December 6, 2016

Don't Worry, Have Fun and Be Happy!

So many important things I have learned in life, I have learned from my dogs.  My Faithful Canine Companions

Take my fur ball Chow-mix Lexi this morning.  After a long morning walk, she was happy and playful.  Not a care in the world as she gleefully played with a toy on the backyard patio.

And Husky-mix Sid?  He was more interested in munching on grass and listening for squirrels.

Take a peek at the video below.  If we could all simply live a Dog's Life:

Live in the Moment
Don't Worry, Be Happy!   

Mary Rae Fouts

December 5, 2016

Trendy Words and Phrases: What Annoys you Most?

Trendy words and phrases.  Some have the resultant effect of screeching fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

What is the trendy word or phrase that annoys or annoyed you most? 

Me?  The trendy word that annoys me most is actionable.

Today I received an email newsletter from a Certified Public Accounting organization.  Its tagline included the phrase "actionable intelligence".  Actionable intelligence?!  Took me 2 seconds to hit the unsubscribe button.

Have a great week everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

December 2, 2016

Zenefits Implosion: Is your insurance agent or advisor properly licensed?

More bad news for the once high-flying human resource services provider Zenefits.

Zenefits has been fined by State Insurance Departments for allowing unlicensed individuals to sell insurance.  The California Department of Insurance recently fined Zenefits an eye-popping $7 million for this illegal act, the Washington Department of Insurance fined the company $100,000.

Also, the Washington Department of Insurance has ordered Zenefits to cease giving its employee benefits software, valued at an annual cost of $29,100 to $45,000, free to clients.  Yep, free.  According to the Washington Department of Insurance, this sales practice violates Washington's law that prohibits giving excessive items or money to individuals or businesses as an inducement to make a sale.  These anti-inducement laws are typical, but vary from state to state as to each law's specific prohibitions.

When working with an insurance professional, always check to make sure the individual is properly licensed.  You can find this information online at your State Insurance Department's website, which typically lists each individual's licensing, any complaints, and also sometimes continuing education records.  The California Department of Insurance license lookup is here.

Insurance or Annuity Concerns?

Visit for information about Mary's fee-only Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services.  She welcomes your email to or phone call at (925) 979-9972.

November 29, 2016

Elder Financial Abuse: Don't Become a Victim

Sadly, Senior Citizens can be targeted by unscrupulous financial advisors and insurance agents. 

 Don't become a victim.

Former insurance agent Steven Branstetter, age 60, of Culver City, California recently pleaded guilty to embezzling $2.25 million from elderly clients over a period of nine years.  The clients thought their money was going into annuity, life insurance, and disability insurance policies, when it was actually going into Branstetter's pockets.

Yep, this went on for nine years before the criminal acts were uncovered.  And Branstetter was not even a licensed insurance agent for part of the time.  Read the California Department of Insurance press release about this crime and see Branstetter's mug shot here.

Annuity, Insurance, or Financial Planning Concerns?

Visit for information about Mary's fee-only Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services.  She welcomes your email to or phone call at (925) 979-9972.

November 28, 2016

Outsourcing and Offshoring Jobs to Other Countries: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Outsourcing and offshoring jobs to other countries is at times a topic of discussion with my insurance, tax, and financial planning clients.  Outsourcing and offshoring to other countries used to be considered by only large companies, including service-orientated duties such as customer service call centers.  However, the concept is now being considered by smaller companies and businesses, including law firms and medical groups that outsource support and billing work to India and the Philippines.  Discussion of this topic has recently gained steam by President-elect Donald Trump's campaign promise to try and keep 2000 Carrier manufacturing jobs in Indiana, rather than moving the jobs to Mexico.

The Good.  The Bad.  And the Ugly.

When I discuss this topic with clients, the reasons are varied.  Sometimes it focuses on what a business client perceives as good, including potentially lower payroll, payroll tax, and employee benefit obligations, and potentially lower liability insurance premiums.  Or the perceived good of lower prices due to cheaper costs of production.  Other discussions focus on the bad, including lost jobs and careers.

But what about the ugly part of outsourcing and offshoring?

The Observer recently published an eye opening article about Fashion and the Garment Industry titled 'Made in America' Versus Offshoring.   Sadly, in the garment industry, 'made in America' rarely exists today, as evidenced by this sobering statistic:
"Until the 1960s, America was still making 95 percent of its clothes. In 2015, only 3 percent was produced in the United States and a staggering 97 percent was outsourced."
A Garment Factory in Bangladesh.
Photo Credit:

Workers at a Bangladesh garment factory give jeans a "distressed" look by spraying them with potassium permanganate, a toxic substance that can damage the human nervous system. Only one of the workers is wearing a protective mask.
 Photo credit: Redman 

The trendy, fast fashion retailer H&M is the largest clothing manufacturer in Bangladesh.  The average monthly wage of the estimated 4 million people who work in Bangladesh's garment sweatshops?  $67 dollars a month, or a bit more than $2 a day.  A DAY.

The New York Times recently published a photo expose article on offshore call centers.  These workers in India and the Philippines are better paid and typically have better working conditions than found in the Bangladesh garment sweatshops.  Yet problems exist.  Take a look at this call center for the cosmetic giant L'Oreal ... don't ask me what the ladder is for.  Emergency fire exit, perhaps?

A L'Oreal call center in India.
Photo credit:

The effects of outsourcing and offshoring jobs from the United States is multi-dimensional.  While price for a good or service is always a consideration, hopefully businesses and people will consider all the effects when given the choice of purchasing a product or service that is truly from the United States, rather than outsourced or offshored to another country.

Insurance, Financial Planning, or Tax Concerns?

Visit for information about Mary's fee-only Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services.  She welcomes your email to or phone call at (925) 979-9972.