The New Retirement: 3 Things to Think about Now

Stephen Geri retire

It is never too early to plan for retirement because what you think about and do now could have a significant impact on your future. Being 30 to 40 years away from retirement doesn’t mean that you can wait until you are in your 30s or 40s to start planning for retirement. Start managing your money now and reap the rewards when you have paid your occupational dues. Below, you will find three things to think about doing now so that you can be comfortable after retirement.

1. Retirement planning should begin with your first job

It may seem like you have a lot of time. However, time can be your friend or your enemy when it comes to retirement planning. It can be your friend if you start planning early. It can be your enemy if you wait and find yourself 20 years in the future wishing you had started planning as soon as possible.

If your first job is with a company that offers a 401(k) plan, sign up as soon as you are able. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) option, you can have a percentage of your paycheck deposited into an IRA. There is a very good chance that you will find yourself older and retired someday, so you’ll be glad you started that retirement plan. To keep the retirement money growing, you can set up automatic contributions to your retirement accounts. Getting accustomed to these contributions from the very start means they will be virtually painless over time.

As for the ideal income percentage to contribute, 7% is a good number in the beginning. Over time you can increase the percentage to 15%. That 15% will continue to grow in dollar amount as your income increases over time.

2. Difficult times are going to happen

Unexpected events are going to happen that will require you to spend money. It is important to start stashing money into an emergency fund right now. This fund should be accessible so you can withdraw the money without any fuss.

The easiest way to set up the emergency fund is by diverting a portion of your income into an interest bearing savings account. This is in addition to any money you are diverting into your retirement accounts. The last thing you want to do when faced with an emergency situation, such as job loss, is withdraw money from your retirement accounts.

Using retirement accounts to satisfy an emergency will cost you even more than the retirement money you’re losing. For example, you may withdraw $10,000 from a retirement account because you lost your job. If you are in the 25% tax bracket, you will lose $2,500 to the IRS in taxes and another $1,000 penalty for withdrawing the money before reaching 55 years old. For an IRA, the age in which you can withdraw without a penalty is 59 ½, but certain exceptions may exist if you must withdraw early. In all reality, the $10,000 you withdrew is actually $6,500 after taxes and penalty. That is also $10,000 less in wealth you have upon retirement.

3. Know that money has value

When you’re young, it can be easy to see something online or on a store shelf and want to buy it. That $500 4K TV may look pretty good. If you have the money, it can be tempting to buy it. If you think about how many hours of work you have to do for that television, you may reconsider the potential purchase.

The same concept can apply to credit since you want to limit credit use. The last thing you need when you retire is to have high credit card debt. If you apply the same concept of placing value on money when making purchases on a credit card, you may charge less. In fact, it is great for your credit to charge less, pay off the balance, charge again, and then pay off the balance again. Having a high credit score is what you need to buy a home and a nice automobile.

Now is the Time

Now is the time for you to start planning. If you don’t have children yet, you may. It is good to start putting your affairs in order as soon as you start working so that you can take care of yourself and your current and future family. You will be glad that you did the day you clock out for the last time and live the rest of your life doing the things you love.

4 Texas Nonprofits That Are Making A Difference

Many multi coloured hands waving and celebrating

One of the most rewarding and thoughtful things you can do is giving back to your community. With so many nonprofits out there, it can be hard to know which one to volunteer with or to donate to. If you live in Texas, you’re in luck because this state is filled with a number of incredible nonprofits. No matter what cause you care about, you’re bound to find an organization in Texas that works for that cause.

Here are a few of the best nonprofits in Texas:

1) Soldiers’ Angels

Located in San Antonio, Texas, Soldiers’ Angels works to provide aid and comfort to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as their families. Soldiers’ Angels was founded by the mother of two American soldiers. This organization helps veterans as well as wounded and deployed personnel in a number of ways, providing individualized and immediate assistance. Volunteer “Angels” adopt individual deployed troops whom they are able to stay in touch with during their deployment.

2) Minnie’s Food Pantry

This nonprofit strives to combat the issue of hunger. Founded by Dr. Cheryl “Action” Jackson in honor of her mother, Minnie Hawthorne-Ewing D.D., this organization operates entirely on the funds of the people and the community. A number of larger corporations have gotten involved with Minnie’s Food Pantry. Volunteers have come from Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, and Fossil. Food has been contributed by Market Street, Wal-Mart and Pizza Hut. Located in Plano, Texas, Minnie’s Food Pantry provides several programs to meet the needs of the hungry people who walk through their doors. This organization has been featured on The Food Network documentary, Good Morning America, The Talk, The Ellen Show, The Steve Harvey Show, and Entertainment Tonight. This lauded organization is a wonderful place to volunteer or donate if you care about feeding the hungry.

