantagepoint Funds are distributed by ICMA-RC Services LLC, a wholly owned broker-dealer subsidiary of ICMA-RC.

There are two Vantagepoint 500 Stock Index Funds, which are not identified.

Vantagepoint 500 Stock Index Fund 1 - Total expenses = 0.41%

Vantagepoint 500 Stock Idx II - Total expenses =  0.21%
.
.
Guilford County's ICMA US Stock Fund Expense Ratios;


Guilford County Total Expenses
for Vantagepoint 500 Stock Index Fund = 0.97%
.
.
Winston Salem's US Stock Fund Expense Ratios;


Winston Salem Total Expenses for non-ICMA proprietary Vanguard 500 Index Fund is 0.05%, plus a 0.34% Administration Fee = 0.39%, or less than half of what Guilford County pays for the exact same thing.

For every $100,000 invested in the 500 Index Funds, Guilford County employees are paying $580 more per year than Winston Salem's.

Prudent Man Rule

An investment standard
…to govern the action of those responsible for investing money for other people.

The fiduciary is required to act as a prudent man or woman would
in regards to investing monies of others.

Bloomberg 

City of Jacksonville's VT Plus Fund Expense Ratio = 1.38%;


City of Durham's VT Plus Fund Expense Ratio = 1.11%;


 City of Greensboro's VT Plus Fund Expense Ratio = 0.82%;


City of Orlando, Florida's VT Plus Fund Expense Ratio = 0.82%;


Orlando quarter end VT PLUS Fund performance = 2.06%

Jacksonville quarter end VT PLUS Fund performance = 1.26%

Difference = 0.8%, or $800 per $100,000.
.
.
Guilford County Fee Structure = "1.44% of plan assets";


Guilford County has 65 participants in its $1,926,638 ICMA retirement plan.

$27,799 divided by 65 participants = $427 per participant per year.

The cost to each participant could be about $112 per year, or about 74% less.

City of Greensboro's Fee Structure = "0.84% of plan assets";


The City of Greensboro, with about $87,898,314 million and 2,781 participants, pays a much higher $266 per participant per year relative to assets.

The cost to each Greensboro employee participant should be at least less than $114 per year, or more than 57% less.

$266 each - $114 each  = $152 per participant

$152 x 2781 participants = at least $422,712 per year bleeding from Greensboro employees to ICMA and Wall Street.

City of Winston Salem Fee Structure, without an additional 0.34% administration fee, on top of the stated "0.47% of plan assets";


The City of Winston Salem, who went with ICMA in 2012 with $19,933,124 and 1,029 participants, only pays about $145.30 each per year to the same company Greensboro is paying $266 each to.

Greensboro's 2,781 participants with $87,898,314 at ICMA pay about $121 more each than Winston Salem's 1,029 employees with $19,933,124 at ICMA for the same services to the same company, even though Winston Salem has fewer employees and more than four times less money.

Other than high investment costs, the financial industry's predominant administrative expense structure is comprised of asset based fees as opposed to flat dollar pricing.

The financial industry is very much in favor of asset based fees, as the profit margin increases over time via compound interest.  Flat dollar retirement plan Record-keeping and Reporting fees are in the best interests of participants, as shown in Greensboro's case.

Generic TSP based proposal for the City of Greensboro's 457 plan, which should save Greensboro's employees about $2,536,550 in fees over 5 years;


2/13/22

"As of Jan. 28, the tally of outstanding individual and business returns requiring what the IRS calls “manual processing” — an operation where an employee must take at least one action rather than relying on an automated system to move the case — came to 23.7 million"

 "Nearly 24 million taxpayers are still waiting for the Internal Revenue Service to process their tax returns from last year — a number far larger than previously reported by the agency — with many refunds being held up for 10 months or more.

The inventory of unprocessed returns and related correspondence was provided by the IRS’s taxpayer advocate service to the tax-writing committees in Congress. The backlog will probably further slow service in the 2022 filing season; the Treasury Department, the IRS’s parent agency, warned in January that it expected its response to be subpar this year.

