Do Women Face Greater Retirement Challenges Than Men?

If so, how can they plan to meet those challenges?

By Rebecca Bar-Shain, CFP®, Cedar Brook Group

Why are women so challenged to retire comfortably? A woman may spend less time in the workforce during her life than a man due to childrearing and caregiving needs with a corresponding interruption in both wages and workplace retirement plan participation. A divorce can hugely alter a woman’s financial outlook. As women live longer on average than men, they face the risk of eventually outliving retirement savings. There is also the gender wage gap, narrowing, but still evident.

What can women do to respond to these financial challenges?

Invest early & consistently Women should realize that on average they may need more years of retirement income than men. Social Security will not provide all the money they need. Accumulated retirement savings will need to be tapped as an income stream. So saving and investing regularly through IRAs and workplace retirement accounts is vital, the earlier the better. So is getting the employer match, if one is offered. Catch-up contributions after 50 should also be a goal.

Consider HSAs An HSA (Health Savings Account) is funded with pre-tax dollars, so an HSA owner can potentially get tax-deductible contributions as well as tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals. HSAs are used with high-deductible health plans and HSA savings must be withdrawn to pay for qualified health expenses in order to be tax-exempt. One intriguing HSA detail: after attaining age 65 an HSA owner can withdraw HSA funds for non-medical expenses (these types of withdrawals are characterized as taxable income). That fact has prompted some journalists to label HSAs “backdoor IRAs.”

Work longer in pursuit of greater monthly Social Security benefits Working even two years longer means two years less of retirement to fund and for each year she refrains from filing for Social Security after age 62, her monthly Social Security benefit rises by about 8%.

Find a method to fund eldercare Many women are going to outlive their spouses. While many women may not need months of rehabilitation, in-home care or hospice care, many other women will.

Today, financially aware women are planning to meet retirement challenges. They are conferring with financial advisors and strategizing to take greater control over their financial futures.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Rebecca L. Bar-Shain, CFP, MBA, Financial Planner & Partner
Cedar Brook Group
Cleveland, Ohio 44124


Women’s No. 1 Thought is Money More Often Than Men

LOS ANGELES / PRNewswire/ – Women are less scared than men about losing their jobs, according to new survey data from leading personal finance website In their just released 2015 Life + Money survey, discovered the biggest money challenges and fears men and women have today.

• 1 in 5 people say their biggest money challenge is sticking to a budget.
• Always living paycheck to paycheck is the No. 1 financial fear of Americans today,  followed by living in debt forever.
• 20% of Americans say planning for retirement is their primary financial focus.

“We want to help Americans understand how to process their financial concerns and prioritize goals, especially as it relates to their various life stages,” said Casey Bond, editor-in-chief of “Our studies show younger generations think differently about money and debt than their parents and grandparents, but the common theme is all types of people need some level of assistance with financial planning. This data offers insights for men and women of all ages that can help them change how they think about money for the better.”

  • Millennials Vs. Boomers*

    • While older millennials’ (25-34) No. 1 daily thought is money, younger millennials (18-24) ponder most about their love lives, and boomers think most about work.
    • Planning for retirement is five times more challenging for baby boomers than it is for young millennials (34% vs. 7%).
    • Baby boomers are almost three times more afraid of never being able to retire than young millennials (24% vs. 9%) and twice as likely to be afraid of having their identity stolen.
    • Young millennials are twice as afraid of always living paycheck to paycheck as baby boomers.

  • Men Vs. Women
    • Women’s No. 1 thought is money more often than men.
    • Men are more afraid than women of losing money in the stock market, losing their jobs and not being able to retire.
    • Women are more fearful of always living paycheck to paycheck than men (25% vs. 18%).
    • Planning for retirement is more of a financial challenge for men than it is for women (20% vs. 17%).

The complete 2015 Life + Money survey findings are presented in whitepaper format as well as an infographic, click here.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.25.06 AMRead more here

* For this survey analysis, young millennials were defined as adults ages 18-24; older millennials were defined as adults ages 25-34; and baby boomers were defined as adults ages 55-64. These are the ranges provided by Google Consumer Surveys.

