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Harbor Volunteer Day

Last month, we had our second annual Harbor sponsored Employee Volunteer Day to support the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. We had very busy morning at the office and lunch together before we headed over to meet the hardworking team at HSBV. The HSBV’s annual fundraiser, Puttin’ On the Leash 2018, will be held soon, and after last year’s wine bottle wrapping activity, we were anxious to see what the staff had in store for us to help prepare for this year’s event. We were hoping it included puppies!

Before starting on the hard work of preparing some of the ‘royal’ table decorations, we were thrilled to meet Jade, an Italian greyhound puppy who really had a rough start to life. She was very happy to snuggle with us, and it was clear that the team at HSBV has been taking very good care of her, helping her to recover from some injuries.

After finishing our work on decorations and preparing so many bags for wine and other goodies to be used as raffle and auction items, Lindsay Scott was kind enough to give us a tour of the facility. Lindsay, who is the Director of Operations and Veterinary Services, explained all of the primary services in place to support the needs of these sweet friends. They provide behavior modification training, medical and veterinary services, which are also available to the public.  As part of the intake and adoption process, they assess the animals and are then able to suggest what type of home environments would best support their needs – this is very helpful in finding a successful forever home for the cats and dogs that come to the shelter. HSBV also operates a small retail store onsite! The Humane Society of Boulder Valley provides shelter and care to more than 7,000 animals each year, with about 95% of these animals being adopted.

The last stop of the tour was the adoption area where we were able to meet some sweet dogs and cats waiting to be adopted.   Walking through this area, it was hard to resist taking so many of them home with us!

Before we left for the day, we got to meet one more puppy, a very energetic Catahoula mix, who was quite an escape artist and quickly made friends with our team.

Anytime that you can spend part of your work day playing with puppies is a great day in my view!

Thank you Harbor and HSBV for a wonderful day! Looking forward to the next Harbor Employee Volunteer Day.





Harbor Welcomes Denise Givens

We are happy to announce that Denise Givens has joined Harbor’s team as Office Manager.  She is responsible for overall office management and organization, day-to-day operations, scheduling and special projects. She also assists with bookkeeping and events.

Prior to joining Harbor, she spent most of her career in Global Supply Chain and Logistics Operations roles.

Please join us in welcoming her to Harbor!


Harbor is 30 Years Old!

January 1st of 1988 Harbor Financial Group was incorporated in Colorado.  Our vision was to create a financial planning firm based on a straightforward service model devoted to our clients’ best interests.  We were young but had a lot of experience in the field of investment management and financial planning.  We knew what we didn’t want; conflicts of interest, exorbitant fees, empire building, nor a sales environment.  What we did want was a professional organization structured to give excellent, well researched advice to a limited number of clients needing our services.

We started with a great reputation and we intended to keep it that way with every client we served and each decision we made.

What we didn’t know was how successful we would be. Hundreds of plans later, buffeted by countless market cycles, inflation, natural disasters, and political turmoil we are consistent in providing advice to our clients.  Potential clients noticed too, glad to have an alternative to big banks and brokerage firms and the way they do business.  Along the way, we created a wonderful work environment where staff can thrive, learning, contributing and enjoying their professional lives.

To celebrate this year we intend to have a party to thank you for your part in our success. We also think it will be fun to engage in a retrospective 1988 to 2018, what has changed, what hasn’t, and what didn’t exist- think life without smart phones, the internet and a number of our current staff members!  Be on the lookout for a monthly dive into fun and interesting items.

We hope you will help us celebrate- we would not be here without you.



7th Annual Wreath Making Event

We recently hosted our 7th annual wreath making event at Sturtz and Copeland here in Boulder.  This is always such a fun event and great to see everyone’s individual creativity and style.

If you have not attended in the past mark your calendar for next December and join us!











The Galapagos is a naturalists dream, there are species of bird, animal and plant life- giant tortoises, both blue footed and red footed boobies, marine iguanas, and warm water penguins  that you will not see anywhere on earth. We began our adventure with a flight to Quito Ecuador, which in itself is a worthy destination high in the Andes.  From Quito we flew to Guayaquil Ecuador where we embarked on our trip around the islands.  We chose a small double hulled boat called the Ocean Spray.  It carries 16 passengers, on our trip we had 14.  A small boat is a great way to explore in small groups, we had a guide for our family of six, along with a very attentive crew.

A cruise is an opportunity to visit a place where time has almost stopped.   It is also an opportunity to swim with sea lions, sharks, sting rays, and giant tortoises, hike into lava tunnels and caves, explore deserted beaches-there is opportunity for adventure all day every day.

The setting feels a bit otherworldly, as you pass the islands they are sparsely populated and the vegetation when we went was scant, I likened it to the moon’s surface.