The pileup of work that remains from last year, according to three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not approved to speak publicly, comes as the tax agency struggles to hire and train new staff to clear the logjam. In response, the IRS is considering suspending tax collections and excusing some penalty enforcement.

...Adding to the challenges, a new report from the IRS inspector general this month found that the agency continues to suffer from severe hiring shortages, inefficient practices and old equipment. That includes mail processing woes, since its systems have “outdated dust collectors” that cause paper jams.

...As of Jan. 28, the tally of outstanding individual and business returns requiring what the IRS calls “manual processing” — an operation where an employee must take at least one action rather than relying on an automated system to move the case — came to 23.7 million, the taxpayer advocate data shows.

...In January, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins had reported a backlog of at least 10 million returns based on IRS data. An IRS official, meantime, said the agency counts the inventory from last year’s filing season at about 6 million paper returns for individual taxpayers. Both numbers are far higher than the unprocessed returns the IRS faced before the pandemic — in the past, the agency typically carried 1 million or fewer returns into the next tax season.

...The stockpile does not include audits lingering because of pandemic slowdowns, enforcement and collection actions, appeals of audits, notices of tax liens, penalties or other business in the pipeline, Hooper said.

Roughly 10 percent — about 17 million people — still file Form 1040, the traditional individual income tax return, on paper.

The IRS is taking at least 10 months to process paper returns filed for the 2020 tax year, and has caught up only to April 2021 for returns without errors, according to the most recent data on its website. Last year the vast majority of taxpayers — about 77 percent — received refunds.

Because returns are processed in the order in which they were received, “it does mean the 2022 filings made this year are at the end of the line,” Hooper said.

The agency has already suspended mailing some automated collection notices that are triggered when records show a taxpayer owes taxes and has not filed a tax return. Many of these letters have been sent after returns have been filed but have not been processed."

The Washington Post

12/26/21

Medicare Audit 2022

Without a Medicare Supplement policy or Medicare Advantage plan, a short $150,000 hospital stay including $100,000 in medical services under Medicare Parts A & B should cost about;

$1,556; Part A hospital inpatient deductible
+ $233; Part B deductible
$20,000; (20% medical services co-pay for $100,000)

= $21,789 for the Benefit Period, which could occur again within the same year, not including Part D prescription drugs
.
.
Without a Medicare Supplement policy or Medicare Advantage plan. a $550,000 hospital stay of less than 60 days including $300,000 in medical services should cost about; 

$1,556; Part A hospital inpatient deductible
+ $233; Part B deductible
+ $60,000; (20% medical services co-pay for $300,000)

= $61,789, for the Benefit Period, which could occur again within the same year, not including Part D prescription drugs
.
.
With a Plan G No Deductible Medigap Supplement policy, a short $150,000 hospital stay with $100,000 in medical services under Medicare Parts A & B combined should cost about;

+ $233 Medicare Part B Deductible
+ $0 Plan G Deductible

= $233 Plan G Medigap 2022 Maximum Out Of Pocket limit (MOOP) per Benefit Period, not including Part D Drug Costs
.
.
With a Plan G No Deductible Medigap Supplement policy, a $550,000 hospital stay of less than 60 days including $300,000 in medical services should cost about; 

+ $233 Medicare Part B Deductible
+ $0 Plan G Deductible

= $233 Plan G Medigap 2022 Maximum Out Of Pocket limit (MOOP) per Benefit Period, not including Part D Drug Costs

.
.
With a Medicare Advantage "Give Back" Contract, a short $150,000 hospital stay with $100,000 or a $550,000 hospital stay of less than 60 days including $300,000 in medical services under Medicare Parts A & B combined should cost about;

$7,550 "In Network" Medicare Advantage 2022 Maximum Out Of Pocket limit (MOOP), not including Part D Drug Costs, or $11,300 if "Out of Network".
.
.
If you don’t enroll during the once in a lifetime Medigap Open Enrollment Period, during which carriers must approve applications for coverage regardless of any health issues, you can be denied a Medicare Supplement plan due to pre-existing conditions

Medicare Advantage contracts have annual enrollment periods with no health questions or underwriting ever.