3) In-Sync Exotic, Inc

In-Sync Exotics is dedicated to rescuing abused, neglected or unwanted exotic felines. This organization hopes to educate the public on the unique characteristics of the animals that live there and the irresponsible, and often illegal, nature of the ownership and captive breeding of exotic wild animals. This nonprofit organization also aims to inform people of the need to stronger legislation against those who abuse exotic wild animals. In-Sync Exotics also has a community outreach program which visits schools, churches and other organizations to spread their message. They also offer scheduled group tours of the sanctuary 7 days a week.

4) Miracle Foundation

Located in Austin, Texas, the Miracle Foundation works to change the lives of the world’s orphans by providing them with ways to help themselves. The Miracle Foundation’s proven and sustainable model is based upon the established 12 Rights of the Child. This organization puts this model into practice by giving purposeful employment to local people who need work. The Miracle Foundation also funds scholarships for education, transforms local orphanages into homes, and trains displaced women to become cherished mothers.

No matter what issues you strive to fix in the world, there is a nonprofit organization in Texas that aligns with your values. These organizations are making a huge impact on the world, and you can too by getting involved.

Communities: HSA/HRA/MERP/FSA Admin & Finance

An article that I co-wrote and wanted to share with you all:

IRC 105 (March 10th, 2014)

Communities: HSA/HRA/MERP/FSA Admin & Finance

HRA/MERPs Are Still a Viable Tax Savings Device for Small Businesses

MADISON, WI — March 10, 2014 — Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)/Medical Expense Reimbursement Plans (MERPs) are a popular way for small business owners to save thousands of dollars each year on their taxes. The good news is that contrary to popular belief, many categories of HRA/MERP’s will not change under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Based on Section 105 of the Internal Revenue Code, HRA/MERP benefit programs allow small business owners to deduct 100 percent of family out-of-pocket medical expenses as business tax deductions. This includes insurance premiums for health, long-term care, vision, and dental. The savings can be substantial: On average, Employee to save $5,000 a year – family on employees group insurance (deductible, co-payments, dental, vision)may save $ 15,000 on their taxes with a Section 105 HRA/MERP.  All HRA/MERP claim payments with underlining group medical, dental, vision coverage are not as a rule income to the employee/dependent.

IRS Notice 2013-54 has caused a great deal of confusion and misinformation in the marketplace, even among industry experts. In fact, Section 105c, h itself was not amended by the PPACA. Rather, the new ACA “market reform” provisions impose a penalty on some categories of HRA/MERP’s. But the following Section 105 c, h HRA/MERP plan designs are not affected by these “market reforms” and are still permitted as a pre-tax benefit:

  • One Employee HRA/MERP (see 105 restrictions, Maximum payout per employee)– These types of HRA/MERP’s are typically offered to an employee/dependent and are only available with Group insurance. This HRA/MERP category does not change: It can be used for medical, dental and vision expenses and can include or not include a maximum limit cap.
  • Limited Purpose HRA/MERP – These HRA/MERP’s provide coverage for dental, orthodontia, vision or long-term care only and also remain unchanged.
  • Integrated HRA/MERP – These are multiple-employee HRA/MERP’s that are integrated with Group insurance. Each benefit eligible participant must be enrolled in a Group health insurance plan to qualify.
  • Health Indemnity HRA/MERP – This HRA/MERP type reimburses premiums for certain limited scope policies, including most traditional hospital indemnity and other fixed payment policies and specific illness policies (e.g., cancer).
  • Retiree HRA – For these plans, the employer controls the cost of retiree medical coverage by funding a fixed amount each year from the general assets of the business funded prior to the employee turning 65 unless continued employed.

According to Andy Biebl, a well-known agricultural tax authority, CPA, and principal with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, “These HRA/MERP’s (listed above) remain legitimate, logical and suitable methods of tax avoidance. I personally have recommended HRA/MERP plans to small business owners who qualify.”

If you find this all a bit confusing, contact a national third-party benefits administrator or DBT professional who specializes in small/mid-size business taxes and changing Healthcare Reform legislation.

About TASC and Diversified Employee Benefit Services, LLC (DEBS)

TASC is an award-winning nationwide third-party benefits administrator & DEBS using its certified Benefit Trust are tax-advantaged health benefits plans offering comprehensive services and serving companies ranging in size from two (2) employee to thousands! New product development, innovative tools, and outstanding transparent service keep TASC & DEBS products and services at the forefront of 105 c, h.

