Author Archives: c01975725

Sheepdog Podcast Episode 7: Life and health insurance

Sa El got started with insurance when his grandmother passed away from cancer and did not have any life insurance.  He is the Co-Founder of Simply Insurance and a licensed life & health insurance agent with over 11 years of experience.   Sa’s goal is to give accurate insurance education along with an easy insurance buying process.  He began working on Simply Insurance once he realized that customers wanted an option to purchase insurance, online, without an agent.  He has been mentioned in publications such as Forbes, Insurance News Net, The Ladders, & The Simple Dollar. In his free time he enjoys listening to Opera and Classical music, reading Webtoons and Manga, watching Anime or playing videogame

Listen here

Link to video referenced in the interview. 

5 best no exam life insurance companies

Home insurance Quotes

Long Term Disability Coverage Quotes

Sheepdog Podcast Episode 6: Having the talk.

When’s the last time you sat your parents down and talked to them about their money? If you’re like most people, it probably hasn’t happened yet and you probably have no plan for it to happen in the near future. Talking to your parents about their savings, their will, their hopes for what happens when they get older or after they die is unpleasant but as today’s guest shares is vitally important.  Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 17 years of experience in the personal finance field.

Cameron’s experience taking over her mother’s finances after her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s inspired her to write a book on how to discuss finances with parents before it’s too late. It’s called Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.

Her articles have been published in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, Huffington Post, Money, MSN, USA Today and more. She’s the current Life + Money columnist for GOBankingRates.

Listen Here. 


Sheepdog Podcast Episode 5: Help with the Survivor Benefit Plan.

Kate Horrell is a nationally recognized leading expert in the Survivor Benefit plan.

She is a military spouse, mom and wife.  She loves speaking about military specific financial topics and educating fellow servicemembers and spouses on ways to achieve financial success.  Kate educates the public through her writing.  She has written 2,200 blog posts for’s paychcheck chronicles blog and continues to educate through her personal blog at

Listen to it here. 

Survivor Benefit Plan Link

Kate Horrell Survivor Benefit Plan Blog Posts

Sheepdog Podcast Episode 4: The Blended Retirement System

In our fourth episode of the sheepdog financial podcast we do a deep dive into the blended retirement system.  One of the key benefits of the military is the retirement.  The retirement system used to be a simple 20 years and out pension.  The National Defense Authorization act of 2016 changed that and created a new retirement system for military members.  The new Blended Retirement System (BRS) blends the traditional legacy retirement pension, also known as a defined benefit plan, with a defined contribution plan known as the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  The BRS went into effect on January 1st of 2018.  The BRS significantly changes the military retirement system and for many will be their first opportunity to save and plan for their retirement regardless of how long they serve.

Listen Here.

Sheepdog Podcast Episode 3: Transition and landing on your feet

In our third episode of sheepdog financial podcast we have one of the nation’s leading experts in career transition for veterans and public service professionals. Matthew J. Louis is a graduate of West Point and retired Lieutenant Colonel, having spent more than 25 years in uniform and 20 years in the corporate world. Today he leads global strategy and transformation projects at Deloitte, the largest professional services firm in the world, and continues to serve several veteran collaboratives around the country. Matt is the author of Mission Transition, a practical guide for veterans in transition and their employers. He coaches individuals on their transition efforts and advises employers on hiring programs designed to successfully assimilate these valuable talent pools.

Contact him at his website

Listen here.

Sheepdog Podcast Episode 2: Buying a home

In the second Sheepdog financial podcast we have Erica Anderson. Erica is the owner and broker of Team Anderson Realty located in Holly Springs. Erica is an expert in buying and selling real estate. Listen as she talks about some of the local and national trends affecting home buying. Then gives good advice on how to buy a home, how to sell a home and the value of using a provider such as an agent or home inspector. I hope you enjoy Erica’s advice and expertise.

Listen to the episode at this link. 

