The Cost of Court

Tom Sirois of Berkshire Hills Financial wants to make sure that you are prepared for any sort of disaster that comes your way.

Today, in the light of all of the political and corporation scandals rocking this election, we are going to discuss the cost of a civil lawsuit to put into perspective the need of the average business owner to set money back in case the need to go to court arises.

Okay, you want to sue someone.

What’s first?

Attorney’s can cost anywhere from $300 an hour, to some of the most experienced charging around $1000 an hour.

Anyone who has ever been to court knows that a hearing could take upwards of 3 hours or more per hearing.

Those court costs add up quick!

Let’s assume that you won’t hire an attorney.

Let’s assume you will act as your own attorney, commonly referred to as “pro se”.

First you have to draft your complaint, and then file it.

Filing fees vary from state to state, and differ from district to superior court. For instance, in California, just filing the complaint will cost you $435, and in North Carolina, filing a civil complaint can cost only $200.

Then there are various other filing fees, including writ of execution, alias/pluries summons, and even a fee to request a court date for your hearing.

It is imperative in today’s business age, that a company set aside a set amount per month for any legal costs that their company may incurr.

An ill prepared company who is sued by a plaintiff could spend upwards of $60,000 – $100,000 dollars before court is over.

Do you have a good strategy to protect your business or personal assets should the need to go to court arise for your business or family?

Contact Tom Sirois of Berkshire Hills Financial today to discuss how we can work out a financial strategy to protect you and your hard-working business today.

How “Brexit” Plunged World Economies

“Brexit”

One thing investors love, is stability.

The smartest investors often analyze trends, patterns, and other movements in the market in which they invest, allowing them to either invest or withdraw their investment, thus driving market stocks and value.

Britain just voted to exit the European Union, coining the term, “Brexit”, and it shook markets and investors worldwide.

European bank shares had their worst two day fall on record and the British pound fell to it’s lowest level in 31 years, Reuters reported.

You read that correctly, a political vote actually decreased the value of money worldwide.

What is in store for the United States economy since the Brexit confusion?

Are you secure in your investments, and does your family have a financial plan in case of economical collapse?

Tom Sirois of Berkshire Hills Financial can help you get on the right track.

Call today.

How Inflation Destroys Countries

Remember your parents telling you how “back in my day, that used to cost a quarter”, and “You could pay bills making a little over a dollar a day”?

Since the 1950’s, the cost of living has risen exponentially in the United States, and more than 50 million Americans each year go hungry.

Tom Sirois
Courtesy MyBudget360.com

In Venezuela, Hyperinflation is ravaging the country, where people line up outside of nut and fruit stores, hoping for cheap food.

A hamburger in Venezuela, according to a recent Yahoo news article, was found to cost around $170 in U.S. currency, and a hotel stay costing around $7,000, yes thousand, dollars a night.

A strict reform is needed in both America, and countries like Venezuela to battle the cost of living, versus earned income, so that the people may prosper.

Ways to Cut Down Debt

Buried in credit card debt?

The average American lies about their credit card debt, on average claiming that they have 40% of debt less than they actually do.

Some people take charge of their financial future using a couple of quick and simple methods to pay off their debt on a fast track program.

One such couple is the Kelly’s.

They had over $65,000 in debt, and paid it off within a year.

How, you may ask?

Cut out the unnecessary expenses, and commit to a budget.

Yard sales, garage sales, etc. can lead to a huge return on stuff you forgot you even had. Those extra funds can be allocated into paying off debt.

Cutting down on entertainment and other expenses to a friendly weekly budget could save you thousands of dollars a year. Make a budget and stick to it. Missing out on that movie won’t hurt you, and you could always see it when it goes on Netflix.

Food is always expensive. Opt for more home cooked meals. Casseroles and anything chicken based tends to be more cost effective, and also more healthy for you in the long run than beef or other carcinogenic meats.

Drinking water. It’s an abundant resource, but with just 12 cans of soda costing more than $4 in some places, that could cut your weekly expenses back to $40 or more a week, which translates into $160 a month to be put towards debt. Not only will your debt shrink, but your waistline will trim down too, and you can finally fit that swimsuit you always wanted to wear.

Cutting down debt isn’t impossible, it just takes commitment and dedication.

