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Spring Cleaning for Your Personal Finances

Spring Cleaning for Your Personal Finances
By: Chris Hostetler and Kali Whitaker You’ve cleaned out the garage and straightened your closet, but when was the last time you organized something that truly mattered? Too many of us accumulate the debris of one-time financial decisions and never clean up: an old 401(k) that you haven’t rebalanced in years, 15-year-old tax documents sitting in your desk drawer, a permanent life insurance policy that hasn’t been properly funded and the list goes on… The good news for you financial hoarders is that with a few simple steps you can do away with a lot of the clutter. Here are some ideas to get you started: Check your credit – Most people check their credit when applying for a loan or when there’s an incident, such as the 2017 Equifax data breach. But taking a periodic look at your credit reports, spending just a few minutes a few times a year, you can prevent big headaches with an early catch of any misreported accounts or identity theft. For tips on how to monito ...

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Hilltop’s Favorite Spring Happenings in the Triangle

Hilltop’s Favorite Spring Happenings in the Triangle
By: Kali Whitaker It’s easy to understand why spring is a favorite season for many North Carolinians. Flowers are blooming, temperatures are {mostly} temperate, and there’s no shortage of fun events to enjoy with friends and family. To help you fill your spring weekends, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite events going on across the Triangle this season: Pittsboro, Saturdays Visit The Belted Goat at The Fearrington Inn on Saturdays at 3pm for a free wine tasting. The Goat is Fearrington Village’s personal wine and coffee shop and boasts knowledgeable and helpful sommeliers who will hand-select wines for the tasting and guide you through choosing the perfect bottle to take home to enjoy. Raleigh, April 7th Enjoy the spring beauty of the JC Raulston Arboretum at the Raulston Blooms Festival from 9 am to 4 pm. At only $10 per family (free for JCRA members), there’s no excuse not to enjoy unique food trucks, local artisans and more! You can also spruce up yo ...

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A Brief Homeowner’s Guide to Tax Reform – Decoding the Tax Law

A Brief Homeowner’s Guide to Tax Reform – Decoding the Tax Law
By: Chris Hostetler Happy home listing season!  It is almost Spring, which brings yard work, allergies, and real estate open houses.  If you’re looking to buy a new home or improve your current home, there are some things you should know about the new tax law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which goes into effect for the 2018 tax year.  In fact, the law may affect you as a homeowner, even if you aren’t making any changes to your address or spending money to renovate the place. First, the usual caveat - consult with your tax advisor to better understand how the updates will affect your unique situation.  Now, here are some of the changes: An increase in the standard deduction – Although this isn’t a homeowner’s issue per se, it affects many homeowners who were previously taking itemized deductions.  The standard deduction is basically doubled, so the deductibility of mortgage interest is no longer of value for some people.  As an example, if y ...

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Hilltop Market Update, February 2018

  The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. Indexes are unmanaged and do not incur management fees, costs, or expenses.  It is not possible to invest directly in an index.    Video Transcript: Chris: Hi there. Welcome to the Hilltop Wealth Advisors’ Market Update and Outlook for the first quarter of 2018. I’m Chris Hostetler and with me today is Rusty Eriksen. Thanks for being with me Rusty. Rusty: Glad to be here, Chris. Chris: So, we were just wrapping up our quarterly investment outlook meeting a couple of weeks ago and remarking that we have seen a pretty good run in the markets lately. Fixed income investments were somewhat flat in 2017 but stock markets in both the U.S. and abroad had a pretty good run. It was a good year across the board, wasn’t it? Rusty: It was and when we were talking with the different economists and ...

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Durham’s Legacy as “Black Wall Street” Continues to Shape Lives Today

Durham’s Legacy as “Black Wall Street” Continues to Shape Lives Today
By: Mya Reeves (with Chris Hostetler and Kali Whitaker)   A diverse, growing city with great food and inspiring arts, Durham, North Carolina, has a proud heritage as an economic powerhouse for black-owned businesses.  Many of the institutions and traditions that took root more than a hundred years ago are still shaping business activity and lives, including mine.  “Black Wall Street,” a term coined by Booker T. Washington, describes the vast business developments on Parrish Street in the early 1900s. Located north of the Hayti Community, one of Durham’s largest African-American communities, Black Wall Street became a center of black life in Durham.  John Merrick, one of the primary founders of NC Mutual Life Insurance Co. What we know of Durham today is a mosaic of institutions that sprung from the innovation and entrepreneurship of Black Wall Street’s leaders, many of whom were born as slaves.  At a time when most black people struggled to r ...

