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Our news articles are posted on a regular basis to give our clients relevant and timely information about matters pertaining to our financial services. Browse through our current and archived articles to learn more.

Wealth Management: Socially Responsible Investing: Strategies That Strive To Do Good and Deliver Returns

Socially Responsible Investing:
Strategies That Strive To Do Good and Deliver Returns

Sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) investing has been around for a long time, but growing interest has moved it into the mainstream. In the United States, SRI assets reached $8.72 trillion in 2016, more than double the amount in 2012. SRIs now account for more than 20% of all professionally managed U.S. assets. (1)

Surveys suggest that many people (especially women and young investors) want their investment dollars to have a positive impact on society. (2) Of course, personal values are subjective, and investors may have very different beliefs and priorities.




But there is also a wider recognition that some harmful business practices can affect a corporation’s bottom line and its longer-term prospects. In some instances, good corporate citizenship may boost a company’s public image and help create value, whereas short-sighted actions taken to cut costs could cause more expensive damage in the future.

In fact, recent studies have shown that SRI stocks and mutual funds as a group tend to perform similarly to the broader stock market over the long term, even though performance may diverge over shorter periods. (3)

Data Driven Decisions
Services that provide research and ratings for investment analysis may also verify and publish environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data associated with publicly traded companies. Money managers who use SRI strategies often integrate ESG factors with traditional financial analysis. Some examples of ESG issues include environmental practices, employee relations, human rights, product safety and utility, and respect for human rights.

For example, an SRI approach might include companies with positive ESG ratings while screening out companies that raise red flags by creating a high level of carbon emissions, engaging in questionable employment prctices, investing in countries with poor human rights or profiting for certain products or services (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, gambling, weapon).

Some investors may not want to avoid entire industries. As an alternative, they could use ESG data to compare how businesses in the same industry have adapted to meet social and environmental challenges, and to gain some insight into which companies may be exposed to risks or have a competitive advantage.

Investment Vehicles
Many SRI mutual funds are broad based and diversified, some are actively managed, and others track a particular index with its own universe of SRI stocks.

Specialty funds, however, may focus on a narrower theme such as clean energy; they can be more volatile and carry additional risks chat may not be suitable for all investors. It’s important to keep in mind that different SRI funds may focus on very different ESG criteria, and there is no guarantee that an SRI fund will achieve its objectives.

There are now more than 1,000 different funds that incorporate ESG factors. (4) As the universe of SRI investment s continues co expand, so does the opportunity to build a portfolio chat aligns with your personal values as well as your asset allocation, risk tolerance, and time horizon.

As with all stock investments, the return and principal value of SRI stocks and investment funds fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset-allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

Investment funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

1, 4) The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment 2016
2-3) The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2017



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Wealth Management: Illinois Highlights Credit Risk, Still, Muni Bids May Offer Tax Relief

State and local governments sell bonds to help fund ongoing expenses and finance public projects such as roads, sewers, schools and stadiums. Because government entities have the power to raise taxes and fees as needed to pay interest, municipal bonds are generally considered to be less risky than corporate bonds, so they typically offer lower yields.

Like all bonds, munis are rated for credit risk. A range of AAA down to BBB (or Baa) is considered “investment grade,” and lower-rated or “junk” bonds carry greater risk.

In June 2017, credit rating agencies warned that Illinois could become the first state to have its debt downgraded to junk status if a budget was not enacted for the 2018 fiscal year. A severe budget crisis and a political standoff had left the state unable to pay its bills. (1)

Illinois lawmakers passed a $36 billion budget and a $5 billion income tax increase in July, which are expected to stabilize state finances in the near term. (2)  The three major rating agencies affirmed Illinois’ investment-grade status, but warned that the state’s fiscal challenges, which include more than $250 million in unfunded pension obligations, could continue to affect the state’s credit in the long run. (3-4)

But despite fiscal problems in some cities and states, tax advantaged muni bonds are a key portfolio component for many high income investors with a relatively low risk tolerance, as well as retirees who depend on the stable income.


Tax Treatment

Municipal bond interest is generally exempt from federal income tax. I you live in the state where a bond was issued, muni interest is typically exempt from state and local income taxes as well. (The interest on a bond issued outside the state in which you reside could be subject to state and local taxes, and some municipal bond interest could be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax.)

Tax-exempt mutual funds earn interest from the state and local bonds they own, so they share the same federal income tax exemption. However, if you sell a municipal bond or tax-exempt fund shares at a profit, you could incur capital gains taxes.