7 Investment Mistakes that Celebrities Make

We have all seen it. The rich and famous who boast luxury cars, and lavish homes, then, in what seems like the next day, they are M.C. Hammer broke.

How does one go through so much money, so quickly?

Tom Sirois of Berkshire Hills Financial will analyze their spending habits so you don’t make the same mistakes they did when you live the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

  1. Overestimating the market values of real estate.
    The housing market is often not what it seems, and when the next big artist purchases 3 or more homes, overextending their credit or bank account, the market can fluctuate, further hurting the finances of the owner.
  2. Buying depreciating assets.
    Boats, planes, cars. All of these items decrease in value every year, and even faster with use. You may as well be throwing nominal amounts of money down the toilet.
  3. Blindly investing in new technology.
    Wanting to be the next Chris Sacca, artists and actors alike are guilty of blindly investing in quick-to-fizzle-out technology trends. When is the first or last time that you have used Google Glass?
  4. Taking investment advice from friends.
    It’s kind of like taking dating advice from friends. Don’t do it.
  5. Investing in restaurants.
    According to the National Restaurant Association, it’s one of the most risky investments. The United States sees around 60,000 new restaurants each year, with 50,000 closures. That’s around an 83 percent failure rate if you are keeping up.
  6. Selling stocks too quickly when they drop.
    Just wait it out, markets fluctuate and next year you more often that not would see an exponential increase on your investment.
  7. Overestimating future earnings.
    You have a prime of your life for a reason. Put some money back to rely on it after your fame and fortune fizzles out like a distant supernova.

How to Invest Your Tax Refund

It’s April. The birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and you are banking on that big tax return to take your family on that vacation you have been dreaming of all year.

Maybe travel isn’t your thing, and you prefer possessions such as flat screen t.v.’s and the latest shoe craze?

In this post, we will show you how to invest your tax return and make it work for you.

We all know that debt is a huge deal in America. So many of us are plagued with high interest credit card bills. Want to improve your score, please your significant other, and be able to borrow more money should the need arise in the future? Use that hefty refund to pay off a few of those high interest credit cards and breathe a sigh of debt-free relief.

Tragedy hits people every day when they least expect it. Most people do not have a nest egg to rely on when tragedy strikes. What if you take at least a small portion of that refund, and tuck it away in an interest bearing account for any misfortune that could come your way? Having a few extra dollars put back when that transmission goes bad could save you in the long run.

Politics are all over the place right now, and the future of retirement seems to get more and more diminished every year. A large majority of elderly people are still working past the age of 65, and some, with multiple jobs. You worked all your life, but do you have anything to show for it? Putting back some money for retirement now, could pay off big in the future, as you finally get some time to relax with your family and enjoy the life you worked so hard to build.

Do you rent your home? Do you want to rent forever or would you rather bask in the glory of owning your own house for a fraction of what you would rent it for? Investing in the real estate market could pay off big in the future, and, if house buying is something you enjoy, the market of “flipping houses” has never been better. Invest your refund in a home and enjoy peace of mind.

Investing your refund may seem hard once you have it in your hand, but it could pay you off three-fold in the long run.

The High Cost of Veterinary Care

I was recently told by a person who adopted a rescue animal from their local animal shelter as a means to cope with the recent loss of their daughter. The story does not end well emotionally and financially due to what they were told the cost of veterinary care.

Everything was going great, until after they came home from the March of Dimes.

The couple opened the door to the room they kept their dogs in after hearing growling as soon as they arrived home.

Their small Dachshund had been attacked because the new dog introduced to the pack was trying to assert itself.

Folks who have had pets know that Veterinary bills are some of the most expensive and unexpected medical costs in our financial lives.

According to Washington Post, veterinary care in the United States jumped from $8 Billion in 2000, almost doubling to $14 billion in 2013.

This young loving couple was told that costs could estimate $4000 for surgery and wound care for their dog, and the vet hospital needed it up front. This was AFTER they spent $600 dollars out of their bill money for the appointment.

They were unable to provide any further care for their dog and had to put their dog to rest, devastating the owners.

Why should you let the cost of veterinary bills devastate a financially stable home, while veterinarian’s pay has increased by an average of $90,000 per year? Unfortunately, this is a fact of life. We often do not factor in worse case scenarios and/or unforeseen expenses.

