Yearly Archives:2015

Yes, Christopher, There is a Santa Claus 

Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”  — Frank P. Church, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”


By Mary Grace Musuneggi

With the onset of the Holiday Season, I find it easy to recall the days of my childhood and the memories of my Christmases past. When I was young, on random Saturdays, my mother and I would ride the streetcar to downtown and get off under the Kaufmann’s clock. I still remember the department store Christmas windows as we walked along Smithfield Street. I remember the bells of the Salvation Army Santa. I remember the Christmas music that filled the air.

The wonderful Christmas memories and traditions of my past are probably the reason that the Holiday Season is still as exciting to me as it was when I was a child. I have never let go of the joy and delight that the season can bring. I have never forgotten the Spirit of the Holiday. And I have never stopped believing in Santa Claus.

Almost 30 years ago, when my son, Christopher, was 10 years old, a group of his friends had 2013 gathered in our family room to play video games. The boys were talkingchris 10 about the hottest new game on the street, and as I passed by, Christopher called out to me, “Mom, can you buy this new game for me for Christmas?” I responded with, “We will see. Maybe Santa Claus will bring it for you.” With that the other boys began to laugh as they chided him with “You mean you still believe in Santa Claus?” And in a voice barely above a whisper, hoping I would not hear, Christopher replied, “No, I don’t; but my Mom still does.”

And I do. I believe in the Santa Claus that helps us find the time that we never seem to have the rest of the year. The time to shop and decorate and bake. I believe in the Santa that helps us find the extra energy needed to write out the cards, to wrap the gifts, to attend the parties, to cook the dinner. I still believe in the Santa Claus who in years where money was tight, somehow made it appear to help to pay for the gifts and the tree and the new outfits. And I believe in the Santa Claus that brings family and friends closer and makes us wish for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, no matter what the state of the world might be.

Although for some the holiday season may seem lackluster with the state of the economy, the endless negative news from the media, issues facing the country or because of personal or family concerns, more than ever, once again, I believe that Santa will appear bringing the blessings of faith and hope; the kindness of strangers and the love of family and friends; the miracle of sharing; the knowledge that all we have is all we need; and the realization that we still live in the greatest country in the world.

And when years have gone by these blessings will still exist, and hopefully our current struggles will be lost memories and Santa will continue to be part of Christmas.

We at The Musuneggi Financial Group wish this year that the miracle of Santa will be part of this Holiday Season for everyone we know.

Friends Helping Friends

MFG squad
At The Musuneggi Financial Group we take great pride in being a family-owned firm, but we value our friends just as much! And nothing is as meaningful as having clients tell their family and friends to give us a call. It is an honor to have people we care about entrust us with the people they care about.
This is why we started Friends Helping Friends more than a decade ago. 
The Friends Helping Friends program is one way we say “thank you!” for introducing us to your family, friends, colleagues and associates. And every year, we gather all of the Friends Helping Friends members together to celebrate at the much-anticipated Friends Helping Friends Gala.
Our annual Friends Helping Friends Gala themes have taken us from the red carpet to Miss Kitty’s Saloon and from PNC Park to the LeMont. We’ve worn fancy hats for our own Kentucky Derby and poodle skirts to our Sock Hop. This year, we even brought Las Vegas to Pittsburgh and spent the night living it up like the Rat Pack.
But while the theme changes each year, every Friends Helping Friends Gala has one thing in common: fun! Spending a night on the town with you is one of the highlights of our year. 
We are currently adding new members to Friends Helping Friends 2016, and preparations are already underway for the 2016 Gala (our biggest event of the year requires plenty of planning!). We hope to see you there!


Preparing for a Visit from Uncle Sam

Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”  ~ Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Was this the year…

…You retired?

…You bought a house? You sold a house?

…You had a child? Your child moved out?

…You withdrew from your IRA? You got your pension?

…You started taking Social Security?

…You got divorced or had a spouse that died?

…You bought a business? You closed a business? You sold a business?

…You bought an investment? You sold an investment? You cashed in Savings Bonds?

Any of all of the above may affect what you owe the IRS or what they will owe you.

I make it a rule to not give the IRS more than I have to, especially in advance; but I also don’t want any surprises in April, and I don’t want to find I owe them more than I anticipated. To be sure I am on track my accountant does a mock return in the fall. She reviews those items that might add to my tax burden and reviews those items that might give me a tax break. Then she projects what this all might look like come tax time next year.