6 Best Practices to Protect Your Confidential Information

Presented by Jonathan S. Merckens, CFP ®

Although there is a vast amount of technology available that is designed to safeguard your devices and personal information, that information is still vulnerable to cyber criminals and identity thieves. In fact, security breaches are not always due to a weakness in technology control. Sometimes, they are the result of the action or inaction of the user—you! Therefore, you are one of the best lines of defense against cyber crime.

As October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to implement the following information security best practices to do your part in keeping your personal information safe and secure.

1) Build strong passwords

It’s important to create strong passwords for all of your online accounts. But what exactly does this mean? A strong password:

  • Contains both uppercase and lowercase characters, as well as digits and punctuation
  • Is at least eight characters long
  • Is not a word in any language, slang, dialect, or jargon
  • Is not based on personal information, names of family members, and so on

A good rule of thumb is that passwords should be hard to guess but easy to remember.

2) Use multifactor authentication

A user ID and strong password alone are not sufficient protections for securing web accounts. Multifactor authentication—one of the simplest and most effective ways to secure your data—adds an extra layer of protection. With multifactor authentication, users must provide two forms of identification in order to log in to a site.

Here’s how it works: After a user enters a user ID and password, the website will send a passcode to the user’s mobile device. He or she must then enter this code on the site, ensuring that only that individual can sign into the account.

3) Be suspicious of unsolicited e-mail

Be wary of any e-mails that convey a sense of doom and gloom (e.g., threatening to close an account) or that claim immediate action is required. Grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and generic salutations are also red flags. Perhaps most important, scrutinize those e-mails that contain links and attachments from sources you don’t know (and, unfortunately, even from sources you do know). It’s quite easy for cyber criminals to craft a legitimate-looking e-mail in the hopes that you’ll be fooled into thinking it came from a company you do business with or from a friend. To protect yourself from this scenario, don’t hesitate to verify: Call the source directly to authenticate from whom it was sent it; if it came from a company you know, go to the company website directly to log in.

4) Protect your mobile devices

Outdated software can leave your mobile devices open to security vulnerabilities. By keeping your apps and mobile operating system software up to date, you can mitigate the risk of a cyber criminal exploiting a hole in your system. Most devices simplify this process for you by offering automatic update options for apps, as well as notification systems that let you know as soon as an operating system update is available. It’s your job to take care of these updates immediately!

Another mobile device necessity is to do your homework, making sure the apps you’re downloading are from a reputable company (e.g., by checking their ratings and comments). Be sure you know what the app does and what information it’s going to access on your mobile device.

5) Engage in safe web browsing

Keeping your browser up to date is critical in preventing malware. Just like apps and your operating system, an out-of-date browser can open up security gaps that cyber criminals will take advantage of. Be alert to pop-ups and advertisements: Both could be spyware used to plant tracking cookies on your machine, which can steal your information, direct you to bogus phishing sites, and pummel you with pop-ups.

When transmitting personally identifiable or payment information, you can ensure that you are on a secure site by checking for the “https://” before the “” When on public Wi-Fi networks, consider connecting through a personal virtual private network (VPN) and disable auto-connect; this way, your device won’t automatically connect to found public networks.

6) Stay vigilant

Although advanced technology today is certainly a safeguard and buffer to keep cyber criminals at bay, it’s critical to remember that you are in the first line of defense to keeping your data safe and secure.

For more tips and tricks to stay safe online, visit the National Cyber Security Alliance at

© 2015 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Contact Jonathan at (440) 638-4757 or

Tax Saving Strategies For Your Business

By Dawn J. Hryshko, CPA

Many taxpayers dislike the dreaded tax filing season; but there is a way to prepare, and possibly minimize, the taxes you pay.   Below is a list of some tax saving strategies that may reduce your 2015 taxes.