I don’t know which was more nerve-wracking  jumping into open water with fairly strong currents or that fact that that water contained hundreds of sharks, we were told it was not feeding time. The large schools of fish surrounding you as you swam was a unique experience.  Literally thousands at one time.  Swimming with the giant tortoises was another adventure experience, they are as beautiful as you might imagine, peaceful and graceful.  Getting to the sea turtles required swimming over hundreds of stingrays.  All I could think of was Steve Irwin.  We saw octopus, and at a distance penguins.

Hiking into the lava tubes is only adventurous if you are claustrophobic or at all concerned that OSHA has not visited- and it is really dark.  We brought flashlights but it was still a ‘blind’ walk deep into ancient tubes vacated by the lava that formed them.

We combined our Galapagos trip with a visit to the Madre de Dios River (an Amazon tributary) just up river from Puerto Maldonado Peru.  We stayed at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica which in itself is an adventure.  The lodge is set in the jungle and is a haven for bird watchers.  We experienced a night boat ride to view caiman in their habitat, climbed high above the forest floor on rope ladders and platforms, we looked for and did not see an anaconda (ok by me!) and hiked in the jungle.   The resort has a pet peccary named Sammy which was fun!

I would recommend this trip for the adventure, singular sights, viewing the southern cross from the top of the boat, the other travelers you will meet and good times with friends and family as you explore this magical world making memories together.

Thanksgiving Centerpiece Class

Last month Harbor hosted a flower arranging class at Plum Sage in Denver.  With instruction from the floral experts at Plum Sage each attendee designed and created their very own Thanksgiving centerpiece to take home.

We learned about flower and foliage types, the mechanics of floral arrangements as well as many useful design tips. We also discussed using what is available in our own gardens to enhance a store bought bouquet.

This was a very fun and educational class and we hope to make it an annual event.



Helping Your Child Build Credit

Once upon a time when a child went off to college they were inundated with credit card solicitations, often to their (and their credit score’s) detriment. Among other needed reforms, the Credit CARD Act of 2009 eliminated the ability of a card company to entice consumers under the age of 21 without an independent income to sign up for cards using excessive marketing, gifts and, of course, pizza.  While laudable, this act has put the burden on parents to step in and make sure their children who are full time students have access to a credit card for emergencies and for building a credit history for when they finish school and start applying for loans.  There are several ways to accomplish this goal:

Make the child an authorized user on your card – this involves calling your credit card company and having them issue a card with the child’s name on it that they can then use as their own. The disadvantage of this method is that even you have an agreement that your child will cover their charges you are, in fact, liable for those amounts as well as your own. The advantage to this method is that you can monitor your child’s charges and if they charge irresponsibly you can rescind the authorization with another call to the credit card company. Also positive activity, paying on time and in full, will show up on your child’s credit report as well as yours, building a positive credit history for the child.

Co-sign for a card for your child – if you have highly trustworthy children you may use this option. The disadvantage is that the child is the primary account holder. They receive the bills and if they do not pay the co-signer may not know until the debt is delinquent, damaging the credit score of child and parent alike and possibly leaving the parent responsible for paying the bill. Also, as the primary account holder, the child can raise the credit limit without the co-signer knowing. If you elect this option, it’s often best to start before the child leaves home for college while you can still monitor and observe their spending habits and continue to educate them on using credit responsibly.

Secured cards – if your child is not particularly responsible and the above options cause you undue anxiety consider a secured card. With these cards, you make a deposit in the bank, often a few hundred up to a few thousand dollars, and this deposit establishes the credit limit on the card. While these cards are expensive, generally charging annual fees and often penalties for paying late or going over limit, they can be a good option for starting slowly. Again, if you elect this option, it’s often best to start before the child leaves home.

Whichever way you choose, helping your child learn about and establish credit is an important life skill and eventually, sometime in the far distant future they might even thank you for it and offer to buy you pizza.



Hikes We Like

by Annika Spetnagel  – Harbor Intern

My last summer adventure was camping outside of Winter Park along Vasquez Ridge.

It was my first time camping in a dispersed camping spot (ie outside of a designated campground) and it couldn’t have turned out better. Vasquez Road, a mere 20-30 minutes from Main Street Winter Park, had tons of unique camping spots all alongside a river. I had a great time exploring the area, taking in the scenery, and enjoying some yummy camp fire prepared food.




Investopedia: When Should Retirees Downsize?

When should retirees downsize their home?   Writing for InvestopediaTim Parker consulted with several wealth management professionals including Elyse Foster, CFP® of Harbor Financial Group and found many circumstances to ponder.

When should retirees downsize homes? That’s an inevitable question, because time stands still for nobody. Seasons of life change over time, and one day you’ll find yourself asking that question more seriously than today. Ultimately, the answer is based on your individual circumstances. Here are some things to consider when making the decision.