If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage contract when eligible for Medicare, you can switch to a Medicare Supplement without underwriting within the first 12 months.
.
.
Medicare is prohibited from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and Part D plans do not have MOOPs, but a “Catastrophic Phase”, when Medicare pays for the majority of drug costs.

2022 “Catastrophic Phase” coverage begins at $7,050, up from $6,550 in 2021.

Sometimes some Prescription Drug Plans with monthly premiums can cost less than drug coverage in some Medicare Advantage contracts.

Sometimes the lowest monthly cost plan can end up being the most expensive and vice versa.  For those who take more expensive drugs, it is imperative to evaluate prescriptions for each plan and compare costs and alternatives at least annually. 

Often, some Medicare drug plans don’t cover less expensive generic prescriptions.  
Check for discounts for cash or with non-insurance discount pharmacy programs and different sources.  Determine if name brand alternatives for uncovered generics are covered or if there’s better pricing for similar drugs.
.
.
Hartzman Tax & Fiduciary not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program.  Visit Medicare.gov or HealthCare.gov for the most current information.  George Hartzman is an independently licensed Insurance Agent.  Official Medicare and ACA Program legal guidance is contained in the relevant statutes, regulations, and rulings.  Reasonable effort has been made to have this information represent the intent of legal contract language.  However contract language stands alone, and complete terms of any coverage is determined by policy documentation.

1/22/21

A potential $3,200 or more in stimulus money is why many between 17 and 24 should file taxes early this year

Many taxpayers who were eligible for stimulus checks either didn't receive any or didn't get the correct amounts. 

About 13 million young people aged 17 to 24 who were listed as dependents on their family's taxes were not eligible to receive stimulus money, based on last year's tax returns for 2019.

If dependents between 17 and 24 and some older file a tax return and won't be claimed as a dependent for 2020 taxes due this year, they should receive $1,200, plus $600, plus whatever comes next, likely $1,400, for a total of $3,200.

The $1,400 may turn into $2,000 by the time the stimulus law passes, or it may be less, but political promises were made during the election which should limit lower amounts.

Filing taxes early could speed up delivery on any additional stimulus coming later.

1/7/21

2021 Federal Income Tax Deadlines

Important Due Dates for Filing Your 2020 Tax Return and Payments;

Monday, January 11, 2021 is the deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in December 2020 to report to their employers.

The deadline to pay tax year 2020 fourth-quarter estimated tax payments is January 15, 2021. 

Employers have until Monday, February 1, 2021 to send out W-2 forms for 2020 employee earnings as well as most 1099 forms reporting for non-employee compensation, independent contractors and distributions from retirement plans.

Financial institutions must also mail mortgage, student loan, bank interest, dividends, Form 1099-B relating to sales of stock, bonds, or mutual funds, Form 1099-S for real estate transactions and Form 1099-MISC before Monday, February 1, 2021.

Monday, February 1, 2021 is also the deadline for catching up on unpaid fourth-quarter estimated taxes without additional penalties.

Healthcare Insurance Marketplace Form 1095-A should be mailed no later than mid-February and may be available in individual accounts at HealthCare.gov as soon as mid-January.

The deadline for farmers and fishermen to file individual income tax returns is Tuesday, March 2, 2021. 

Partnership and S corporation returns (IRS Forms 1065 and 1120-S respectively) are due Monday, March 15, 2021. The extended deadline is Sept. 15, 2021.

2020's personal income tax return tax return deadline is Thursday, April 15, 2021.

C corporation income tax returns (IRS Forms 1120) operating on a calendar year are due April 15, 2021. The extended deadline is Oct. 15, 2021. 

For C and S corporations operating on a fiscal year (non-calendar), the deadline is the 15th day of the fourth month following the end of the corporation's year end. (IRS Forms 1120 and 1120-S)