  • The 2015 auto mileage deduction is 57.5 cents per mile for business travel. A company-owned vehicle may produce a greater tax benefit due to depreciation and actual expenses associated with the vehicle. There are limits for personal use of company owned vehicles that should be considered before determining which method would be most beneficial.
  • Timing of revenue recognition and expense deductions. Cash basis taxpayers can prepay expenses before year-end that pertain to the next year and obtain a tax deduction this year. Likewise, services rendered in December can be billed in January to push income into the next tax year.
  • If you work from home and do not have another location to work from, you can take a tax deduction for business use of your home.
  • Pay family members who are in a lower tax bracket for work performed in your business.
  • Establish a retirement plan for your business or increase your pre-tax contribution to an employer-sponsored plan.
  • Contribute the maximum to your HSA.
  • Maximize the Section 179 expense deduction for purchases of ‘new’ property used in your business.
  • Properly classify business meals between what is 50% deductible and what is 100% deductible.
  • Shift itemized deductions to business deductions.
  • Maximize the use of business gifts.
  • Use of tax credits when applicable.
  • Contribute to a 529 plan and receive a $2,000 deduction per beneficiary on your Ohio tax return.
  • Utilize the Ohio Small Business Deduction.

Every tax situation is different. Consult your tax advisor to learn whether any of these items may benefit your tax situation.

Hryshko & Associates was established as a full service boutique CPA firm catering to the sophisticated needs of our clients. We strive to strike the perfect balance between small, local, attentive service and professional experience and expertise.

Dawn Hryshko, owner, has over 25 years of tax and business consulting experience with both public, privately held, and family-owned entities. She was the Tax Director of a multi-billion dollar real estate company based in Cleveland, Ohio. Dawn spent 19 years in Public Accounting , starting at a Big 8 firm in Cleveland, where she specialized in tax consulting for businesses in the real estate and construction industries. Dawn also served on many boards and committees throughout her career while being a dedicated mother of four children.

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What Type of Tax Professional Should You Work With?

By Dawn J. Hryshko, CPA

Although there are several professionals that may prepare tax returns, there are varying levels of expertise and differences in capabilities that should be considered. Before you pay for tax advice and services, ask the advisor about their credentials and abilities as it relates to potential tax benefits and penalties to meet your specific goals.

Who do you currently work with?

  • A tax preparer
  • An enrolled agent
  • A certified public accountant (CPA)
  • A tax attorney

A tax preparer can be anyone you know. Yes, even you can be a tax preparer! There is no formal education required and no federal governance to ensure a tax preparer has the qualifications to prepare tax returns for others. Most big box tax preparation firms fall into this category.

An enrolled agent is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service with no minimum education requirements. Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards to a person who either passes a three-part comprehensive IRS test covering individual and business tax returns, or through experience as a former IRS employee.

Individuals who obtain this status must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years. Enrolled agents, like attorneys and CPAs, have unlimited practice rights; which means they are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can represent clients before.

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is required to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting (which equates to 5 years of college) and pass the CPA exam. Each state governs the requirements for passage of the CPA exam; however, a CPA may work in every state with one license, which helps the taxpayer since the CPA should be well versed in that state’s tax laws as well. Once the CPA certificate is obtained, the CPA must obtain 40 hours of continuing education every year thereafter in order to maintain their license. Many CPAs obtain a Masters in Taxation which enhances their knowledge of tax laws and regulations.

A CPA will not only prepare and file tax returns directly with the IRS, but will also implement tax planning strategies to minimize future taxes, including retirement planning, estate planning, education planning, and business planning. CPAs can be well versed in several areas of taxation and tax law, or may focus on a specialty.

Like CPAs, a tax attorney requires a stringent amount of minimum education requirements and ongoing tax law education, where some even obtain the CPA. They must earn a bachelor’s degree, plus complete law school to obtain a JD, and pass the bar exam. Passing the bar exam means the candidate can practice law in that state only. While some states have transfer agreements, lawyers may need to pass the bar exam for every state in which they intend to practice. An attorney must obtain continuing education in order to maintain their license, which is determined by the state in which they hold their license. Law school graduates may consider enrolling in a 1-year (Masters of Law) LL.M. program in taxation in which they focus on a more specialized area of taxation, such as estate planning, rather than being a tax generalist.