If I am on track we are good. If I have over paid, I stop withholding (more money for Christmas gifts). And if I am behind, I have months to catch up instead of grasping for a lump sum of funds on April 15th.

This is particularly important if you are withdrawing from an IRA. You may be withholding taxes, so the hope is that you are on track. But if you are withholding more than necessary, you will only be paying taxes on money that could have continued to be tax deferred, saving you taxes.

So reach out to your accountant or CPA and ask them to do a mock return. If you do not have an accountant, we will be glad to refer you to one of the trusted professionals who are part of our Resource Group.

And by the way, if the whole tax structure makes you question your intelligence, remember it was Albert Einstein who said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”


Saving “the Savings”

MaryGraceWebOne of my mentors from many years ago used to have an expression: “No one has a monopoly on the great ideas.” This was a reminder that we can learn from everyone. Friends. Family. Children. Employers. Employees. Strangers. Associates. Competitors. Anyone and Everyone.

But he also reminded me that learning requires listening.

Knowing this, I am always listening for the next great idea. And in a recent meeting with a client, I heard a great idea. When I hear a great idea, I always ask the source if I can steal it…and this time was no different.

I stole the idea of saving “the savings.”

My client and his spouse review their receipts from the grocery store and look at the bottom where it says “You have saved this amount.” They take that amount of money and put it away in savings. What a great idea! This is, after all, a reward for being a great shopper. They could have shopped somewhere else and not saved money by using their rewards card or coupons. But because they were smart shoppers, they saved money. And they continue to save. Over time those savings accumulate and can be used for other wants or needs.

It is like those people who save their change at the end of the day. Or those who payroll deduct their savings into their credit union account. Or those who have their investing done systematically from their checking account. Anything that is fun. Anything that is easy.

According to a March 2015 article in USA Today, one-third of Americans have no savings and 47% of Americans have enough money to pay for only 90 days of living expenses. At the same time, a study by the Bureau of Labor says when people lose their jobs, the average length of unemployment will be 31.7 weeks.

So let’s save “the savings” from the grocery store, the gas station, the pharmacy, and anywhere else that lets us know how much we have saved that day. Life has a way of costing money when we least expect it, and saving “the savings” may just save the day. What a great idea!

Wisdom & Market Timing

A wise man once said that the best way not to be hit by a train is not to be on the tracks. Could this hold up as an analogy for the stock market? Watch the Wisdom of Marketing Timing video from our partners at Dunham & Associates to find out.

Dunham wk 5

Feel free to pass this along to family and friends. If you or they have any questions, we are here to help!

Using Emotion as Your Investment Guide?

As the market climbs and falls, your emotions are probably following suit. But could letting emotions guide your investment decisions cost you returns? In their latest Calm, Steady and Common Sense video, our partners at Dunham & Associates look at why emotions aren’t necessarily the best advisors:

Emotion dunham
To access the video, you’ll need to complete a short online form with your name and contact info. If you aren’t comfortable sharing this info, simply type any letter in each field and hit “Submit.”

Feel free to pass this along to family and friends. If you or they have any questions, we are here to help!


Is There Hope in a Bear Market?

Wondering if there’s hope in a bear market? Our partners at Dunham & Associates think so. Watch this video to learn why.

To access the video, you'll need to complete a short online form with your name and contact info. If you aren't comfortable sharing this info, simply type any letter in each field and hit "Submit."
To access the video, you’ll need to complete a short online form with your name and contact info. If you aren’t comfortable sharing this info, simply type any letter in each field and hit “Submit.”

Feel free to pass this along to family and friends who are curious about the bear market, too. If you or they have any questions, we are here to help!

What Goes Up…Must Come Down

graph“No one can ruin your day without your permission.” ~Unknown

Back in June 2008, I remember fielding calls from clients who were pretty sure they would spend their retirement years living under the Smithfield Street Bridge.   As 2008 and early 2009 brought financial markets to their knees, we felt their pain. In lighthearted moments we would laughingly say maybe we needed to change the name on the door of the office from The Musuneggi Financial Group to The Musuneggi Dog Walking Gang. But the fact is it was more important for us to hold on to the belief that “this too shall pass”–and it did.

