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?

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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?

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November 22, 2016

Office Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday

The office is presently closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I will address phone call messages and emails next week.

Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

November 21, 2016

Medicare Part B Premiums: An Unpleasant Double Whammy in 2017.

If you are a Medicare recipient, you may be in for an unpleasant double whammy in 2017.

Almost no cost of living increase in Social Security Payments (0.3%); and
For about 1/3 of all Medicare recipients, a 10% increase in Medicare Part B (medical insurance) premiums.

But that's not the worst of it.  The Part B premium increase would have been a mind-numbing 22% if the government had not dipped into financial reserves to hold down increase.  Read an informative Forbes article about this issue here.

And one more thing:  In 2017, Medicare Part B premiums will top $10,000 for some high income couples.  Yep, $10,000.  And that's just for Part B insurance.

Continued out-of-control premium increases, combined by dipping into reserves to artificially decrease the premium increases, is not sustainable.  Costs simply must come under control.

Mary Rae Fouts

Thanksgiving: Bask in the Celebrations of 15 Diverse Families

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite Holidays and times of the year.

I love cool autumn weather.  
Falling leaves.
Cashmere sweaters.
Delicious comfort food.
My slow roast turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner.

The New York Times' Food section recently had what I consider its best article ever:  An expose of 15 diverse families across the United States, and how they celebrate Thanksgiving.  The families generously share recipes for their favorite Thanksgiving Dinner dishes, some passed down through generations.  I plan on making most of the recipes over the next couple of months!

Thanksgiving Celebrations
Photo Credit:

You can read this heartwarming article here.  This online version includes wonderful videos.  You'll once again be assured that most people are, in fact, generous, kind, and thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

November 17, 2016

Husky Dogs: Boy, Can They Sing!

Huskies.  The joy of having one as your Faithful Canine Companion, including our Husky-mix Sid.

Joy?  Ya, for instance, a Husky's coat shedding like a hurricane of fur twice a year, lots of energy, as well as lots of love to give.  A very high small prey drive.  And, well, the ability to talk Husky style.

Sid lovin' the beach at at recent trip to beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

Looks like this puppy Husky will be excellent at it.  "Talking", that is.  As is Sid.  Take a look at this video, and turn up the volume.  Sid approves!

Have a great rest of the week everyone; think happy and live in the moment.  Just as dogs do. 😊

Mary Rae Fouts

November 14, 2016

Carmel: A World-Class Getaway for Humans and Canines Alike

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California in gorgeous November weather.

In my next life, I hope to return as a dog in Carmel.
With a permanent residence at Doris Day's Cypress Inn.

Doris Day's Cypress Inn.
The most dog friendly Inn in Carmel.  Luxury for humans and canines alike.
Photo credit:

Sid loved the beach!
He even jumped head first into a wave.

Lexi loved the beach, too!

Weeeeeee!  Sid and Lexi run on the beach on a gorgeous November morning.

Sid and Lexi wade in high tide on the Carmel beach.

So much fun!  

Sid was completely out of gas after a morning on the beach.  Good Dog!

Huh.  I think Lexi kinda likes Carmel.  What do you think? 😄

Photo from the Cypress Inn's rooftop camera.
Photo credit:

Carmel ... a little slice of paradise.  Looking forward to our next visit!

Mary Rae Fouts

November 11, 2016

Donald Trump - The Monkey Gets It Right. Again.

Geda the Chinese Monkey.  Correct in his predictions again.

Geda correctly predicted Portugal would win the 2016 European Soccer Championship.  And, you guessed it, Geda correctly picked Donald Trump to win the 2016 United States Presidential Election.

Photo Credit:
Perhaps the egregiously wrong pollsters simply need to employ animals like Geda for election predictions.  Couldn't be any worse than the clearly-do-not-work polling and prediction methods they are using now!

Mary Rae Fouts

November 1, 2016

Ansel Adams Photographs and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: Good News in History

From Good News in History, November 1 - Good News Network:

With all the negativity in the current election cycle, let's share some Good News today!

75 years ago today, famed photographer Ansel Adams took what would become one of the most famous photographs in history:  the moon over Hernandez, New Mexico.  Isn't it amazing what black and white photography can capture?

In 1512, Michelangelo’s Vatican Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings were unveiled to the public.  The spectacular paintings cover 12,000 square feet and took 4 years to complete:

Sistine Chapel Paintings

For more Good News and to view Ansel Adam's famous Moon Over Hernandez photograph, click on the Good News Network link above.

Have a Happy Day! 

Mary Rae Fouts