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Investing

Retirement Plan Options When You’re Self-Employed

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Self-employment is a dream for many who crave the flexibility and sense of autonomy being your own boss provides. No more worrying about taking those long lunches or running out of vacation days. On the flipside, it also means you’re on your own when it comes to saving for retirement. There are no company-sponsored plans or matching funds, and no human resources department to consult about your best options — it’s all up to you.

The good news is there are a host of great investment tools to help you plan for your future and build a solid nest egg for retirement, many of which have similar benefits as employer-sponsored plans. Here are six of the most common retirement plans for self-employed individuals.

1. Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

How it works

There are several types of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) you can establish if you’re self-employed. First up is a traditional IRA, which allows you to deposit money in an investment account before paying taxes on it. Your funds then grow — tax-deferred — over the years until you reach retirement, at which point you will have to pay taxes on the funds as you withdraw them.

IRAs are more flexible than 401(k)s in that you can withdraw money from them at any time without paying a penalty to cover certain costs, including higher education, buying your first home and medical costs. You will, however, need to pay taxes on the funds in the year in which they’re withdrawn with a traditional IRA. You also can’t leave your funds in an IRA forever. Required minimum distributions begin at age 70 and a half.

Contribution limits

You can invest up to $6,000 in a traditional IRA in 2019 (an increase of $500 in 2018). If you’re over the age of 50, you can contribute an additional $1,000 a year ($6,500 in 2018 and $7,000 in 2019) as “catch-up” contributions. Note: This is the total yearly limit for all Roth and traditional IRA contributions.

Some additional limitations may apply depending on your income and you or your spouse’s participation in other work-sponsored retirement plans.

How it’s taxed

A traditional IRA allows you to invest the maximum amount for growth (as opposed to paying taxes up front, which is the case with a Roth IRA) because the funds aren’t taxed until after they’re withdrawn.

Your contributions may also be fully or partially tax deductible in the year in which you make them, so that may also decrease your taxable income.

Who it’s best for

Typically, traditional IRAs are a good option if you’re currently in a higher tax bracket and expect to be in a lower one when you retire. They’re also an attractive option if you want the ability to access funds before retirement for certain expenses without paying a penalty.

2. Roth IRA

How it works

A Roth IRA works much like a traditional IRA, but there’s one big difference: when you actually pay taxes. With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes on your contributions in the year in which they’re made. Those funds then grow tax-free over the years until you reach retirement. When you’re ready to withdraw them — as long as you’ve reached the age of 59 and a half — they’re yours, tax-free.

IRAs are more flexible than 401(k)s in that you can withdraw money from them at any time without penalty to cover certain costs, including higher education, buying a home and paying for medical costs. There are no required minimum distributions.

Contribution limits

You can invest up to $6,000 in a Roth IRA in 2019 (an increase of $500 from 2018). If you’re over age 50, you can contribute an additional $1,000 a year ($6,500 in 2018 and $7,000 in 2019). Note: This is the total yearly limit for Roth and traditional IRAs combined.

How it’s taxed

Contributions to a Roth IRA aren’t tax-deductible, so you don’t get a tax break in the year they’re made. However, because you pay taxes up front, those funds are not counted as taxable income when you retire.

Who it’s best for

In general, Roth IRAs are a good option if you’re currently in a lower tax bracket and expect to be in a higher one when you retire. They’re also good if you want the ability to access your funds before retirement for certain expenses without paying a penalty or paying taxes on the funds when needs arise.

3. Solo-401(k)

How it works

A solo-401(k), also referred to as a one-participant 401(k) plan, works much like a traditional, employer-sponsored 401(k); however, it’s designed for individual business owners or the owner and their spouse. It allows you to invest funds in a retirement savings account that then grows tax-deferred — traditional solo-401(k) or tax-free (Roth solo-401(k) — over the years until you withdraw them at retirement.

Penalties apply for early withdrawal if the account is less than five years old and you haven’t reached the age of 59 and a half. However, you may be able to take out a loan from your 401(k).

Contribution limits

Like a traditional 401(k), you can contribute up to $19,000 in 2019 ($18,500 in 2018). If you’re over the age of 50, the limit increases to $25,000 in 2019 ($24,500 in 2018).

One notable upside to this plan is you’re allowed to contribute additional funds because you act as both the employer and employee when you’re self-employed. Total contributions can’t exceed $56,000 for 2019 ($55,000 for 2018), unless you’re over the age of 50, when there are allowances for “catch-up” contributions.