Sheepdog Podcast Episode 1: Health insurance for military members

In our first episode of Sheepdog financial podcast we have Danielle Roberts a nationally known expert on Medicare and Health insurance. Danielle is the co-owner and vice president of Boomer Benefits a Texas based insurance agency specializing in Medicare-insurance related products. Her agency ranks among the top national medicare supplement producers for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna and others. Danielle gives us an update on the health insurance landscape as it stands today. She speaks about Tricare and specifically about the Tricare for life integration with medicare. She also addresses health insurance alternatives for military members who don’t retire and gives some tips and tricks of HDHP’s (Hight Deductible, Health Plans) and HSA’s (Healthcare Savings accounts) and lastly she explains the often misunderstood coverage that Medicare provides for long term care.

Listen to it at this link.

Set your TSP investments on autopilot to reach your retirement

Common questions I get from clients regarding their TSP is;

  1. Which funds should I be invested into?
  2. How many should I spread my money across?
  3. Is there an easier way to do this?

The TSP is great in that it automatically withdraws funds from your pay, almost without you seeing it.  Additional funds are added almost transparently to you based on a percentage of your pay that you pick.  This is great, when you get a raise, you automatically begin putting more into retirement savings.  So with the contribution portion of the TSP on autopilot, why not put the investing side on autopilot too?

Automating asset allocation is the purpose and goal of the lifecycle fund.  What is a life cycle fund? You may ask.  It is relatively simple.  A lifecycle fund automatically adjusts your investment mix to match a model that is based on your expected retirement date.

The L funds in the TSP allow you to pick a fund that is closest to your expected retirement date.  All you do is invest funds into that particular fund.  When you are younger the fund would be more aggressive to take advantage of time in an attempt to get you a better return.  As you become closer to retirement the fund becomes more conservative with the idea of protecting your money as you enter your final couple years before retirement.

A fault that I see many clients make when using the L fund is to have their money invested into many different funds.  The whole idea of the life cycle fund is that you invest all your money in that fund and let it do the spreading across different assets.   By picking individual funds in different asset classes you may become over weighted in a particular asset class when combining the amount the L fund has invested in that particular investment class.

Tea Plantations at Cameron Highlands Malaysia. Sunrise in early morning with fog.

So to recap.  The TSP is a great investment plan. It allows you to put your investment contributions on “Autopilot”.  Putting your asset allocation on “Autopilot” is the next logical step allowing you to meet your retirement goals and not spend the night worrying about what you have your investment account invested in.

How to Benefit from the New Tax Law

You can love it, or you can hate it. But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is now a reality. Yes, absent some serious future spending cuts (unlikely) it is projected to add substantially to the national debt. But it does offer some planning opportunities as well.

Emphasize Roth strategies. While the business tax cuts are permanent (until Congress revises the tax code, anyway), the personal income tax cuts are not. They are scheduled to sunset with the 2025 tax year.  This means it may make sense to emphasize Roth IRAs over traditional IRAs. Remember – Roth IRAs have you paying taxes on amounts you contribute now, at reduced tax rates. But since distributions from Roth accounts are tax free (provided the assets have been in the Roth at least five years), you’ll avoid the higher income tax rates that are scheduled to take effect in 2026 when the TCJA ‘sunset’ provisions kick in, and the tax cut for individual taxpayers is effectively revoked.

Meanwhile, emphasizing Roth IRAs over traditional IRAs also means avoiding required minimum distributions (RMDs) in retirement, which means you can benefit from indefinite compounding as long as the assets stay within your Roth IRA.

The benefits aren’t limited to just Roth IRAs. Those of you who are self-employed or are owner-employees of your own corporations may consider establishing a Roth option for your 401(k) plans. You may also consider converting traditional IRA assets to Roth assets – especially if you can pay the income taxes from outside the account. If you have assets in an old 401(k) or other qualified retirement account, the tax cuts give you an opportunity to start converting them to Roth accounts.

Increase 401(k) contributions. The IRS increased the 401(k) allowable employee salary deferral contribution to $18,500. If you’re age 50 or older, you can contribute even more – up to $24,500.

Track medical expenses. Good news for those of you who have significant out-of-pocket medical expenses! More medical expenses may be tax deductible. Prior to 2018, you could only write off medical expenses to the extent they exceeded 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. But the new tax law lowers the threshold to 7.5 percent of AGI.  This means if you have an AGI of $100,000, and medical expenses of $10,000, your potential deduction goes from zero last year to $2,500. That means a significant reduction of your tax bill.

