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Experts serve up advice as Jacksonville University hosts free MoneyWise Financial Summit for public

By Phillip Milano

Sometimes, financial advice can be simple, such as when mom and dad told you “Don’t spend more than you make.”

But sometimes, it’s more complicated than that, such as whether to invest in stocks, bonds, commodities, or all three. Or whether creating a simple trust is worth it. Or in what situations durable power of attorney is important.

Those and other topics were addressed by a panel of experts Wednesday, May 8, during a free MoneyWise Financial Summit hosted by Jacksonville University at its Davis College of Business.

The event, attended by about 75 professionals, residents and students, was part of the first MoneyWise Week in Jacksonville, designed to give residents more tools to become “financially fit.” Family Foundations, a local nonprofit that offers credit counseling, organized the week, which features dozens of sessions and whose partners include JU, the city of Jacksonville, the University of North Florida and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

“We’re hosting this summit to try to help the public learn more about various financial topics,” said William Crosby, Interim Dean of the Davis College of Business, who emceed the event. “Too many people don’t have the necessary skills to handle even basic financial situations. Today, they may not get all the answers, but we can give them the tools to find the answers at little or no cost.”

One of those who came all the way from Georgia to get those tools was Shawn Oxendine, a financial planner. She wanted to learn as much as possible to pass on to her clients.

“This is just what the public needs,” she said. “There is still a financial crisis a lot of people are going through, and education is what is lacking. The opportunity to learn more is always good.”

The discussion was moderated by Ben Wuerffel, brother of former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel and a financial analyst with Capital Analysts. Panelists took questions from the audience, who asked from their seats and also wrote queries on note cards that were collected.

Some of the advice offered Wednesday included:

  • If you have a child, have a will. It’s as simple as that, said Clay Meux, an elder law attorney with Rogers Towers. “With no will and no simple trust, your estate will likely be handled by the courts,” he said. And durable power of attorney is a must when you need to make sure someone you trust can make legal decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
  • Look into veterans’ benefits for nursing care, assisted living or home health care. “More veterans’ aid is coming into this region than just about any area of the country,” Meux said.
  • Don’t be shy about using one method of accounting to tout your business to bankers to obtain loans, and another to shield your income from the I.R.S. As long as you are acting within the law, there’s no reason to show the I.R.S. any more profit than you have to, while also making sure banks see that you’re a successful operation, said Ron Pellum, a local CPA.
  • Take a good look at the financial markets and consider getting in if you feel it’s within your risk level. Markets have offered an annualized return of more than 17 percent over the past 3 years, indicating a bull market, said Andrew Folsom, chief investment officer for Capital Analysts of Jacksonville. “But the average investor hasn’t been in on this rise because they are still scared. This is the most unloved stock market I’ve ever seen.”
  • Commodities like gold and oil have seen a huge run-up in the past decade. Their futures are tied to the futures of China and India, whose economic growth was heating up during that time but now is slowing down, Folsom noted.
  • Making a lot of money? That doesn’t mean you manage it well. In fact, it’s a myth that lower-income people don’t manage their money, said Dawn Lockhart, president of Family Foundations. “Studies show they actually manage it better because they don’t have a lot of discretionary income to spend unwisely.”
  • If you’re getting close to retirement and want to quit your job, but need more savings, you’ve got some tough choices to make. “You can either keep working and raise your 401K contributions, or find a new job that’s less stressful – but always have something lined up before you quit one job,” said Sheryl Bordelon of Capital Analysts.
  • Having lots of debt doesn’t always mean you should spend a lot of money with a debt management company. “A lot of these places can be scams and can cause long-term consequences for you in the settlements they reach,” said Lockhart. Family Foundations offers various free services in credit counseling and debt management, she noted.
  • A home office means just that to the IRS. If you try to claim expenses related to a home office on your taxes, you should be certain that you’re using that space exclusively for your business, said Dwin Horne, CPA with Ennis, Pellum & Associates. “You need to be sure what qualifies for a deduction.”
  • Don’t let the prospect of possible higher taxes inhibit you from your efforts to accumulate wealth. “It’s better to make a buck and be taxed 35 cents on it than to not make a buck at all,” Horne said.
  • Save, save, save. “Get in the habit,” said Bordelon. “It doesn’t take much. Just a little bit off the top of your paycheck and put into your 401K or an IRA, and that’s a big help.”
  • Above all, use common sense in your spending and budgeting, especially when young. “Some people use the ‘cash in the envelope’ strategy,” Pellum noted. “If there’s no cash in the envelope, then you don’t go out to that movie tonight, for example. You stay home. It all goes back to discipline. After all, it’s not so much what we make, it’s what we spend. If fame and fortune were really what was so important, why is Hollywood so unhappy?”