LAW EXPANDS IRA OPTIONS FOR MILITARY: Members of the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones can now put money into individual retirement accounts, even if they received tax-free combat pay, according to the Internal Revenue Service.Under the Heroes Earned Retirement Opportunities Act, signed into law on Memorial Day, taxpayers can now count tax-free combat pay when determining whether they qualify to contribute to either a Roth or a traditional IRA. Before this change, members of the military whose earnings came entirely from tax-free combat pay were generally barred from using IRAs to save for retirement.

In addition, the Hero Act allows military personnel who received tax-free combat pay in either 2004 or 2005 to go back and make IRA contributions for those years. Eligible military members will have extra time, until May 28, 2009, to make the special back-year contributions.

For those under the age of 50, the IRA contribution limit was $3,000 for 2004 and $4,000 for 2005. For those 50 and over, the limit was $3,500 for 2004 and $4,500 for 2005.


Financial services concern Morningstar has developed a Web-based tool to aid advisors in compiling reports that inform investors about the various fees and state tax benefits relating to 529 college savings plans.

According to Morningstar, the launch of its 529 Suitability Manager comes in response to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board rule interpretation that became effective in

August requiring brokers, dealers and municipal securities dealers to disclose the state tax benefits that would not be available to the investor as a result of investing in an out-of-state 529 plan. The tool allows advisors to choose the most suitable plan for the investor.

Separately, Morningstar subsidiary Ibbotson elevated Peng Chen to president. He most recently served as chief investment officer of the unit.

FPA, MCLAGAN CREATE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SCORECARD: The Financial Planning Association has joined with McLagan Partners, a division of Aon Consulting, to launch the FPA Practice Management Scorecard, a tool designed to help independent financial advisory practices improve their business performance. The new product leverages the McLagan Partners proprietary benchmarking technology and the FPA's knowledge of financial planning to deliver a tool that helps determine a practice's business performance relative to similar practices in its local market, and works to help identify strategies for improvement.

The scorecard provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks covering revenues, assets, clients, revenue by product, financial advisor productivity, growth, expenses and profitability.

401(K) LOANS RELEASES NEW MODULE: 401(k) Loans, a provider of qualified plan origination and documentation systems, has released Calcs & Docs, a new lending calculations and documents module. The solution allows third-party administrators, record-keepers and plan sponsors to create and print compliant document sets with calculations. The module's calculations and compliant document sets are available for both 401(k) loans and 403(b) loans. For more information, visit

SAFEST CHOICE FOR INVESTORS? Paladin Registry has released the results of a recent survey showing that more than 90 percent of investors did not know the right questions to ask in order to determine the quality of financial planners and advisors. The question posed to respondents was, if they didn't know how to determine advisor quality, then how did they select financial professionals?

The Paladin survey concluded that advisors from brand-name companies are not necessarily the safe choices that investors think they are, because their companies are publicly owned and their first responsibility is to shareholders, not investors.

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