How it’s taxed

Like IRAs, you can choose either a Roth or a traditional solo-401(k). With a traditional solo-401(k), taxes are deferred on the money you contribute to your account until you withdraw funds in retirement.

If you choose to designate some of your funds as Roth contributions, however, you will pay taxes on them up front, with tax-free withdrawals in retirement. Contributions to a traditional solo-401(k) aren’t counted as taxable income in the year they are made, while Roth solo-401(k) contributions are.

Who it’s best for

A solo-401(k) is a good option if your income surpasses the IRA limits and you want to invest more for your future.

4. Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA

How it works

Traditional and Roth IRAs are funded entirely by employee contributions, whereas SIMPLE IRAs allow contributions from both the employer and employee, which means you’re playing both roles if you’re self-employed.

Like with other IRAs, there are penalties for early withdrawal (before the age of 59 and a half), and there are exceptions for many expenses, including education, health care costs and buying a first home. If you withdraw funds before your plan is two years old, however, that withdrawal is subject to a hefty 25 percent tax penalty.

Contribution limits

You can contribute up to $13,000 in 2019 (an increase of $500 from 2018) to a SIMPLE IRA, but not more than the amount you earn. Additional “catch-up” contributions up to $3,000 can be made if you’re 50 or older.

As the employer, you can also contribute dollar-for-dollar matching funds up to 3 percent of your net earnings or make an additional non-elective contribution equal to 2 percent of your income, up to $280,000 in 2019 (an increase of $5,000 from 2018).

How it’s taxed

Contributions to a SIMPLE IRA aren’t taxed in the year in which they are made, but they are taxed when they’re withdrawn in retirement. Contributions are also tax deductible by the employer in the year in which they are made.

Who it’s best for

A SIMPLE IRA is a good option if you want to contribute funds in excess of the limits of traditional and Roth IRAs. They’re also worth considering if you have 100 employees or less, as they’re easy to set up and don’t come with the same startup and operating costs that other plans may have.

5. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA

How it works

Like other IRAs, a SEP IRA allows you (as the employer) to invest funds, tax-deferred, until you need them in retirement. There are penalties for early withdrawal (before the age of age 59 and a half) and there are minimum distribution requirements.

There are two primary differences that set the SEP IRA apart from others:
1. A SEP IRA has higher contribution limits than traditional and Roth IRAs, and;
2. If you have employees who meet certain qualifications, you must make contributions to their SEP IRA in equal amounts for all employees. Contributions are only made by the employer (which is you) if you’re self-employed.

Contribution limits

You can contribute up to 25 percent of your net earnings to a SEP IRA, up to a certain limit. In 2019, the limit is $56,000, an increase of $1,000 from the prior year (2018). There’s no extra allowance for catch-up contributions as there is with other retirement accounts.

How it’s taxed

Contributions to a SEP IRA are tax deductible, as funds are taxed when they’re withdrawn in retirement. There’s no Roth option to pay taxes up front, as the contributions are made by the employer.

Who it’s best for

A SEP IRA is a good option if you’re self-employed and want to save a large amount of money for retirement. It’s also a good option if you have 100 employees or less and want to establish a retirement plan without the associated costs of other plans.

6. Defined benefits plan

How it works

Like an employer-sponsored pension, an individual defined benefits plan lets you put away a certain amount of money for a guaranteed return in retirement. The amounts are based on a formula that takes into account the number of years you’ve worked and how much you earn. You must enlist the help of an actuary to help determine your contribution and benefits.

Contribution limits

The amount you may contribute is based on a formula and will vary from person to person. Generally, however, the annual benefit can’t be more than the highest salary they were paid for three years in a row, or surpass the annual limit of $225,000 in 2019 (a $5,000 increase from 2018).

How it’s taxed

Taxes are deferred up front and paid on the funds when they’re withdrawn during retirement. The contributions are tax deductible in the year in which they are made.

Who it’s best for

A defined benefits plan may be a good option if you’re a high earner and want to save aggressively for retirement.

How to open a self-employed retirement plan

To open any of these retirement plans, there are numerous online brokerages that can help, or if you prefer a more personal approach, you can seek out a financial advisor in your area. Banks can also help you establish some of these accounts as well. It may also be wise to work with an accountant to make sure you file the proper forms and pay the correct amount of taxes.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Julie Ryan Evans
Julie Ryan Evans |

Julie Ryan Evans is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Julie here

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Investing

Wealthsimple Review 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Wealthsimple may not be the largest robo-advisor in the U.S. — though it is the largest in Canada and made the leap south of the border in 2017 — but it should be counted among the best. It’s especially valuable for newer investors, even though its fees are higher than some rivals’. For that higher fee, clients receive a portfolio review from an actual human and an all-inclusive package without additional fees, which may cost extra at other robo-advisors. Clients also have access to socially responsible portfolios and at least one other unusual perk. Altogether, Wealthsimple is the complete package for beginners to not-so-beginners.