The lower tax-free yields offered by muni bonds and tax exempt mutual funds are often more valuable to investors in the top tax brackets. For example, a 3% tax-free yield is equivalent to a 4.62% taxable yield for an investor in the 35% federal income tax bracket.


Risks Remain

If Illinois’ credit rating were to fall into “junk” territory, it would raise the state’s borrowing costs and rattle investors. Some mutual fund might not be allowed to buy the state’s junk-rated debt, depending on the investment guidelines. (5)

In fact, the shaky credit situation in Illinois, which allows a series of defaults in Puerto Rico, highlights the importance of looking closely at any bond fund’s underlying investments.

The return and principal value of bonds and mutual fund shares fluctuate with changes in market conditions. When redeemed, they may be worth more or less than their original cost. Bond funds are subject to the same inflation, interest-rate, and credit-risks associated with their underlying bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund’s performance.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.


1,4) CNNMoney, June 27, 2017
2-3) Reuters, July 20, 2017
5 Bloomberg, July 20, 2017


Registered Representatives offering Securities through American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. Member: FINRA, SIPC. Investment Advisory products/services are offered through American Portfolios Advisors Inc., a SEC Registered Investment Advisor. G.R. Reid Wealth Management Services, LLC is not a registered investment advisor and is independent of American Portfolios Financial Services Inc. and American Portfolios Advisors Inc.

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Community Outreach: Cycle for Survival 

Every Friday, participating G.R. Reid staffers make a charitable contribution when they wear jeans to work. Subsequently, every month the G.R. Reid employee team makes a donation to a different Charity. The most recent contribution was to Cycle for Survival in support of rare cancer research led by Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Cycle for Survival is the movement to beat rare cancers. High-energy indoor team cycling events provide a tangible way people to fight back—100% of all money raised directly funds lifesaving rare cancer research. Rare cancer patients make up about half of all people fighting cancer, but they often have limited or no treatment options because rare cancer research is drastically underfunded. Cycle for Survival raised $34 million in 2017—more than $178 million in a decade. Every single dollar is directly allocated to rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center within six months of the events. Click to learn more.


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Its Not Too Late To Contribute To Your IRA For 2017

Whether you are still working or retired, you should periodically review your IRAs. Here are few things to remember.

Contribution limits
If you’re still working, review the 2017 IRA contribution and deduction limits to make sure you are taking full advantage of the opportunity to save for your retirement. You can make 2017 IRA contributions until April 17, 2018.

Excess contributions
If you exceed the 2017 IRA contribution limit, you may withdraw excess contributions from your account by the due date of your tax return (including extensions). Otherwise, you must pay a 6% tax each year on the excess amounts left in your account.

Required minimum distributions
If you are age 70½ or older this year, you must take a 2017 required minimum distribution by December 31, 2017 (by April 1, 2018, if you turned 70½ in 2017). You can calculate the amount of your IRA required minimum distribution by using our Worksheets. You must calculate the required minimum distribution separately for each IRA that you own other than any Roth IRAs, but you can withdraw the total amount from one or more of your non-Roth IRAs. Remember that you face a 50% excise tax on any required minimum distribution that you fail to take on time.

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Disclosing Noncompliant and Unreported Foreign Accounts and Assets

The IRS has announced that it will close the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) effective September 28, 2018. The IRS is encouraging taxpayers who need to disclose noncompliant and unreported foreign accounts and assets to come forward before September 28. Qualifying taxpayers who have unreported foreign accounts can use the IRS’s OVDP to come into compliance while avoiding the risk of criminal prosecution and minimizing otherwise applicable civil penalties, such as the FBAR penalty. While the IRS announcement notes that after the 28th, the IRS will make available additional information about possible avenues for taxpayers to disclose unreported foreign accounts in the future, such future programs or opportunities, if any are in fact announced, may subject taxpayers to increased penalties as compared to the current OVDP.

As we have seen in the past, each version of the OVDP (iterations of which date back to 2009) has brought with it increases in the applicable penalties. Therefore, taxpayers who continue to hold non-compliant foreign accounts or assets are encouraged to consult with their advisors about the current OVDP program before that window of opportunity closes.

Negotiating voluntary disclosures with the Internal Revenue Service avoids criminal prosecution and limits civil penalties on behalf of clients with foreign bank accounts.


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IRS Releases Updated Form W-4 and Withholding Calculator

The IRS has released an updated version of Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate) and its online withholding calculator. These tools allow taxpayers to check their 2018 tax withholding following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

The IRS is encouraging taxpayers to perform a quick “paycheck checkup” to make sure sufficient tax is being withheld from their paychecks. This is particularly important for (1) two-income families; (2) people with two or more jobs at the same time or who only work for part of the year; (3) people with children who claim credits (such as the child tax credit); (4) people who itemized deductions in 2017; and (5) people with high incomes and more complex tax returns.


