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I Didn’t Claim Unemployment Insurance….Why Did I Receive This Card?

A notice from the Department of Labor arrived last week saying that I had filed for unemployment, which is weird, because I had not fired myself! After making sure I was, in fact, still part of my team, I discovered what was going on.  There has been a rash of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims around the country and it seems I am now entangled in them.

It happened to me as an employer and as employee, it happened to my teammates as employees, it happened to my colleague’s mother and to my wife, it happened to my clients: it’s happening everywhere. Not only are the consequences bothersome to correct, but we’re the lucky ones.  This is just a hassle for us, but it’s real life for millions of Americans who count on the insurance. The criminals perpetrating these acts are causing further pain for those who need it at the worst time possible.

Unemployment Insurance Is Not A New Program, Why Has It Become The Biggest Fraud Target?

cares act funds flow chart

Source: Howmuch.net

Unemployment Insurance, and Unemployment Insurance Fraud, are not a new phenomenon. But the CARES Act in 2020 was designed to help as many people as fast as possible during one of the worst global pandemics of all time.  Unemployment Insurance got a “boost” from the CARES Act in the form of “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” or PUA.  This not only increased the amount of relief for unemployment claimants, but also broadened the definition of who could claim unemployment.  Previously self-employed individuals, gig workers, freelancers, part-time employees, and contractors did not qualify for unemployment, but the PUA opened up the program to these groups as well.  Despite the good intent, criminals quickly used this newfound loophole to concoct schemes and steal more money.  Of the $560B in relief allocated to individuals, $260B was intended for extra unemployment benefits. Combined with an overstrained government office just trying to keep up, this proved to be a target-rich environment for criminals.

How Many People Have Been Affected?  How Much of the $260B Has Landed In The Wrong Hands?

The Department of Labor believes $36B dollars have been lost to fraudulent unemployment claims in the last year as of January 5th according to CNBC. As the CARES Act and others were updated during the national fight against COVID, the budget for additional unemployment insurance ballooned another $100B, to $360B in total, and the confirmed fraud loss now equals 10% of all payments.  The count is not over yet either.  With 8 million recipients on file as of December 2020 it will take years to figure out how much aid fell into the wrong hands.  State agencies still believe that 35%-40% of all new applications are fraudulent.  But the good news is that this type of fraud is going to get tougher with new measures instituted with the most recent relief package. Now applicants must provide confirmation of their identity and job status in order to qualify.  That may result in a delay of benefits, but the new measures should help to close the flood gates and prevent our tax dollars from landing in the wrong hands.

How Do I Know If It Has Happened To Me?  What Do I Do If It Has?

You are your own best defense when it comes to protecting your identity, credit, and status.  We monitor our life insurance, our property insurance, and our health insurance, but we are slow to invest in insuring our identities.  We must face the fact that no matter how well we think we have kept our private information out of the hands of the public, it exists in websites and databases outside of our control.  The major data breaches of the past decade have potentially touched most consumers. That is our new normal.

I would encourage you to sign up for a credit monitoring service or at the very least, get your free credit report and monitor your activity yourself.  If you don’t intend to apply for new credit in the near future, consider “freezing” your credit by contacting each of the three reporting agencies. This may help secure your credit, but it may not help with unemployment fraud.

If you learn that someone is trying to claim a benefit with your identity, alert the Colorado Department of Labor immediately.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything back from them quickly as, they are dealing with thousands of claims every week.  If you get the VISA debit card loaded with your benefit payment, don’t use it! Instead, go to the card website and cancel it. Also be sure to monitor your bank accounts and mail for additional discrepancies.

We have put together a helpful Identity Theft response document with websites, phone numbers and a checklist of what to do should you be affected. Please have a look and contact me if you have questions.

It is an unfortunate reality.  Our country, and the world, have been upended in so many ways this past year. Substantial legislation designed to help many has unfortunately been targeted by those looking to make a quick buck. Unemployment Insurance is a helpful tool in keeping our communities and economy healthy, but we need to play a part in making sure that we protect ourselves and our tax dollars from being misused.

David Morrison

David Morrison

David uses Values Based Financial Planning to align your financial choices with your most important goals and your most deeply held values. He has a comprehensive process to consolidate, coordinate and simplify your financial life in a way that brings you more confidence and clarity about your future. Learn more about David here.