Agri Plan NOW and Biz Plan NOW (Section 105 HRA, MERP) are products that fall under TASC & DEBS Microbusiness umbrella. Agri Plan, Biz Plan NOW & DBT save small business owners an average of $5,000 a year on their out-of-pocket medical expenses!

More HSA/HRA/FSA Admin & Finance Articles

When Wellness Programs Aren’t Enough

Over the past decade, employers have embraced the connection between healthy employees, productivity and job performance. The recently released Willis Towers Watson Global Benefit Attitudes Survey 2015/16, found that nine out of 10 employers cited health and well-being programs as a key part of their overall benefits strategy and many

The Cadillac Tax: How It’s Threatening Health Care Consumerism

Despite its name, the Cadillac Tax is set to affect millions of people, and not just CEOs and Wall Street executives with gold-plated plans. Middle-class families will be among those most affected, as they tend to benefit the most from the current tax exemption.

However, if tax attorney, Cpa use a service provided by DEBS or TASC, the HRA/MERP 105 c, h will circumvent all “…Cadillac tax”.

Charity: Water


Around 660 million people worldwide are do not have access to clean water. That amounts to nearly twice the population of the United States or 9% of the world’s total population. Having access to clean water is often something that people take for granted. Water can play such a large role in the daily lives of people all over the world. Below are 4 facts about water that may change the way you value water and the many ways that you use it.


  • Diseases and Infections from the use of dirty water kill more each year than every form of violence, this statistic includes war and combat. Around 40% of those recorded deaths are children ages 5 and younger.
  • Each year African women spend 40 billion hours fetching water. These hours take away from schooling, food gathering and income-producing work.
  • With access to clean water stable plumbing, more children, specifically females will be able to attend school and not have to miss 1 week out of every month at home.
  • 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa is carried out by women. Access to clean water can give them their life back.

Why People Need Clean Water

  • Proper hygiene can be maintained with clean water to bath in. Cleaner people means fewer diseases.
  • Over three quarters of disease in underdeveloped countries is waterborne and can be combatted with access to clean water
  • The less time that people are spending searching for clean water, the more time they have to attend school.
  • More clean water gives people access to safe cooking practices
  • Economic development can be jumpstarted as every 1$ invest in clean water can yield a return of around 8$ economically

Addressing The Issue

Charity: water works with local communities worldwide to promote and implement sustainable water solutions to help assure that everyone worldwide has access to clean water. Since Charity: water was founded in 2006, 20,000 projects have been funded which has resulted in 6.3 million people having access to clean water in 24 countries. This includes the installation of new water collection systems and the repairing of old ones. 100% of donations are used to fund projects, since operations expenses are covered privately.

How to Contribute

  • Donate on a monthly, daily or one time basis. Charity: water accepts checks, stocks, PayPal and cash.
  • Sponsor an entire water project that will be started or continued at an appropriate location. With a donation of $10,000 or more, an entire community can have access to clean water.
  • Pledge your birthday to Charity: water, instead of asking your friends and family for gifts, ask them for donations. An average of 38 people get access to water from a birthday campaign.


40 Worth Street

Suite 330

New York, NY 10013

tel. 1-646-688-2323

fax. 1-646-883-3456


4 Ways To Research A Charity Before You Give

Giving to charity is a wonderful thing that people enjoy doing, but making sure that the money is going to go to good use, is another story. While donating to a cause that you care about is incredibly kind and generous, you always want to do some research on the charity you want to give to before sending the money, just to be safe. Because there are so many millions of charities set up these days, some of them might not actually be what they say they are.

These 4 tools will help you to confirm that the charity you wish to donate to is worthy of the cause.

Find top-rated charities in every field. Look for organizations that have received a four star rating for consecutive years. Charity Navigator works to guide intelligent giving. By guiding intelligent giving, it aims to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation’s and the world’s most persistent challenges.

The official site of the American Philanthropic Institute allows anyone to search for information (good and bad) on hundreds of charities. CharityWatch does not merely repeat what a charity reports using simplistic or automated formulas. It dives deep to let you know how efficiently a charity will use your donation to fund the programs you want to support. CharityWatch also exposes nonprofit abuses and advocates for your interests as a donor.

The Better Business Bureau’s mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. Search the Better Business Bureau’s site to research international and domestic charities and learn which ones are accredited by the BBB.

Search online for news and reviews of a charity. Keep in mind that on the internet anyone can say anything for any reason. Always consider the source, taking no claim (positive or negative) seriously unless backed by factual evidence.