The IRS anticipates making further withholding changes for 2019 and will work with businesses and the tax and payroll communities to implement these changes.

The revised withholding calculator can be accessed at


G.R. Reid Payroll Services can handle all of your business payroll needs. Contact us to learn more.



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Accounting & Tax: Identity Theft—IRS Warns Taxpayers about New Refund Scam

The IRS has alerted taxpayers of a new scam in which criminals deposit fraudulent tax refunds into an individual’s bank account and then attempt to reclaim the funds. They accomplish this by (1) hacking tax practitioners’ computers to steal taxpayer data; (2) using the stolen information to file fraudulent tax returns; (3) having the refunds deposited into the taxpayers’ bank accounts; and (4) telling the victims the money was mistakenly deposited into their accounts and asking them to return it. Criminals may pose as debt collection agency officials acting on behalf of the IRS, or the taxpayer may receive an automated call purportedly from the IRS.

The IRS encourages victims of this scam to follow the procedures outlined in Tax Topic Number 161 Returning an Erroneous Refund.

Taxpayers should immediately discuss the issue with their financial institutions and tax preparers. Click to contact us.

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Accounting & Tax: IRS Clarifies Deductibility of Home Equity Loan Interest

For tax years 2018–2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated the deduction for interest on home equity debt and limited the mortgage interest deduction to qualified residence debt of up to $750,000 ($375,000 for married taxpayers filing separately). In a recent News Release, the IRS advised taxpayers that interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit is still deductible if the funds are used to buy, build, or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan. For example, interest on a home equity loan used to build an addition to an existing home is generally deductible (subject to the new dollar limit on qualified residence debt). However, interest on a home equity loan used to pay personal living expenses, such as credit card debt, is not deductible. Also, interest on a home equity loan on a taxpayer’s main home to purchase a vacation home is not deductible.

To discuss your specific Accounting & Tax Needs, click to contact us.


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Group Health Benefits: Communicating Changes to Your Plan


The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) generally allows a group health plan to modify its benefit plan so long as the procedure followed is consistent with the plan terms and ERISA. The plan administrator must inform participants of material modifications to the plan or changes to the information contained in the summary plan description (SPD) by providing them a summary of material modifications (SMM) or a revised SPD. Additional notices are required under Health Care Reform in connection with the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC).

ERISA Notice Requirements
The following are key notice requirements that apply to group health plans under ERISA.

Summary Plan Description (SPD)
The summary plan description is the primary document that provides participants of ERISA-covered plans with information about the plan, what benefits are available under the plan, the rights of participants and beneficiaries under the plan, and how the plan works. The SPD must accurately reflect the contents of the plan  as of the date not earlier than 120 days prior to the date the summary plan description is provided.

Participants are entitled to receive a copy of the SPD automatically when becoming covered under the plan. An updated SPD must be furnished every 5 years if changes are made to SPD information or the plan is amended. Otherwise, an SPD must be furnished every 10 years. Additionally, if a plan is changed, participants must be informed, either through a revised SPD, or in a separate document, called a summary of material modifications, which also must be provided free of charge.


Notice of Plan Changes:
Summary of Material Modifications (SMM)

The summary of material modifications describes material modifications to the plan and changes to information required to be included in the SPD. Material changes that do not result in a reduction in covered services or benefits must be disclosed through an SMM not later than 210 days after the end of the plan year in which the change was adopted (note that timely distribution of an updated SPD may satisfy this requirement).

For purposes of this notice requirement, a material modification includes any modification to the coverage offered under a plan that, independently, or in conjunction with other contemporaneous modifications or changes, would be considered by an average plan participant to be an important change in covered benefits or other terms of coverage under the plan or policy. A material modification could be an enhancement of covered benefits or services or other more generous plan or policy terms. It includes, for example, coverage of previously excluded benefits or reduced cost-sharing.

Material Reduction in Covered Services or Benefits—
Provide Notice Within 60 Days

The administrator of a group health plan is required to provide each participant covered under the plan with a summary of any modification to the plan or change in the information required to be included in the SPD that is a material reduction in covered services or benefits not later than 60 days after the date of adoption of the modification or change (note that this summary may be provided instead with information about the plan that is furnished at regular intervals of not more than 90 days, if certain requirements are satisfied).