In 2014 we began to advise clients that we were at the historic highs of the stock market…and we had bond rates that were at historic lows. Double whammy! And although there is no crystal ball, and past history cannot predict future history, we do believe that history can lend some perspective.

At that time, Brenden Gebben, Portfolio Manager for Absolute Capital, shared an article in which he referred to the Ned Davis Research that says during Bull Markets, on average, the stock market has historically sustained upward trends for 331 market days before a 10% correction occurs and upward for 1105 market days before 20% correction occurs. So from this view we were certainly due for a correction.

And here it is. So what are some things we need to do? What are some things we need to remember?

1. Avoid trading too frequently.

2. Stop. Don’t panic. Trust your strategies. Trust your money managers’ strategies; after all, that’s what you’re paying for.

3. Don’t get out of the market at the worst times.

4. Be sure you are diversified. There are other market segments beyond just domestic stocks and government bonds. Be sure you understand them all.

5. Re-balance sometimes. Often. Frequently. Or whenever it is appropriate for your risk tolerance and for your objectives.

6. Don’t ignore tax ramifications. Return on investment is not the same as after-tax return on investment.

7. Know that we cannot control economies, performance over the years, or returns, but we can control strategies and asset allocation.

8. And remember, in 1921 the Dow Jones was at 60. Obviously it has gone up. But to get there it has gone up and down and up and down and up and down along the way. Time can certainly be more important than timing.

No matter what the markets are doing, your investment decisions need to be those that are right for you. At the right time. In the right allocation. To review your current strategy give us a call.

Healthcare Power of Attorney: A Document Every 18 Year Old Should Have

As many of you know, earlier this year our Vice President of Operations, Rosalind Frazier, was devoted to caring for her daughter, Alex, after Alex was seriously injured in a car accident and required long-term medical treatment. When the accident happened, Alex was still 17 and Rosalind managed everything from doctor’s appointments to insurance claims. During her treatment, however, Alex turned 18, which meant her mother was no longer allowed automatic access to her health records and could no longer sign or submit paperwork on her behalf.

Fortunately, Rosalind and Alex were prepared for this change and had Alex’s Healthcare Power of Attorney ready to go on her 18th birthday. Without this important document, Rosalind wouldn’t have been able to help Alex with all of the critical decisions and paperwork that go along with medical treatment…and in the worst case scenario, Alex’s treatment might have been delayed.

To help ensure you and your loved ones are as prepared as Rosalind and Alex, we’ve invited Estate Planning attorney Tracy L. Zihmer of The Lynch Law Group back to share more detailed information about Healthcare Power of Attorneys. 

Healthcare Power of Attorney: A Document Every 18 Year Old Should Have

By Tracy Zihmer
Estate Planning Attorney
The Lynch Law Group

Many parents understand the importance of having a healthcare power of attorney in place in preparation for caring and making decisions for their elderly parents or even for their spouse. However, rarely do they understand how important the document can be when it comes to caring for their recent high school graduate, who is heading off to college at the end of the summer.

Once a “child” reaches the age of 18, he or she is no longer a child but a legal adult with all of the rights to privacy of any other legal adult. This includes the right to medial privacy under HIPPA. Parents that have been scheduling appointments, receiving test results, and making virtually all healthcare decisions for their child for the past 18 years suddenly find that they can no longer receive their child’s healthcare information so freely. 

This situation usually occurs when children go off to college or move away to start their first job and have a medical issue. Parents quickly learn that getting access to their child’s medical information and current medical condition can be challenging, frustrating and perhaps scary. This is especially true in healthcare organizations today, where medical staff have been trained to be afraid of legal action for releasing information to someone without authority to receive it. Simply put, if the child is not able to give permission for the nurse or doctor to release healthcare information to the parents, then that information will not be released.

The easiest way for parents and their adult child to avoid this situation is with a healthcare power of attorney. In this legal document, the child (the principal) appoints a person (called an agent), presumably a parent, to make healthcare decisions for him or her if he or she is unable to make those decisions. The document also allows the agent to obtain medical information about the principal. By planning ahead and signing a healthcare power of attorney, parents can avoid unnecessary stress when their adult child needs medical attention.