Ways to Give Back Without Spending Any Money

It would be nice if we could all donate large amounts to charity as often as we wanted to, but that isn’t the reality that we live in. Lack of funds often plays into our inability to consistently give back to our communities, but that is about to change! This list provides many different ways that you can give back without spending any money at all!

Give Time

Most organizations are always looking for extra help. Donating time is a great way to give back to a cause or non-profit. For example, check out your local food bank and ask if they need people to help sort donations and pack boxes or bags for recipients.

Give Phone Calls

Helping to raise funds, or reaching out to members to share news and updates via phone calls is a very common practice for charitable organizations. Spending a few hours on the phone is a great way to give back especially if you enjoy talking on the phone!

Give your Expertise

Everyone has a talent they can share. Whether you’re an artist who paints murals, a web designer who can build a website for a non-profit, a Spanish speaker who could teach a class, or something else, your unique talents can help. Make a list of things you can offer including hobbies, talents, or your skill set for your job. You can then reach out to local organizations and see how your skills can help.

Give as a Group

Looking for a team building exercise or an activity for a group? Consider giving back. Whether it’s a school group, co-workers, or a group of friends and family it can be a wonderful way to bond or get to know each other. How about a group trip to help clean up your nearest beach? Or bringing your friends to spend some time at a senior home. It could really brighten someones day!

Give Used Clothing, Furniture, and Housewares

Not only is donating used goods a tax-deductible donation (check It’sDeductible for the value of your donations), but it’s also a great way to reduce the clutter in your home allowing you more space (and time) for other volunteer efforts!

Give with a Click or Purchase

Many companies are now offering ways to give back without having to spend. Whether it’s ‘liking’ them on Facebook, using their coupons for purchases you were already planning to make, or using a special link for your purchases you can give back by buying things you already planned to purchase!

Give your TV time

The average American watches 3 hours of TV/screen time a day. Giving up even half that time will allow you some time to give back. Many non-profits offer ‘jobs’ you can even do from home!

Give Vegetables

If you grow your own garden consider giving fresh veggies to your local food bank. If you don’t have gardening space or know-how look for local community gardens or even consider starting one at your child’s school.

Give while Remodeling

Renovating or upgrading your home? Consider donating used but working appliances, moldings, doors, etc. to your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They sell the old pieces for a profit which helps them build more homes.

Give for Free

If you have a passion for couponing consider looking for freebie deals at your local stores. Spending a little time seeking them out will allow you to give in a big way to your local food banks and charities. If you receive freebies from your job you can also give these items to local charities.

While giving back may mean spending a little extra time or thought, it is incredibly rewarding and well worth the ‘expense.’ What are some ways you give back that don’t involve monetary donations?

Donate wisely by using Charity Navigator



Making charitable donations to worthy causes is a relatively simple way to help those in need, or to give back to a community. Many people have a favorite charity with whom the collaborate, volunteer, and/or donate money to regularly. Unfortunately, many more neglect to properly search for a cause that meets their requirements and expectations. Far too many organizations market themselves as charitable, only to be revealed as scams after further research. That’s why it falls upon the giver to do their research before choosing to contribute to a cause. Fortunately, one website has made this a lot easier.

Charity Navigator has positioned itself as a watchdog in the philanthropic community. Founded in 2001, it has become the country’s largest and most widely used evaluator of charities. It uses an objective, numbers-based system to assess over 8,000 of America’s charitable organizations. Charity Navigator’s evaluation system focuses on two central factors: the charity’s financial health and its accountability and transparency. It also focuses on the organization’s consistency across times, and its level of commitment to good governance. It uses a mathematical formula to calculate a score on a scale of 0-100, where 100 is the best. Charity Navigator accepts no funding from the organizations it evaluates, and is completely free to use.

It’s incredibly important to make sure that the charity you’re choosing to donate to uses your money wisely. It is far too common for charities to devote huge portions of their budget to administrative costs–which often translates to the CEO and other top executives paying themselves handsomely with money that could have gone directly to the cause. And some of the most highly-rated causes on Charity Navigator are not the best known: India Development and Relief Fund (score: 99.75) and Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (score: 98.93) are two such organizations that lack renown but more than make up for it in competence.

In addition to identifying lesser-known charities, the website can also be used to reevaluate your opinion of established charities. Charity Navigator’s Watchlist compiles organizations that have engaged in conduct that may affect a donor’s decision to support that charity. The Clinton Foundation was placed on the list in March of 2015 after major news outlets raised questions about whether corporations and foreign governments had used donations to the charity to curry favor with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The foundation was removed from the list in December, after it provided publicly accessible information regarding their tax forms over the last few years.