A “material reduction in covered services or benefits” means any modification to the plan or change in the information required to be included in the SPD that, independently or in conjunction with other contemporaneous modifications or changes, would be considered by the average plan participant to be an important reduction in covered services or benefits under the plan. A reduction in covered services or benefits generally would include any plan modification or change that:

• Eliminates benefits payable under the plan;

• Reduces benefits payable under the plan, including a reduction that occurs as a result of a change in formulas, methodologies or schedules that serve as the basis for making benefit determinations;

• Increases premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, or other amounts to be paid by a participant or beneficiary;

• Reduces the service area covered by a health maintenance organization; or

• Establishes new conditions or requirements (e.g., preauthorization requirements) to obtaining services or benefits under the plan.


Fulfilling ERISA Notice Obligations

Where information is required to be provided under ERISA, the plan administrator must use measures “reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt of the material by plan participants, beneficiaries and other specified individuals.” Material which is required to be furnished to all participants covered under the plan must be sent by a method or methods of delivery likely to result in full distribution. Acceptable methods of delivery include:

• In-hand delivery to an employee at his or her worksite;

• First-class mail; and

• Second or third-class mail, but only if return and forwarding postage is guaranteed and address correction is requested (note that any material sent by second or third-class mail which is returned with an address correction must be sent again by first-class mail or personally delivered to the participant at his or her worksite).

Electronic delivery may also be acceptable provided that certain requirements are satisfied. For more information on acceptable delivery methods, please click here.


Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) Notice Requirements

Under Health Care Reform, effective for plan years and open enrollment periods beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2012, group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group coverage are required to provide participants and beneficiaries, without charge, a summary of benefits and coverage (SBC)  containing specific information about the plan and coverage, at several points during the enrollment process and upon request. The SBC must comply with certain appearance and format requirements and must utilize terminology understandable by the average plan enrollee.

Notice of Modification—
Provide No Later Than 60 Days Prior to Effective Date of Material Change

If a group health plan or health insurance issuer offering group health insurance coverage makes any material modification in any of the terms of the plan or coverage that would affect the content of the SBC, that is not reflected in the most recently provided SBC, and that occurs other than in connection with a renewal or reissuance of coverage, the plan or issuer must provide notice of the modification to enrollees not later than 60 days prior to the date on which such modification will become effective. Notice provided in a complete and timely manner may also satisfy the requirement that a group health plan provide a summary of material modifications (SMM) under ERISA.

A material modification for this purpose includes any modification to the coverage offered under a plan that, independently, or in conjunction with other contemporaneous modifications or changes, would be considered by an average plan participant to be an important change in covered benefits or other terms of coverage under the plan or policy. A material modification could be an enhancement of covered benefits or services or other more generous plan or policy terms. A material modification could also be a material reduction in covered services or benefits or more stringent requirements for receipt of benefits.

For more information regarding this requirement, including requirements with respect to the form of the notice, please click here

Click to Contact us to discuss your Group Healthcare Insurance Needs.


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Understanding Life Insurance

Planning to meet the financial needs of your survivors is one of the most important and fundamental steps in creating a sound financial strategy for you and your family. This step usually requires the purchase of a life insurance policy to ensure that your family’s needs will continue to be met, even after your untimely death cuts your earnings potential short. 

Let us help you understand and select the right policy for you:

Corporate Sponsored Plans
Term Life Insurance
Universal Life Insurance
Whole Life insurance
Single Premium Life Insurance
Survivorship Life Insurance
Variable Universal Life Insurance

Term Life Insurance

is the simplest form of life insurance. It provides affordable protection for a specific period of time at a scheduled premium level. Premiums may increase at the end of the term.

You choose a coverage level, a term (usually 5, 10, 15,  20 & 30 years) and name a beneficiary, that is, the person you want to receive the benefit if you die. If you die while your term life insurance policy is in force, the death benefit is paid to the beneficiary you chose.

At the end of the term, you can renew your coverage often at a higher premium, without having to provide evidence of good health. You can also convert it to a permanent life insurance policy which builds cash value and may earn dividends.

Term insurance can help you meet a number of personal and business needs and is often a good choice:

When life insurance is essential but dollars are scarce

For a well-defined period of time

To protect your family (insurance benefits can help pay a mortgage or fund a child’s education)

To protect your business (benefits can ensure business continuation by helping to cover business expenses)


Universal Life Insurance

Universal life products give you the flexibility to choose the amount of protection that best suits your family or business. It allows you to increase or decrease coverage as insurance needs change. Increased coverage may be subject to underwriting requirements. You may not decrease your coverage below the required minimum. A decrease may result in a surrender charge being applied against the policy’s cash value. With universal life insurance, you control the amount and frequency of payments. Looking towards the future? You have the option to increase the premium or make lump sum contributions, subject to limits as specified in the policy. The extra dollars grow tax-deferred, and may increase the cash and death benefit values. On the other hand, in a temporary cash crunch, you can pay less than the scheduled premium and let the policy’s accumulated cash value pay the remainder of the monthly charges. Universal life products can be customized with innovative policy features to fit your lifestyle.