Most people fresh out of school – or newly married with little money – start in a bare-bones apartment. Over time, as a family grows in tandem with its income, a multi-bedroom house generally becomes the residence of choice. Later in life, the kids move out (one hopes), and the house is filled with more memories than people. Quite likely, there’s no longer a need to pay the expenses that come with a large home. Once retirement fully sets in – and individuals or couples often live on less income – making their money last may become a serious concern.

“Downsizing is both a financial as well as an emotional decision,” says Allan Katz, CFP, ChFC, CLU, president of Comprehensive Wealth Management Group, LLC, in Staten Island, N.Y. “It often becomes a necessity because retirement income may not sustain the expenses. It would also make sense if it means downsizing expenses, which can now be used for other things like family vacations, taking care of grandchildren, etc.”

Selling the home could be the perfect way to cut costs, but that’s not always the case.

The cost of selling. Selling your home comes with some pretty high costs. You’ll likely have to do some facelift/style updates to get the best price, you could have 6% or more in realtor commissions. If you make enough money in the sale, capital gains taxes could take a big bite out of your earnings.

The cost of moving. Then, you have to purchase or rent somewhere new to live. If the new place is much smaller, you might end up needing to buy smaller furniture instead of just using what you have. Then, there are all the costs that come with moving: closing costs, actual movers (and this time, you may need help with packing to spare your back), and many other incidentals that you won’t know about until you do it.

The intangibles. Maybe moving to a sunny climate seems like a dream come true, but you’re leaving lifelong friends, family, community and doctors with whom you’ve built relationships over time. The beach is nice, but having friends and family to spend time with is better – providing (of course!) that you actually like your friends and family. “Relationships are important and they aren’t as easy to develop as we’d like to assume. Because of that fact, don’t treat this issue too lightly. You may not make new friendships in your new home as easily as you did in your old one…given that you are now in a different stage of life,” says Bruce Wing, ChFC, CLU, RHU, REBC, president, Strategic Wealth, LLC, Alpharetta, Ga.

By the way, you probably think your house is worth more than it actually is, so make sure to check out the likely selling price with a few real estate agents, and maybe pay for a property appraisal, before committing to the change. Avoid the Downsides of Downsizing in Retirement will explain more.

All of this means one thing: You have to total all of the costs associated with moving to see if it makes sense. “Drafting a comparison of the old home expense versus the new home expense is important as well. Will the new home have higher or lower utilities, for example? Will the new home have greater or less commuting or travel costs to visit loved ones, run errands, get to work? Consider insurance expense, property taxes, HOA dues and expenses before moving. The differences can be huge and surprising based on region,“ says Elyse Foster, CFP®, principal, Harbor Financial Group, Inc., Boulder, Colo.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t end up profiting: A study from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research found that downsizing from a $250,000 home to a $150,000 home is likely to net you about $6,250 extra per year or $520 per month – a sizable sum for the average retiree. Numbers like these are purely hypothetical, though. You’ll have to calculate your own numbers to make an educated choice.

And that’s all before you start thinking about health.

Health Concerns

As you age, your health will become a more determining factor in all decisions. If you (or your spouse) have mobility problems, a two-story home probably isn’t the best place to live. You can make accessibility accommodations, but the costs could be high.

On the other hand, if your current layout has fewer stairs or is all on one floor, widening a few doors for walkers isn’t that much compared to the costs of selling and moving. If you’re younger and thinking about aging parents (or looking ahead to being one), do a home makeover upgrade using what are called universal design standards – designing for people in all stages of life. This will allow you to stay in your home for as long as you would like without having to make modifications for your later years.

More serious health concerns may be a reason for moving to some form of senior housing, of course, but that’s not a downsizing issue.

The Middle Ground

If you’re not sure what to do, there’s a middle ground to explore. Instead of selling, you could rent your home and move into something smaller, using the rental proceeds and banking the extra money. “Selling your home outright can cause major disturbances in your financial strategy. Always consider the alternative of leasing your home to good renters who will pay a premium for your asset. This allows you to be flexible with your retirement lifestyle. Whether you choose to move into an apartment or travel the world, you now have a new form of income,” says Timothy W. Hooker, AIF®, parther and chief compliance officer, Dynamic Wealth Solutions, LLC, Southfield, Mich.

You’ll probably need a management company, especially if you don’t have experience as a landlord. But even adding in that expense saves all of the costs of selling and allows you to continue cashing in on the rising value of your home. Obviously, don’t do this if it won’t raise enough extra cash – unless your other goal is testing out a new city or the need to live on a single floor.

You could also rent out a room or portion of your home, but you should tread lightly, especially if it’s somebody you don’t know. And study up on local ordinances about roommates – not just whether you can have one in your neighborhood, but what happens if you want to evict one. (How Renting Out Your Spare Room Can Backfire spells out some details.)