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Press Release: Steve Booren Recognized by Barron’s as a 2021 Top Financial Advisor

Steve Booren named a Barron's Top Advisor

DENVER, Colo.— March 25, 2021 – Steve Booren, an independent LPL Financial advisor in Greenwood Village, has been recognized as one of the 2021 Top 1,200 Financial Advisors in America, as ranked by Barron’s. Booren, Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors was recognized as the 15 advisor in Colorado. Read more

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Improving Investor Behavior – Progress and Perspective

Open Sign

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, March 21, 2021.

Headlines would have you believe COVID has left Americans in financial tatters, but when looking at the broad data, I can’t make the same conclusion.  

Make no mistake, COVID and the resulting restrictions have left a great many people struggling with their finances. Until we are back to “business as usual,” the situation for those folks is unlikely to get substantively better. But the narrative that COVID has upended our financial system is an easy one in which to get wrapped up and even easier on which to extrapolate. Remember, perspective is everything.  

Looking at our progress is a great reminder of how far we’ve come.   Read more

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve Booren is the Owner and Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors, located in Greenwood Village, Colo. He is the author of Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income and a regular columnist in The Denver Post. He was recently named a Barron's Top Financial Advisor and recognized as a Forbes Top Wealth Advisor in Colorado.

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PRESS RELEASE: Steve Booren Recognized in Forbes as a 2021 Best-in-State Wealth Advisor

Forbes Best In State Wealth Advisor Steve Booren

DENVER, Colo. — February 11, 2021 – Steve Booren of Prosperion Financial Advisors was recently ranked No. 34 in Colorado in the 2021 Best-In-State Wealth Advisors list published by Forbes.  

According to Forbes, the annual list spotlights the nation’s top-performing advisors, evaluated based on a methodology developed by SHOOK Research. Advisors are also evaluated based on personal interviews, industry experience and revenue trends, among other criteria.

“On behalf of LPL Financial, we congratulate Steve Booren for being recognized on this year’s Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Advisors list. This past year has demonstrated that strong financial advice cannot be underestimated, and that personalized financial advice is critical in helping clients work toward achieving their short and long-term financial goals,” said Angela Xavier, LPL executive vice president, Independent Advisor Services. “We applaud Steve for continuing to raise the bar in our industry and demonstrate the value of the independent model in creating meaningful and long-lasting investor-advisor relationships.” Read more

Intelligent Investing: Overcoming Inflation Using a Familiar Friend (Part 2)

shopping at the market
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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, February 21, 2021.

For investors, inflation is the erosion of your money, a “cancer,” if you will. It is the slow, subtle decline in what your money buys or the purchasing power of your money. Last month we covered what inflation is, how it works, and where it may be heading in the future. If you’re unfamiliar with inflation, I’d encourage you to refer to my column published on January 17, 2021.

At the end of the day people invest for income, either for today or tomorrow. Protecting the purchasing power of that income is critical. But investors want to have their cake and eat it too. To grow investments and income at a rate that outpaces inflation, one must be willing to endure the “wiggles” that come with stock investing. Investors may seek protection from volatility through bonds or fixed-income investments that don’t fluctuate like owning businesses (stocks), but this strategy is shortsighted. Read more

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve Booren is the Owner and Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors, located in Greenwood Village, Colo. He is the author of Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income and a regular columnist in The Denver Post. He was recently named a Barron's Top Financial Advisor and recognized as a Forbes Top Wealth Advisor in Colorado.

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Improving Investor Behavior – Hindsight in 2020

Marquis displaying "The World is Temporarily Closed"

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, December 20th, 2020.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and as we make the year 2020 hindsight, it’s a good time to reflect. What did we learn? What surprised us? How can we use our past to make our future bigger and better?

It was former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who said it’s the “unknown unknowns” that get you. Unlike a “known unknown,” something we expect but don’t quite know the outcome, an unknown unknown is something no one could have predicted. The election was a known unknown: somebody would get elected; we just weren’t sure who. The circumstances may have been unusual, but there was going to be an outcome that we could anticipate.

An unknown unknown is something like COVID-19: something that comes out of left field and creates uncertainty through its mere existence. We did not understand its nature, the impact, the contagiousness, how to treat it, who would be the most vulnerable, what the effect would be on our healthcare system or how people would react to it. Even ten months later, there is still much we don’t know. Read more

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve Booren is the Owner and Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors, located in Greenwood Village, Colo. He is the author of Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income and a regular columnist in The Denver Post. He was recently named a Barron's Top Financial Advisor and recognized as a Forbes Top Wealth Advisor in Colorado.

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What Are You Doing on November 4th?