Wealthsimple
Visit WealthsimpleSecuredon Wealthsimple’s secure site
The bottom line: Though it’s on the expensive side, Wealthsimple delivers an investor-friendly product that’s great for newer investors.

  • Free portfolio review and no extra fees
  • Access to financial planners
  • Higher account management fee

Who should consider Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple is a great choice for investors who are looking for a few more perks from their robo-advisor and who don’t mind paying a bit more for that privilege. It’s also a solid choice for those looking to get into socially engaged investing or halal investing and those who need basic access to financial planners. In these respects, it’s a good choice for beginners who need more guidance. Finally, for those with larger accounts, Wealthsimple provides expanded access to planners as well as special airport lounge access.

Wealthsimple fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $0
Management fees
  • 0.5% (less than $100K deposited)
  • 0.4% ($100K+ deposited)
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • SEP IRA
  • Trust
Portfolio
  • ETFs cover 10 asset classes.
Automatic rebalancing
Tax loss harvesting
Tax loss harvesting detailTax loss harvesting is automatically activated for Wealthsimple Black clients; it is available to all Wealthsimple clients.
Offers fractional shares
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, Email

Strengths of Wealthsimple

  • Free portfolio review: Wealthsimple offers a free portfolio review as a way to get its foot in the door, much like FutureAdvisor does. With Wealthsimple, you provide your personal details, upload your financial statements and make an appointment with one of the company’s financial planners. The review includes an assessment not only of your investments but also of your debts and how much you’re paying for the funds or investments you currently have. It also includes plans to minimize your taxes and sets up your financial goals — so you know where you’re going. The entire process is led by a Wealthsimple financial planner, who has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. Even if you don’t opt for Wealthsimple, it’s a free review of your whole financial life by a professional, so it’s hard to go wrong there.
  • Expanded access to financial planners: While everyone at Wealthsimple has some access to financial planners, those enrolled in Wealthsimple Black (for accounts of more than $100,000) receive more access. This includes a formalized financial plan, which features a strategy for generating retirement income and a goals-based investing plan for retirement or for those big purchases in life. This access is one of the larger perks of the service and should be a draw for those who need this kind of planning and advice.
  • No extra fees and access to some unusual perks: Even if Wealthsimple does charge one of the higher account management fees, it doesn’t nickel-and-dime you on other fees like many other robo-advisors do. A transfer-out fee that might run you $75 at a rival is free here. And tax loss harvesting and portfolio rebalancing are included as a standard part of the management fee.Wealthsimple also allows you to purchase fractional shares, which is a nice bonus for beginning investors who may not have enough money to buy a full share of a fund with a high price tag. That ability allows you to purchase the full range of funds recommended for you and fully diversify even smaller cash deposits immediately — getting you in the game more quickly.Finally, the most unusual perk offered by Wealthsimple has nothing to do with investing. If you have more than $100,000 with the robo-advisor, you’ll become part of Wealthsimple Black, the firm’s upgraded service that offers access to more than 1,000 airline lounges in over 400 cities. If you’re a frequent traveler, that’s a nice perk.
  • Socially engaged investing: Looking to build a portfolio filled with socially responsible companies? Wealthsimple can help you do that, investing in six exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that support major socially engaged themes, such as low carbon, gender diversity and affordable housing. The company builds three types of portfolios using these investments depending on your risk tolerance: conservative, balanced and growth.Wealthsimple also offers Shariah-compliant halal investing, which is in accord with Islamic law. All investments avoid profiting from gambling, tobacco, arms or other industries that violate Islamic law. The diversified portfolio consists of 50 Stocks that have been vetted by a third-party committee of Shariah scholars. Because the portfolio is all Stocks, it’s riskier than more balanced portfolios that include Bonds (which are forbidden under the investment mandate).