You have many options, such as pet insurance, and deferred credit cards such as CareCredit, but, the best game plan, is good financial stability in order to have money set aside for emergencies just like this one.

Here at Berkshire Hills Financial, Tom Sirois can help you set aside money in increments that won’t affect you or your families expenditures, and avoid tragedy when it strikes next.

Keeping Things Simple When Looking at a Stock

I have spoken with countless people (professionals and non-professionals) regarding stock they are invested in. Though many may “sound” intelligent describing the minutia as to why a particular company is a good investment. For long term investing, I think Warren Buffett has a great way to describe what HE looks for.

Here are four items he utilizes BEFORE he invests in a company by buying their stock:

  1.  Any Good Investment Idea Can be Put in One Paragraph: most great companies are simple and easy to understand (think Coke or McDonalds)
  2.  Circle of Competence and NO Called Strikes: know what you are good at, and do not pick a company at a bad price. Make your BEST decision always.
  3. Invest in great businesses that have a terrific person running it: Peter Lynch once said: “buy a business that is so good that any idiot can run it because sooner or later one will”.
  4. These businesses are hard to find, so do not sell them: Buy at the right price, and you will not need to sell these stocks.

A great video that wraps this all up is found here: Warren Buffett on Investment Analysis

Filing Taxes (not March Madness)

Though many of you are filling out your bracket for March Madness, this time of year is a good time to get your financial information in order to complete the filing of your taxes next month. Though you have a couple extra days this year, don’t wait until the last minute.

Over the last several weeks you should have been receiving documents from your employer, banks, stockbrokers and any other agencies that were in your financial life in 2015. By law, these would be sent out by the end of January, so you should have all of these documents at this time.

Something that is relatively new and essential to preparing your taxes is Healthcare statements. You will have an additional form (Form 1095) that discloses that you have health care coverage for you and your family, as well as the amount you paid for it. Having health insurance is now mandatory by our Government (thank you Obamacare), so you MUST provide this information on your forms.

Most common are the income and deduction statements. This includes W-2 provided by your employers showing the amount you were paid AND the amount that was withheld for paying taxes. If you own a home you may be able to deduct the mortgage interest: that would be form 1098. Student loan interest is reported on 1098-E. Many different types of 1099s are provided depending if you earned any interest on your bank accounts, received dividends from investments, sold stocks or bonds, received a refund in taxes, etc.

When this is gathered, sit down and prepare your taxes. YES, you can do it yourself most of the time, but if you do hire someone to prepare your taxes to watch out for these red flags.

Below are two links that assist you in preparing a checklist for all of your documents:

When do You Need a Financial Advisor?

When Your Finances Increase Significantly.

It’s no secret that a fool and his money are soon parted. With bankrupt celebrities and even Wall Street needing a bailout, we could all use a little financial education. At Berkshire Hills Financial, Tom Sirois can help you plan investments, take care of past debt, and consolidate your expenses.

When A Loved One Gets Sick

Healthcare is one of the most expensive things that people rarely prepare for. Before you know it, (God forbid), your aunt has cancer, your family is nowhere to be found, and she moves in with you to save money for treatments. At Berkshire Hills Financial, Tom Sirois can help you plan for these dark times, and put a silver lining on that dark cloud, and in your wallet.

When Planning A Large Purchase

Car, boat, truck, or house, a large purchase may seem like a great plan until disaster strikes and you realize you should have budgeted. At Berkshire Hills Financial, Tom Sirois can help you rearrange your finances to fit in the purchase you want and deserve.

Before you really need one

Finding unbiased advice is very hard to come by, but as with many things it is better to have a plan BEFORE your confront financial decisions. For example, if you have young people or individuals who are dependent on you as a source of income, you MUST protect your income if you can no longer work. This can be simply disability insurance or more commonly life insurance. It can cost just a few hundred dollars a year to protect your earning power for the future. But, as with all of these decisions, you need to know what is the best financial decision: Term Life? or a Whole Life Policy? The answer is not always easy to answer. That is where an unbiased financial advisor can help.

Unless you are wealthy like Warren Buffet as a simple conversation with a financial advisor can pay for itself over time many times over.

Tom Sirois

Great Barrington