Variable Universal Life:

VUL offers permanent insurance protection, usually through age 95. Simply put, this means that as long as you meet the policy costs, you are guaranteed protection. Some term insurance products periodically require proof of insurability to continue coverage. While there are term products that can cover you for life without additional requirements, their rising costs can make them prohibitive.

Additionally, while all term insurance is purchased with after-tax dollars, VUL has the potential to satisfy its policy costs with pre-tax dollars (policy’s cash value accumulates on a tax-deferred basis), further strengthening the VUL strategy.

At first look, term insurance may seem attractive because you can purchase large amounts of coverage at a relatively inexpensive price. But, the cost should not be the only consideration that goes into your decision making process. For instance, consider the impact of becoming uninsurable at the end of the term period due to a health condition. You may save a few dollars today, but the eventual cost of un-insurability may be the death benefit your beneficiaries will never receive.

Permanent protection also offers a host of policy riders that can further enhance the effectiveness of your policy. Term insurance provides a much more limited range of riders.


Variable Universal Life has Cash Value Accumulation
You can also allocate a portion of each VUL premium to one or several investment divisions, or a fixed-rate general account option. These investment divisions typically include stock, bond, balanced, international, and money-market portfolios. Earnings within the investment divisions will vary with market conditions and your principal may be at risk. Premium payments plus investment earnings, less policy fees and charges, serve as your policy’s cash value. Usually, you can allocate as little as 1% of the premium to any of the investment divisions in a VUL policy. It should be noted that a decrease in your policy’s cash value may decrease the overall amount of insurance coverage.

Term insurance has no cash value. You do have the option of “investing the difference” in growth-oriented products, like mutual funds. The value of your mutual fund account will vary with market conditions. Your principal may be at risk and, in most instances, mutual fund earnings are taxable each year. This means that you have less money working towards achieving long term goals. Most mutual funds also require a minimum dollar amount to participate in a particular portfolio.

Investing in vehicles like mutual funds is still a solid strategy to follow. But you have to have the discipline to carry this out. If you neglect to put money aside for the future, the “buy term and invest the difference” strategy collapses. Without the ‘invest’ portion, you are left with a term policy that is incapable of accumulating funds for the future.

VUL policies are sold by prospectus only. Investors are asked to consider the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses of the investment carefully before investing. Both the product prospectus and the underlying fund prospectuses contain this and other information about the product and underlying investment options. You should read the prospectuses carefully before investing.


Survivorship Life Insurance

Under one arrangement, you may want to establish an irrevocable life insurance trust to purchase the insurance policy, with your heirs as beneficiaries. (This keeps the insurance proceeds out of your estate for tax purposes.) By means of a will, estate assets then pass to the surviving spouse at the first death. At the second death, the insurance death benefit is paid, with the policy proceeds passing directly to the named beneficiaries. They can then use the money to replace assets lost to taxes.

• Price. Since two lives are insured, premiums are generally lower than for two single-life policies.

• No second guessing. There is no need to plan based on who will die first.

• Underwriting is generally more liberal than that for a single life policy, since two lives are insured and the benefit is paid at the death of the second. A proposed insured who may have been denied life insurance coverage by a single life insurance product, may be approved for coverage by a survivorship life insurance product. Keep in mind that not every person who has been declined for coverage for a single-life policy is necessarily eligible for coverage under a survivorship life insurance policy.


Survivorship can meet other needs as well, and is commonly used to benefit:

• Children with special needs. The insurance can provide guaranteed funding for a trust to provide for a child with disabilities after the death of the second parent.

• Charitable gifts. This coverage can help create a living legacy for a favorite charitable organization after both spouses’ needs have been provided for.

• You work hard to build up an estate over your lifetime — and you may end up a millionaire. While taxes may be inevitable, you can help counter the loss with a Survivorship Life Insurance policy.


Whole Life

Whole life is permanent life insurance protection that protects your family or business no matter what lies ahead, from the day you purchase the policy until you die, as long as you pay the premiums when due.

Whole life insurance can be a solid foundation upon which to build a long-term financial strategy because it guarantees a lifetime of protection for your family or business.

Generally, the death benefit can be used for:

• Survivor needs
• Mortgage protection
• Wealth transfer
• Charitable giving
• Business needs


For more information and to arrange an appointment to discuss your life insurance needs, click to contact us.

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