Drawbacks of Wealthsimple

  • Account management fee: The account management fee — clocking in at 0.5% (less than $100K deposited) for basic accounts — is probably the biggest drawback at Wealthsimple. Basic accounts at other major rivals are around 0.25%. But it’s not always an apples-to-apples comparison, as Wealthsimple clients have some access to financial planners as well as the other free services above. And Wealthsimple manages the first $5,000 for a year for free, so that helps newer investors get started with their nest egg.Clients who deposit more than $100,000 will automatically join Wealthsimple Black, reducing their management fee to 0.4% and gaining more extensive access to a financial planner. Still, this reduced fee remains above those of rivals offering access to financial planners, including Schwab Intelligent Advisory (at 0.28% and a minimum of just $25,000) and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services (0.30% and a $50,000 minimum). These options beat Wealthsimple on the minimum for the higher tier of service too.
  • Customer support: Wealthsimple provides adequate customer service, and you can call in to have your account or investing questions answered by a professional. But the hours feel somewhat limited: Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST. You also can drop Wealthsimple a line via email, but don’t expect an online chat or off-hour responses.

Is Wealthsimple safe?

Wealthsimple manages more than $2 billion in client assets, so it’s a trusted name in the industry. Client assets — which technically are held by the company’s broker, Apex Clearing, and not Wealthsimple itself — are safeguarded by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). This ensures that in the event of a bankruptcy, customers’ assets are insured to at least $500,000 (including $250,000 in cash only). That doesn’t protect you against the market falling or other risks of investing, but it should give you peace of mind about Wealthsimple.

Final thoughts

Wealthsimple should be an attractive candidate for any new investor looking to understand how to build a portfolio. The firm provides access to its financial planners for all investors, though clients in the higher service tier will receive more extensive time with them. The free portfolio review also is a solid service for beginning investors, and those looking to build a socially engaged portfolio should consider Wealthsimple.

Beginning investors who are focused primarily on fees (and need less access to education and advice) might consider shifting to Wealthfront or Betterment. Those who need more advice and can bring more than a little coin to their accounts also might want to consider Vanguard Personal Advisor Services or Schwab Intelligent Advisory. But Wealthsimple will be a solid fit for most.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

James F. Royal, Ph.D.
James F. Royal, Ph.D. |

James F. Royal, Ph.D. is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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Investing

YieldStreet Review 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

YieldStreet is the type of fintech company that the internet makes possible: The investment manager, founded in 2015, connects borrowers with investors in alternative assets, taking a fee from each deal it completes. These alternative investments include short-term loans that might traditionally have gone to well-connected investors, such as placements in real estate, litigation finance, and marine vessel acquisition and deconstruction.

The appeal for investors (who must be accredited) is the high yields offered on the deals, and YieldStreet has engineered financings worth more than a half-billion dollars. Also of interest is what YieldStreet claims is its investments’ low correlation to the stock market, meaning these assets won’t zag when the market does. That provides diversification away from publicly traded companies and offers greater safety to an investor’s overall portfolio.

YieldStreet
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The bottom line: YieldStreet provides high yields on illiquid real estate and alternative investments, albeit with high fees.

  • Clearly explains the benefits and risks of individual investments
  • Offers a variety of investment types
  • Charges pricey management fees

Who should consider YieldStreet

The prospect of high interest on a limited-term loan can be enticing, but you’re invited to the club only if you’re an accredited investor. That means you’ll need to have at least $200,000 in income for the past two years as an individual, or $300,000 if joint. Alternatively, you need at least $1 million in assets, not including your primary residence. So YieldStreet is not for casual investors who decide they want to invest in real estate loans.

Another factor: As an investor, you’ll need to analyze the prospectuses of various loans, which the company will provide you. While YieldStreet outlines many of the risks, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what to invest in, and that requires more work than simply buying an index fund and kicking back. These are illiquid investments, so if you need the money soon, you’re better off elsewhere.

YieldStreet fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $10,000 (possibly higher for specific offerings)
Commission1% to 4% management fee on all offerings
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • Solo 401(k) (for small businesses)
  • Trust
Customer supportPhone, Email