Other Reasons to Sell

If you’ve paid off your home, trying to hold onto it without burdening yourself makes sense. However, sometimes selling is still the best idea. If you plan to travel a lot, you may only need a small place to call home. If you need extensive, ongoing medical care that your local or regional hospital can’t support, relocating also might be advised.

The Bottom Line

As a retiree, you hope to be able to make some choices about how you live that don’t center on money. If you love your home and all the memories it holds, you might stay even if it makes little financial sense. Why? Because you can.

How do you know if you should sell? Crunch the numbers. Calculate the upfront costs of moving and compare them to the yearly savings you’ll realize. A small gain probably isn’t worth your time, but a substantial savings might make sense.

Full Article: When Should Retirees Downsize Their Homes? | Investopedia

Original Source: Investopedia, Tim Parker, September 8, 2017, What’s The Minimum I Need To Retire?

HSAs and FSAs

Health insurance plans, tax code and government-sponsored programs are often written in complicated language, making it a challenge to understand all of the benefit options available to you. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) are similar tax-saving ways to help pay for qualified medical expenses.  However, each comes with its own set of rules.

A health savings account (HSA), is a tax-advantaged account set up through a qualified trustee (bank, insurance company, etc.) to pay or reimburse qualified out of pocket medical expenses. Simple sounding, HSAs have some specific requirements starting with who is eligible to sign up for a HSA.

To qualify for an HSA, you must:

• Be covered under a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

A HDHP has a minimum annual deductible higher than a typical health insurance plan.

For 2017, the minimum annual deductible is $1,300 for individuals and $2,600 for families with a maximum cap of $6,550 and $13,100 for individual and family out of pocket medical expenses respectively.

For 2018, the minimum annual deductible increases to $1,350 for individuals and $2,700 for families. The caps on annual out of pocket medical expenses increase to $6,650 for individuals and $13,300 for families.

• Not have any other healthcare coverage unless already covered by liabilities incurred under workers’ compensation laws, torts (civil legal liability), or ownership or use of property, a specific disease, or a fixed amount per day (or period) of hospitalization

• Not be enrolled in Medicare

• Not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s current tax return

Benefits of opening an HSA account include the following:

• Contributions made by anyone other than an individual’s employer are tax deductible and do not need to be itemized on Tax Form 1040.

• Contributions made on the behalf of an individual’s employer may be excluded from an individual’s gross income.

• The HSA balance rolls over from year to year.

• The interest and gains on the assets in the account are tax-free, and distributions remain tax-free if paying for qualified medical expenses. At age 65, distributions may be taken for any reason without penalty.

• HSA funds remain available for future qualified medical expenses even if the individual changes health insurance plans, changes employers, or retires.

Individuals with a qualified high deductible health plan are eligible to contribute up to $3,400 a year in 2017, compared to family HDHP coverage which allows for up to $6,750 in annual contributions. In 2018, those amounts increase to $3,450 and $6,900 respectively. Individuals who are 55 or older are eligible to contribute an additional $1,000 each tax year. Employers have the opportunity to contribute to HSAs, but the annual limits still apply and include amounts contributed through a cafeteria plan.

Qualified expenses to use funds from an HSA include medical, dental, vision, and prescription expenses not covered by medical insurance. These do not include insurance premiums except in certain cases including paying for COBRA and paying for medical premiums if unemployed.

In comparison, some individuals may have the option to enroll in a Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA). FSAs have many similarities to HSAs in their structure and use of funds, but have many differences that are important to understand.

A health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) is a tax-favored program that allows employees to pay for out of pocket medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. In order to qualify for an FSA one must be employed by an employer who offers the FSA program as part of its cafeteria plan coverage

Once enrolled in a FSA, the employee must choose an amount of their salary to pledge to the account by estimating how much he or she thinks will be spent during the period on copayments, drugs and other qualified expenses not covered by insurance. Each pay period, an equal proportion of this contribution will be taken out of an individual’s income pre-tax.

Benefits of enrolling in a FSA include the following:

• Because contributions to the account are made through a cafeteria plan, they are not subject to income and other payroll taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare.

• The employer may allow the annual contribution amount to be available at the beginning of the plan year, which would allow an employee to claim the entire annual amount at the beginning of the year if he or she has qualifying expenses.

In 2017, employees are eligible to deposit up to $2,600 in an account each year, subject to the employer’s plan limitation. The contribution limit is expected to remain the same for 2018.

FSAs are “Use it or lose it”: Any money left in an FSA at the end of the plan period is forgone by the owner of the account.  Some plans have a grace period after the year is over to deplete the remaining balance of the FSA.

For more information about HSAs and FSAs plus a list of qualifying medical expenses, contact your accountant, plan administrator or go to IRS Publication 969.