It’s a good idea to track all your medical expenses from the very start of the year – even if you expect not to itemize, and even if you think you’re healthy now. That could change in an instant. So track these items:

  • Doctor copays
  • Coinsurance
  • Prescription drugs
  • Medical equipment
  • Health insurance premiums (the portion you pay yourself)
  • Long-term care insurance premiums paid out-of-pocket
  • Payments to dentists, chiropractors, psychologists and non-traditional medical practitioners not covered by insurance.
  • Residential or inpatient nursing home care costs
  • Alcohol or drug addiction rehabilitation costs
  • Insulin costs paid out of pocket
  • Eye exam and prescription glasses costs
  • Service animal costs
  • Costs of transportation to medical appointments and treatment locations, including tolls and parking
  • Ambulance charges

Note: Non-prescription (over-the-counter) drugs don’t qualify for the deduction, nor do most prescription drug charges or costs paid by your insurance carrier. For more information, see the IRS link here.

Be careful about taking out that home equity loan. Previously, you could write off the interest on up to $100,000 of home equity loan debt on your personal residence. Not anymore. The new tax law eliminates that deduction – unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the property that provides security for the loan.

So, you can’t deduct the interest on a home equity loan on your personal residence to buy a car, fund a business or pay off high-interest credit cards. But if you use the proceeds to add a much-needed bedroom to the home providing the collateral for the loan, you can still take the deduction for interest on balances up to $100,000.

Don’t rely on the home mortgage interest deduction for high-dollar homes. Previously, taxpayers could deduct home mortgage interest on balances of up to $1 million (or $500,000 for married individuals filing a separate return). The new limit for home mortgage balances that qualify for the home mortgage deduction is $750,000 ($350,000 for married individuals filing a separate return). So if you’re buying a home and taking out a mortgage for more than $750,000, then only part of your mortgage interest will be deductible.  If you took out the mortgage prior to December of 2017, don’t worry: The old limits are grandfathered in for you. The lower home mortgage deduction limit only applies to new home loans.

Reduce unreimbursed business expenses. Last year, you could deduct unreimbursed business expenses if they exceeded 2 percent of your income. That’s not true for 2018 and for future years. If you’re an employee with significant work-related expenses you’ve been paying out of pocket, speak with your employer about setting up an accountable reimbursement plan. This allows you to receive reimbursement for expenses tax-free.  If you have employees, you may want to set up an accountable plan for your employees, too, so they aren’t stung out of pocket for expenses they can’t deduct. Call us if you have questions about setting one up.

 Claim the child tax credit. Be sure to claim the tax credit for any eligible children. Under the new law, this credit is worth up to $2,000 per child age 17 or younger, as of the end of the year. Up to $1,400 of it is refundable. That means you can still benefit from claiming the credit, even if you expect to get a refund, or if your taxable income is below the standard deduction – or if you expect to have no tax liability at all for the year. This is a big benefit even for those earning lower incomes, so we encourage anyone with children under 18 at home to claim the credit.

There is a catch: Congress limits the refundability of the credit to 15 percent of your earned income over $4,500.

Congress has also increased the income cap on qualifying for the child tax credit. For 2018, the credit for single taxpayers and heads of household begins phasing out at an adjusted gross income of $200,000 and phases out completely when your AGI reaches $240,000. The limits are doubled for married couples filing jointly: $400,000 to $440,000, respectively.

Military families: Keep track of moving expenses. You may read some reports that moving expenses are no longer deductible. But that doesn’t apply to families moving on military orders. So keep careful track of any and all unreimbursed moving expenses, to include mileage on your personal vehicles!

Take advantage of the special deduction for certain small businesses. If you have a sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership or S corporation, the new tax law allows you to take a special deduction on certain kinds of income.

Specifically, you may be able to deduct the greater of:

  • 20 percent of the qualified business income from your trade or business, OR the greater of:
  • 50 percent of the total W-2 wages of the business paid to all employees, or
  • 25 percent of the W-2 wages, plus 2.5% of the original acquisition cost of the business’ real property.