While tax attorneys do not typically file tax returns, they can file lawsuits on behalf of their clients, including cases with the IRS and can represent clients on legal issues including collections, audits, appeals, and payment plans.

Each tax situation is unique. Interview your advisor and ask questions about their experience and credentials. Choosing the right professional will save you time, money and headaches while keeping you on track for your financial future.

Hryshko & Associates was established as a full service boutique CPA firm catering to the sophisticated needs of our clients. We strive to strike the perfect balance between small, local, attentive service and professional experience and expertise.

Dawn Hryshko, owner, has over 25 years of tax and business consulting experience with both public, privately held, and family-owned entities. She was the Tax Director of a multi-billion dollar real estate company based in Cleveland, Ohio. Dawn spent 19 years in Public Accounting, starting at a Big 8 firm in Cleveland, where she specialized in tax consulting for businesses in the real estate and construction industries. Dawn also served on many boards and committees throughout her career while being a dedicated mother of four children.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 9.21.10 AMDawn J. Hryshko, CPA
Hryshko & Associates

5 Tips to Sell Your Home This Spring

deb holmBy Deb Holmstrom, Berkshire Hathaway Kovack Realtors


1. Put A Plan In Place. Develop a plan of action before you sell your home. Are you planning on buying another home once your home sells? Do you have the option to move in with family? Can you rent, if need be? Can you buy before you sell?

2. Consult a Lender to Find your “Purchasing Power.” I would be happy to recommend local lenders committed to customer service.

3. Clean and Organize. Give your home a thorough “spring cleaning.” Clean out closets and pack away items you do not use. It’s important that you de-clutter and organize your home. Don’t forget to go the extra mile, wash your windows, dust your blinds, dust baseboard trim and clean appliances.

4. Interview Prospective REALTORS®. It is critical when selling a home that you interview a REALTOR®. As the weather warms up the top producing REALTORS® will only continue to get busier. Now is the time to start reaching out to the agents you think would be a
great representative to sell your home.

5. Be Proactive and Prepare. A licensed Realtor will help you prepare and navigate every step of the process. As a full time Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Kovack Realtors, I am committed to meeting the needs of my clients while we travel through the process of buying and selling a home. I would love to meet with you and help you sell or buy your next home sweet home.

Berkshire Hathaway ad

What is One of The MOST Important DECISIONS You’ll Ever Make?

HEALTH INSURANCE. Your entire family’s well-being DEPENDS on it.

“Should I Buy Insurance From An Independent Agent?”

In 2015, everyone is required to have insurance. Many consumers do not realize they have choices that go beyond what is offered on the government website. Selecting the right health insurance is one of the most important decisions you will make this year. Many of the plans can seem like they are written in a foreign language and the information overload can make your head spin.

Roni Bell, a licensed agent with HealthMarkets Insurance Agency, can help you and your family shop for the best health insurance plan to fit your needs. Roni and her team have opened a beautiful new o“ffice centrally located in Brunswick to better serve her customers in Northeast Ohio. With over 15 years experience, she is able to design a healthcare solution to fit her customer’s needs and budget, as well as explain the ins and outs of each plan.

“Life Events Can Change Your Insurance Needs. My passion is to help individuals of all ages and income levels become savvy health consumers. Are you going through a major life changing event? Retirement, divorce, job loss… I would love the opportunity to sit
down with you and help you find a solution that is right for your health needs and budget.” – Roni


1. Identify the “must-haves.” You can’t foresee a sudden injury or illness, but some medical needs can be anticipated.

2. Know Your Budget. We can help you find the right balance of premium and deductible that will work with your budget.

3. Check the network. If you have a primary care physician and specialists you like, be sure they’re in the network of any plan you consider buying.