Though the controversy has subsided, the Clinton Foundation saga has taught us an important lesson about giving: it is essential to do your research. Giving is great, but giving smartly is better. Look up your charity of choice on Charity Navigator here:


Getting Involved with The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

MS ribbonMultiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease.

The National MS Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move their lives forward.

To move us closer to creating a world free of MS, last year alone, the Society invested nearly $50 million to support more than 380 new and ongoing research projects around the world while providing program services to over one million people.

If you are looking for ways to get involved, participate in one of the numerous fundraising events that are happening all over the US!

Walk MS connects people living with MS and those who care about them. When you participate in community events like this one, the funds you raise give hope to the more than 2.3 million people living with MS worldwide. Fundraising walks have been going on since 1988 and to date have raised more than $870 million to support life changing programs and cutting-edge research.

There are walks and rides happening throughout the year as well as other events such as The Dallas On The Move Luncheon. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society will host the 9th Annual On the Move Luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas on Friday, November 13th, from 11:00am to 1:00pm. The annual luncheon, which raises funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis, will feature Keynote Speaker Jason DaSilva, Artist and Filmmaker, who at the age of 25 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Money raised at this year’s events will support research progress in many areas, moving us closer to our ultimate goal of a world without MS!

The American Cancer Society: Fighting Childhood Cancer

The American Cancer Society is actively fighting cancer that develops in children through a variety of different ways – research being one of the most essential. The Society has dozens of full-time researchers and external grantees who actively watch the state of childhood cancer, discovering effective treatments and monitoring various ways to improve upon existing ones in order to fully understand how and why certain cancers develop at such a young age.

Stephen Geri houston

Preventing, detecting, and treating are the three main goals of the American Cancer Society’s full-time research staff catered to childhood cancer. According to their website, “The Society’s Surveillance and Health Services Research program analyzes data on childhood cancers on an annual basis as part of its Cancer Facts and Figures report,” ( Some of the main findings in the 2015 report include:

  • An estimated 10,380 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2015
  • An estimated 1,250 deaths will occur among children up to 14 years old
  • Mortality rates for childhood cancer (birth to 14 years old) have declined by 67% over the past four decades

Though there have been vast improvements in research methods, preventing, treating, and detecting cancer in children for the last couple of decades, there are still many challenges on the road ahead towards fighting these critical diseases.

The American Cancer Society produced a special report on childhood cancer in the year 2014, which summarizes both the challenges and progress made in fighting childhood cancers. According to their website, “The report points out that although advances in treatment of childhood cancer have saved many lives over recent decades, there has been less progress made in understanding the causes and prevention of childhood and adolescent cancers,” (

The Society is dedicated to research and health professional training associated with improving the quality of life of children who have cancer, as well as their loved ones who are also affected by it. The Society has partnered with the National Palliative Care Research Center to help fund various research mechanisms and will continue to support long-standing initiatives catered to childhood cancer research.

The American Heart Association: Saving Lives One Heart at a Time

Stephen GeriKnown as the nation’s largest and oldest volunteer organization that concentrates on fighting heart disease and stroke, the American Heart Association was founded by six cardiologists in 1924 and now contains almost 23 million supporters and volunteers. The AHA is one of the biggest leaders in regard to funding research, providing medical tools and information to help save lives, and fighting for greater overall health policies, many of which have been implemented across the nation.

Heart disease is the number 1 cause of all deaths in the world, which is the primary reason why the American Heart Association is extremely important throughout our communities. Strokes are the second leading cause of death globally, which is why the AHA established the American Stroke Association in 1997, honing in on strokes in more detail. Annually, heart disease and strokes kill around 787,000 Americans – a number that is far too large to be ignored. The AHA has also noted that cardiovascular disease affects over 33% of all adult Americans.

Stephen GeriNationally, the American Heart Association has 156 offices and over 3,000 employees. Originally located in New York, its national headquarters moved to Dallas in 1975. The nonprofit is most widely recognized for providing public health education to help raise awareness of heart disease and establish best healthy heart practices. Not only does the AHA provide treatment guidelines to healthcare professionals in order to improve overall heart care across the
nation, but they are also the nation’s number one leader in CPR education training.

One of the AHA’s main goals is to raise awareness that heart disease and stroke is a major problem in our country  – but that they can be prevented. By not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, staying active regularly, eating well, and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, your heart’s risk for these diseases can be greatly reduced.

For more information about the American Heart Association, please visit their website here, and remember to spread awareness so that the ones you love, and the nation as a whole, can be saved one heart at a time