Consider incorporating.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes a dramatic tax cut for C corporations: The top corporate tax rate is lowered from 35 percent to 21 percent. If you were on the fence about becoming a C corporation before, it may make sense to revisit that decision. Give us a call today.

At Taxvanta, we have particular expertise in helping our customers minimize their short-term and long-term tax exposures. It’s our familiarity with federal and state tax taxes and their impact on small businesses that sets us apart from the crowd. To schedule an appointment, give us a call at 919-589-7760. Or visit us on Facebook or on the Web at


Top 5 2018 Tax Changes for Individuals

Now that tax season has finished, it is important for individuals to start to plan and know how their taxes will change going forward. The new tax bill that was signed changes many aspects for many Americans. This article will let you know the tax changes that are the most impactful for the average American and the effect the changes will have on your tax bill next year.

  1. Tax Brackets Changes:

One of the most notable changes are that the tax brackets have changed. While there are still 7 brackets for the 2018 year, the marginal tax rate has decreased, for the most part. Here is what the new tax brackets will look like in 2018

Marginal Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Head of Household Married Filing Separately
10% $0-$9,525 $0-$19,050 $0-$13,600 $0-$9,525
12% $9,525-$38,700 $19,050-$77,400 $13,600-$51,800 $9,525-$38,700
22% $38,700-$82,500 $77,400-$165,000 $51,800-$82,500 $38,700-$82,500
24% $82,500-$157,500 $165,000-$315,000 $82,500-$157,500 $82,500-$157,500
32% $157,500-$200,000 $315,000-$400,000 $157,500-$200,000 $157,500-$200,000
35% $200,000-$500,000 $400,000-$600,000 $200,000-$500,000 $200,000-$300,000
37% Over $500,000 Over $600,000 Over $500,000 Over $300,000

The new brackets are structured to have a lower marginal tax rate than the prior years and also keeps the brackets proportional for single and married individuals. This means that the MFJ column are 2x the single amounts (for all but the last 2 brackets).

  1. Standard Deduction Doubling:

The standard / itemized deduction is the other big change that will have an impact on the amount of tax you will pay going into next year. There are many deductions that have been reduced or eliminated. First, the standard deduction is being doubled. If you have not been someone who uses the itemized deduction, the increase will decrease the amount of tax you owe. If you are someone who was barely able to itemize, this is also something that will lower your taxes owed. Here is the new standard deduction chart

Tax Filing Status Previous Standard Deduction (2017) New Standard Deduction (2018
Single $6,500 $12,000
Married filing Jointly $13,000 $24,000
Married filing Separately $6,500 $12,000
Head of household $9,350 $18,000

The people who this can potentially hurt are those that have itemized in the past. The following itemized deductions are changed:

  1. Itemized Deduction Changes

State income tax deduction: This deduction has been eliminated. In the past, you could deduct the amount of North Carolina state income tax that you paid on your federal return. For those with high incomes this can add up quickly since the state income tax rate is 5.49%.

Property tax deduction: The property tax deduction is capped at $10,000. For those individuals who own expensive homes, this deduction may be capped and you will not receive as big of a benefit as you once did.

  1. Personal Exemption Elimination:

Personal exemptions have also been eliminated. A personal exemption was an amount (in 2017 it was $4,050) that you could write off per person on the tax return. For example, a married couple with 3 kids would have 5 exemptions (1 for each parent and 1 for each child). People who are single filers or married filing jointly with no kids will be impacted less than those with large families.

  1. Child Tax Credit Doubling:

Child tax credit increasing. As mentioned earlier, families with numerous children will be hurt by the loss of the personal exemption. There is some saving grace through the doubling of the child tax credit. For each qualifying child the credit will be $2,000 (up from $1,000). Since this is a credit, this will reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar which gives a bigger benefit than a deduction. The phase-out amounts have also increase so as long as you make less than $200,000 (if single) or $400,000 (if married) then you will be able to use this credit.

Overall there are many changes that will affect your 2018 tax bill. Make sure to meet with a tax professional to get a more individualized preview of what this would look like for you.