HealthMarkets handles all types of insurance, including:
• Health Insurance
• Medicare
• Life Insurance
• Dental Insurance
• Vision Insurance
• Disability Insurance
• Accident Insurance
• Critical Illness Insurance
• Cancer Insurance
• Annuity
• Long-Term Care Insurance
• Wellness Programs

Finding the Right Low-Cost Health Coverage Has Never Been Easier.

health markets

HealthMarkets Insurance Agency is the d/b/a of Insphere Insurance Solutions, Inc. which is licensed as an insurance agency in all 50 states and DC. Not all agents are licensed to sell all products. Service and product availability varies by state. HMIA000899

Inheriting Debt From a Family Member

Presented by Jonathan S. Merckens, CFP ®

When a loved one passes away, his or her outstanding debt (and how that debt will be paid) likely won’t be the first thing on your mind. Unfortunately, many people find themselves dealing with a deceased family member’s creditors as they grieve. While no one likes to think about a loved one’s passing, it makes good financial sense to consider these matters ahead of time.

Who’s responsible for outstanding debt?
Generally, the deceased person’s estate assets are used to satisfy creditor claims before assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. If the estate assets are insufficient to pay all of the outstanding debt, the estate is considered “insolvent,” and state law prioritizes the payment of the deceased person’s bills with the available assets.

In some cases, however, outstanding debts may not fall to the estate. For example:

  • Cosigned debts. If you’ve cosigned on a loan or credit card with the deceased person, you are financially responsible for that debt.
  • Guaranteed debts. Similar to cosigning, if you are the guarantor of a loan for someone who has passed away, you will owe the lender payment of any remaining debt.
  • Community property. If your spouse passes away, you may find yourself responsible for debts for which you weren’t a cosigner or coapplicant. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are considered community property or quasi-community property states, meaning that all property and debt acquired during a marriage is considered jointly owned. If you live in one of these states, you could be held responsible for debts your spouse incurred.

How are different types of debt handled?

  • Credit card debt. Again, family members are not responsible unless they cosigned on the credit card. Although debt collectors may be aggressive, they can only make a claim against the estate. If you did cosign, you will be held responsible for the debt, even if you didn’t directly incur it.
  • Medical debt. If your parent qualified for Medicaid, the state may try to recover the payments made for his or her care. The state cannot ask you to pay, but it may be able to put a lien on your parent’s home to recover the funds. If a family member dies with other unpaid medical bills (unrelated to Medicaid), those bills become an estate debt. Keep in mind that many states have “filial responsibility” statutes that, under certain circumstances, hold adult children responsible for a deceased parent’s medical debt. Be sure to understand how state law may apply in your situation.
  • Mortgage debt. If you inherit a residence with a mortgage, you generally aren’t required to pay it off immediately. If you fail to make the mortgage payments, however, or cannot sell the house for a price that will pay off the mortgage, the lender will likely foreclose (or possibly agree to a short sale). If you don’t wish to own the real estate, you may disclaim it, at which point it would transfer to the next estate beneficiary.
  • Student loan debt. Federal programs, such as Perkins and Stafford loans, usually offer cosigners forgiveness if the borrower passes away. Private loans may be another story, however. Although some lenders have started to discharge the debt if a borrower dies or becomes disabled, many demand the money owed from cosigners.
  • Taxes. The estate is responsible for paying any property, income, or estate taxes. Tax authorities are usually given top priority as creditors.

Don’t be bullied
Family members of deceased debtors—and all consumers—are protected by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices in attempting to satisfy a debt. Under the FDCPA, collectors can contact the deceased person’s spouse, guardian, executor, or administrator to discuss a debt, but you do have the right to control your interactions with these collectors. For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at

Know where you stand
Inherited debt can be a complex issue to sort out. If you find yourself in this situation, seek advice from your financial advisor and an attorney who can guide you through the probate process and work with any debt collectors. Although dealing with a loved one’s death is never easy, getting your questions answered and protecting your inherited assets may make the situation a little less stressful.