Capitol Building

Election Day, Tuesday November 3rd, is only a week away. While 2020 has been historic, it seems that everyone has a dramatic expectation of what will happen in the investment markets, as if it will be the “next” big 2020 disruption.

This morning I scheduled an appointment with my dentist. While the office’s operations coordinator looked at the upcoming weeks, she asked me “What are you doing on Wednesday 11/4?” Obviously, she was inquiring about my availability, but given that I have been thinking about and discussing the elections and markets with regards to next week as often as I have, my first response was….”I’m going to take a deep breath and proceed with my regular Wednesday routine.” As you can imagine, she was a bit confused by my answer, and expected me to discuss times that I could make it in to the office. I apologized as I laughed with her, and explained that the response was automatic with regards to the election and the investment market conversations I had been having around the same time period.

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Pat Alfano

Pat Alfano

Pat joined the Prosperion Financial Advisors team in August 2017 as a part of the Anderson team, and brings ten years of experience in the financial services industry. Starting out as an “advisor to advisors” in 2007, Pat developed his industry experience by helping advisors bring solutions to their clients with mutual funds, separately managed accounts, insurance based products, and employer sponsored retirement plans. Pat started working with clients of his own in 2015 as an advisor to individuals and institutions, and has enjoyed being able to deliver goal focused results. As an advisor, Pat believes that every individual and group deserves quality financial advice and planning regardless of their stage in wealth accumulation or distribution. As an advisor, Pat develops customized strategies for individuals and organizations in light of their unique goals and aspirations.

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Improving Investor Behavior: Keep Politics Out of Your Portfolio

I voted stickers

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, September 20th, 2020.

With the election a short 45 days away, the news stream is unrelenting. Political TV ads, postcards, and of course those phone calls during the dinner hour – it’s an all-out media assault designed to convince you that if the “other guy” gets elected, the world is sure to end. It’s enough to elicit one of three emotional responses: either anger and outrage toward the opposition and confirmation bias toward your selection, utter fear and terror at what may or may not happen, or complete apathy toward the whole process. Regardless of where you stand, it’s important to recognize the effect that this election might have on your portfolio… or lack thereof.

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Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve Booren is the Owner and Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors, located in Greenwood Village, Colo. He is the author of Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income and a regular columnist in The Denver Post. He was recently named a Barron's Top Financial Advisor and recognized as a Forbes Top Wealth Advisor in Colorado.

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Does Your Business Need a LIFT?

Balloons

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This article originally appeared in ColoradoBiz Magazine, Sept. 1, 2020.

If COVID has brought anything to business owners’ attention, small and large alike, it’s the need for a financial plan before bad news drops. A year ago, the likelihood of a worldwide pandemic effectively shuttering business in the U.S. for six months seemed so outlandish that had you suggested it; you would have been laughed out of the room. In hindsight, that suggestion would have made you look like a genius or a prophet.

My point is this: every business needs a financial plan to help guide and keep them afloat no matter how good times may be or how plentiful the work may appear. In reality, it’s no different than the financial suggestions we impress upon our clients. As an independent advisor, I run a business and help my clients think about how they run theirs.

So, what have the impacts of Covid-19 taught us from a business perspective? What should businesses consider as they navigate through today and plan for the future? As I look back over the past five months, I see four key actions to take now to “LIFT” businesses.

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Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve Booren is the Owner and Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors, located in Greenwood Village, Colo. He is the author of Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income and a regular columnist in The Denver Post. He was recently named a Barron's Top Financial Advisor and recognized as a Forbes Top Wealth Advisor in Colorado.

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Improving Investor Behavior: Reframing Your Business Mindset

Two people video chatting
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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, August 16th, 2020.

For business owners, improving investor behavior can mean more than a focus solely on financial instruments. The intent of this column has been improving investor behavior, which often discusses market investments like equities, bonds, and other financial assets. But it’s important to consider how our investor behavior applies to other critical areas of our lives, namely in the ownership and running of a business.

As an independent financial advisor, I’m in a unique spot. I own a business and am responsible for running that business while helping my clients think about running theirs. I have a dual perspective, both as an advisor and as a business owner. So this week, I want to cross over into the business world and encourage you to consider how your investment behavior (i.e., the beliefs and attitudes you have about your business) and possibly the most valuable asset you have, your employees, might be affecting your results.

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Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve Booren is the Owner and Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors, located in Greenwood Village, Colo. He is the author of Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income and a regular columnist in The Denver Post. He was recently named a Barron's Top Financial Advisor and recognized as a Forbes Top Wealth Advisor in Colorado.

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