Strengths of YieldStreet

  • High yields and easy-to-make investments: YieldStreet couldn’t really make it any easier, technically, to select potential investments. It’s easy to allocate a certain amount of your capital to each loan, and the prominent details of each are presented in an easy-to-read summary. You’ll read sections on the investment’s positives and negatives, and you can download further information too. It’s easy to go by what YieldStreet says, but investors will want to investigate and analyze each investment themselves.And those high yields? The company is targeting 8% to 20% annual returns, a level that would make almost any investor’s mouth water. The company projects that already-financed investments are on track for a 12.6% annual return.
  • High interest on cash account: Investors can fund their investments from the YieldStreet Wallet, which allows users — even unaccredited investors — to earn 2% on the cash in their account. It’s like an online bank account, and it’s backed by a real bank, Evolve Bank & Trust. That’s an attractive rate for investors looking to stash their cash while waiting on their next YieldStreet investment or even for average investors to stockpile their money at an above-average yield.
  • No principal loss on prior investments: YieldStreet really wants you to know upfront that investors have lost no principal on their investments. It’s one of the first things the company’s website highlights. Each investment is asset-based — that is, backed by collateral — meaning it’s supported by an asset such as real estate or a legal settlement. Collateral provides greater safety to the loans that are on offer. If a loan does go sour, YieldStreet works with the loan’s originator to recoup as much of the principal and outstanding interest as possible, potentially through legal action. While the track record has been good so far, it can turn at any time.

Drawbacks of YieldStreet

  • Pricey management fees: The company clearly outlines that it takes a 1% to 4% management fee on all offerings on its financed deals, and that isn’t cheap. For each deal, the company highlights the expected net investment return, and it would be all too easy to bury the management fee in the fine print. But it does disclose the fees on its summary page for each deal (and not in illegible legalese either), so kudos for that.Still, those fees are expensive, especially as management fees on index funds of publicly traded companies are quickly plummeting. Of course, the appeal of YieldStreet is the access to traditionally inaccessible deals, and the company is charging a premium for that access.
  • Illiquid investments: Another downside to these investments, relative to traditional stock and bond investments, is that they are tied up completely for the life of the project and are illiquid. The company clearly spells out how long each project should last, and projects may run for just a few months to several years. If you can’t keep your money in that long and need access to it, this kind of investing won’t be for you.
  • Ongoing fees: It’s not just the management fee that comes out of your account but also an ongoing fee for each investment, and this fee depends on the type of legal structure set up to house the investment. This fee pays for such things as an annual audit and filing fees with the SEC. Depending on the specific type of structure, first-year fees run $100 to $150, while subsequent years cost $30 to $70.That can be more pricey than you think and can really ding your returns, especially if you’re investing smaller amounts. For instance, if you invested the minimum in each deal — $10,000 — and earned a 9% return, a $150 fee would eat up one-sixth of your first-year interest and as much as one-twelfth of your interest in subsequent years. That’s no trivial fee, and it encourages you to invest more in each deal, which may or may not be prudent.
  • Uncertain risks and an unproven business model: The company does provide key details of each deal, a useful guide for what to watch out for and a prospectus. However, there may be further or unknown risks investors must ascertain for themselves (just as there are in publicly traded investments). That means investors in YieldStreet really need to be able to analyze these potential investments effectively and perhaps even have some background conducting such analysis. There’s no one who’s going to do this work for you, so if you’re not comfortable doing it, YieldStreet may not be for you.In addition, the quality of YieldStreet’s investments is still untested by a significant recession — remember that the company was founded in 2015 — and such a test will prove how viable this model is longer term. The returns on offer here imply high risk, and risky investments often perform poorly during tough times. Of course, this is not a prediction but something prudent investors will want to analyze for themselves.

Is YieldStreet safe?

The biggest risk at YieldStreet is the investments themselves, and that varies on a case-by-case basis. That said, the company boasts that investors have had $0 loss of principal while enjoying (or slated to enjoy) an annual return of 12.6%. Each investment fund is held in a separate company whose sole purpose is keeping the investment secure, and in the event of YieldStreet going bankrupt, a new manager could be appointed for the funds.

The company’s YieldStreet Wallet, which pays interest on cash balances, is held by the FDIC-backed Evolve Bank & Trust, meaning that any cash deposits are insured up to $250,000. None of this protection, however, means that your at-risk investments at YieldStreet won’t lose money.

Final thoughts

YieldStreet is an interesting investment offering enabled by the connective power of the internet, and it’s allowing investors and borrowers to come together in new ways. The potential for high returns is there for investors, but these returns also imply high risk. While the track record is favorable so far, YieldStreet is too young to have gone through a recession. With high-risk investments, things can change quickly, so investors should invest accordingly.

Accredited investors who find the risk and fee structure a bit too much also may turn to publicly traded stocks, where fees are moving ever lower. While such investments don’t offer the low correlation to stock markets, they offer a time-tested model and potential exposure to the world’s best businesses (and you can even invest in real estate if you want).

Open a YieldStreet accountSecured
on YieldStreet’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

James F. Royal, Ph.D.
James F. Royal, Ph.D. |

James F. Royal, Ph.D. is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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