Jonathan Merckens is a financial advisor located at 11925 Pearl Road, Suite 403, Strongsville, Ohio 44136. He o ers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/
SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Contact Jonathan at (440) 638-4757 or© 2014 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Health Care and Your 2014 Income Tax Return

By Magdalene M. Donohoe, CPA

Starting in 2014 most individuals were required to maintain basic health insurance coverage (known as Minimum Essential Coverage) for everyone included on the individual’s income tax return, or pay a penalty. This includes the individual themselves, spouse and any dependents. The penalty, otherwise known as the Shared Responsibility Payment, applies unless you qualify for an exemption. The requirement to maintain coverage or pay a penalty is generally referred to as the “Individual Mandate.”

Here are the basics you should know:

• Minimum Essential Coverage includes the following types of coverage: an employer group health plan; individual health insurance policy; COBRA; government plans (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE or Children’s Health Insurance Program); or qualifi ed health plans offered by an exchange. Ohio has a Federally facilitated exchange operated by the Department of Health and Human services.

• Minimum Essential Coverage does not include workers compensation insurance, disability insurance, dental or vision benefits, long-term care benefits, and Medigap or MedSupp insurance.

• Individuals that did not have healthcare coverage must make a Shared Responsibility Payment, which for 2014 is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child under age 18 (up to $285 for a family) or 1% of combined household income, whichever is greater. The penalty increases to $325 per adult or 2% for 2015 and $695 per adult or 2.5% for 2016.

• You must make the shared responsibility payment when you file your federal income tax return. The IRS may reduce any tax refund owed to a taxpayer by the amount of Shared Responsibility Payment.

• Certain individuals are exempt from the Individual Mandate. Some examples of exempt individuals are: non-U.S. citizen; members of certain religious sects or health care sharing ministries; and members of an Indian tribe. In addition, low income taxpayers, taxpayers for whom basic coverage is unaffordable and taxpayers who qualify under a hardship exemption are not required to maintain Minimum Essential Coverage.

Furthermore, any individual who doesn’t maintain Minimum Essential Coverage for less than three consecutive months qualifies for the short coverage gap exception.

The above is a simplified explanation of the Individual Mandate. Wasacz & Skvoretz LTD can assist you in determining how this requirement will affect you and your family, call 440.239.1911 today!

CPAS advisors

Women Need to Take Charge of Their Money

Presented by Wendy A. Kouvaras, AIF ®

Many women are in charge of their financial lives, and are proudly so. Some have become their own financial captains as a result of life events; others have always steered their own ships. Even so, there are too many women who are left out of the financial decision-making – some by their own choice.

That may be a mistake. Allowing a spouse or partner to handle financial affairs may predispose a woman to a lack of money knowledge – an education deficit that may allow a couple to slip toward indebtedness one day, or prove economically crippling in the event of divorce or death.

If you aren’t in charge of your financial life, chances are you will be at some point. The National Center for Women and Retirement Research (NCWRR) at Long Island University estimates that 90% of women will eventually be solely responsible for their finances. A recent study from Financial Finesse notes that while women participate in workplace retirement plans to a greater degree than men; just 43% of women had an emergency fund and only about a quarter bothered to rebalance their portfolios with time.

The More knowledge you have, the more confident you can become.

A good first step? Talk with a female financial advisor who recognizes some of the common money myths out there, and who can counter them with realistic approaches to saving and building wealth for retirement. Don’t be afraid to “pay yourself first” and embrace some risk in investing –over time, the rewards may far exceed the degree of risk you take.

To help you take that first step, I am currently offering a free, no-obligation consultation. Don’t procrastinate contact me today.

Wendy A. Kouvaras is President of ETHIX Financial Group located at 849 White Willow Lane, Brunswick, OH 44212. She offers securities through Sigma Financial Corporation, Member FINRA/ SIPC. Advisory services offered through SPC, a registered investment advisor. ETHIX Financial Group is independent of Sigma Financial Corporation.