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Changes Coming to a Paycheck Near You - Decoding the Tax Law

Changes Coming to a Paycheck Near You - Decoding the Tax Law
By: Chris Hostetler and Kali Whitaker   By now, we all know that the tax code has changed significantly starting in 2018, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress just before Christmas. Although there is no shortage of published information about the details of the new code, the dust is only now beginning to settle so that we can understand actual impacts on individual situations. It is going to take some time for planners and accountants to regain fluency in tax planning strategies. As the largest tax overhaul since 1986, this is a monumental change – some might say HUGE.  And it happened very quickly – the act was introduced on Nov 2, 2017 by Representative Kevin Brady of Texas and signed by the President on December 22. Throughout the year, as we dig into what these changes mean, we hope to share a series of posts on the likely impacts to our clients’ planning and thoughts on some new tax strategies to consider, as well as some old tax strategies that m ...

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New Year, New Goals

OK, we’re a week into the new year.  Have you already cheated on your resolutions?  We aren’t encouraging you to give up, but if you’d like to add some new resolutions – ones that would make your financial advisor proud – we have a few ideas.  In 2018, why not skip the line for the Stairmaster and at The Container Store; instead try our accessible, yet impactful ideas for re-resolving to make 2018 a great year. Rusty Resolve to eliminate stock certificates!  While the aesthetics may appeal to some, you’ll avoid potential headaches if you deposit those certificate shares into your brokerage account.  I’ve been working with a client for 4 years trying to recover shares his now deceased wife owned in certificate form.  The shares were originally for a small North Carolina bank which subsequently was part of several mergers and is now Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).  And because RBC is a Canadian company, there are additional hurdle ...

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Our Favorite Podcasts & Blogs

Our Favorite Podcasts & Blogs
by Kali Whitaker At Hilltop, we are big fans of podcasts and blogs – this is a golden age for content, with a virtually infinite variety of topics and perspectives available.  A client recently suggested we share our listening (and reading) list, and we figured now is a great time to share.  We hope you’ll find something to pass the time during a flight home for the holidays or on your evening commutes in 2018.   Rusty Eriksen - Planet Money – A twice weekly podcast explaining what’s happening in the economy with levity.  As Planet Money says, “Imagine you could call up a friend and say, ‘Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy.’ Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at Planet Money.” Given the current debate about tax code changes, here’s a podcast with five economists spanning the ideological spectrum discussing six tax code changes they&rsqu ...

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Charities to Know in the Triangle

Charities to Know in the Triangle
By: Kali Whitaker “Make a positive impact on the world around you.” It’s more than just a key element of Hilltop’s mission statement. We believe that making a difference in the lives of others is a critical component to living a fulfilling life. There is a plethora of organizations in the Triangle working to improve lives – we have listed only a few. To be clear, we are not ranking or grading local charitable organizations, but we hope to make you aware of opportunities to get involved and make a difference in a way that aligns to your skills, hobbies or interests.   Big Brothers Big Sisters About (via bbbstri.org) As a proud big sister for over 4 years, I couldn’t not include Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle (BBBS) in my list of great charities in the triangle. BBBS is a non-profit organizations that matches kids in need of mentorship with a caring and kind adult. One of the things I find unique about the organization is that the mentor-mentee r ...

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Retirement is a Great Time to Engage with Your Community

Retirement is a Great Time to Engage with Your Community
When you retire, you don’t have to travel the world to expand your horizons.  You can grow wherever you live.  In our October retirement panel event, we explored several ways to make the most of your retirement.  Of course, we learned about travel options (see “Enjoying the Latest Travel Trends in Retirement”).  But we also explored ways to become more worldly without crossing the county line. For inspiration and ideas on local enrichment opportunities, we heard from: Meri Mitchell, Director of Development at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, shared thoughts on volunteerism in general and mentorship specifically.  Garry Crites, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University, encouraged us to never stop learning or teaching.  Daniel Dinkins, Manager of Operations at UNC Chapel Hill Visitors’ Center, enlightened us on engaging with familiar locations from a fresh perspective. Meri started with a reminder that s ...

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