Sahil Vakil, CFP®, CFA® MYRA Wealth

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About Sahil Vakil, CFP®, CFA®

Sahil Vakil is the Founder & CEO of MYRA Wealth – a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) in NY/NJ that provides Personal Finance services to International & Multicultural individuals in the United States – a large majority of whom are 1st & 2nd generation immigrants.

As a 1st Generation Immigrant himself, Sahil is on a mission to make MYRA Wealth the “home away from home” for this vibrant and thriving International & Multicultural community. “Aliens,” as he (and the IRS code) lovingly calls them, are the heartbeat of America, and Sahil seeks to make a meaningful impact in their lives.

Sahil currently holds several leadership roles in the Financial Planning and Investment Management industry, including serving on the Advisory Board at XYPN, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee(s) at NAPFA, ACP & XYPN, and the Pro Bono Committee at FPA. He also serves as a Mentor on the CFP Board Mentor Program, as an Experimental Partner on the CFA Institute Driving Change initiative, and as a Volunteer to the IRS VITA Program. He was recently accepted into the Forbes New York Business Council, and was recently named as a 40 Under 40, by InvestmentNews. Finally, Sahil is among a few select entrepreneurs in this world, that have been selected by Y Combinator (a world-renowned American accelerator) to participate in their YC Start Up School program.

Prior to MYRA Wealth, Sahil served as a Management Consultant to the Financial Services industry, advising CEOs and CFOs at Fortune 500 firms on Business Strategy and Financial Management. Sahil holds an MBA from The Wharton School, a Masters in Electrical (& Aerospace) Engineering from USC, and a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering (& Computer Science) from the University of Mumbai. He is also a CFA Charter holder and a CFP Certificate holder.

Outside of MYRA Wealth, Sahil is an avid cricket fan and enjoys traveling the world with his wife and daughter (Myra). Fun Fact: Sahil & his wife were cast on HGTV’s House Hunters: ‘Buying on a Budget in Manhattan’ episode.

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Recently Published

How to Check Your USCIS Case Status and Sign Up for Automatic Updates

April 1, 2020

5 MIN READ

If you’re wondering how to check your case status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the most efficient way, we’ll walk you through it. While this process can be time-consuming and stressful, we’ll make it easy for you because it’s essential that you stay up to date with your case status. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to check your case status and get automatic updates from USCIS when changes to your status occur. You’ll also learn if you’re eligible to check your case status, what status changes mean, and the various ways to check your USCIS case status.

Related Article | The Finance Dictionary: Learn the jargon your Finance friends speak!

Who Is Eligible to Check Their USCIS Case Status?

You may wonder if you’re eligible to check on your USCIS case status. There are many reasons why you may need to do so. 

Here are a few examples of applications that you may need to check on, either manually or online:

  • Visa application, like H-1B petitions

  • Visa transfers

  • Visa extensions

  • Green Card petitions, like Form I-130, for employees and family members

  • Form I-140

  • Form I-485

  • Form I-765

  • Form-AOS

  • Advance Parole

  • Employment Authorization Documents (EAD)

  • Citizenship

If you’d like to find out about a way to make checking on these cases automatic rather than manual, keep reading to learn more.

Related Article | Financial Planning For The Costs of Immigrating To the US

How to Get Automatic Updates on Your USCIS Case Status

When you’re short on time, checking your USCIS case study manually can be a hassle. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a way that you can sign up for automatic updates to your case status without using a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN).

You’ll want to make sure that you don’t confuse this new system with the older version of how to check your USCIS case status. Keep an eye out for other third-party providers that will charge you money to check your status as well. You’ll want to stay away from them!

Get an ultimate guide on how to set up automatic updates to your USCIS case status, as well as tips on what to avoid.

How to Check Your USCIS Case Status Online

If you want to check your USCIS case status immediately, it’s as simple as logging online to the “Case Status Online” page of USCIS’s website. 

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to check your USCIS case status online:

  1. Navigate to the USCIS case status page.

  2. Below “enter a receipt number,” type your 13-digit receipt number in the box.

  3. Double-check your work - It’s important that the numbers and letters are printed exactly as on the receipt notice without spaces.

  4. Click the “check status” button.

  5. You’ll be taken to a page that shows you the latest update on your case.

Related Article | How to Check the Status of Your H-1B Visa Application

What You Need To Know About USCIS Status Changes

One of the first steps you need to take in making a smooth transition to the United States is checking your USCIS case status. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a sector of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that handles visa applications, Green Card applications, and many other forms.

USCIS is who you would need to reach out to about these applications, whether you’re just checking on the status or if something has changed suddenly. If you don’t keep up regularly, you’ll face lengthy delays.

A unique 13-digit case number is assigned for each application by USCIS. Your most recent receipt number can be found on your Form I-797 Notice of Action, and you’ll need to keep this number handy of checking the status of your case.

Related Article | Green Card vs. Visa: What's the Difference?

Alternative Options to Checking Your USCIS Case Status

There are many ways that you can check your USCIS case status. Check out the options below to make sure you stay up-to-date with any changes so you can act accordingly. 

Email

Each USCIS Service Center will have a different email address that you need to use to check your status. So, depending on your location, the email address will vary. Reach out to your state’s processing center to determine the best email address to use.

For instance, California’s Service Center email address is pfp-apfp-sbyybjhc@quf.tbi. For Texas, you’re better off using gfp.apfpsbyybjhc@quf.tbi. Make sure you have the correct one to avoid potential delays.

Phone

While you can contact USCIS by phone to inquire about your case status, be prepared for long wait times. You can reach them at 1-800-375-5283 without your receipt number.

Related Article | How to Get an H1B Visa Interview Waiver

Direct Mail

If you’ve filed your petition or application through your local USCIS office, you may choose to request an update by mail. Keep in mind that this will be the slowest way to find out the status of your USCIS case.

Here’s the information that you should include in your letter inquiry:

  • Full name

  • Date of birth

  • Alien number, if applicable

  • Date and place your petition or application was filed

  • Receipt number, if you have one

  • Copy of your receipt notice if possible

In-Person

Would you rather talk to someone in person? Again, it’s not the most convenient option but you can schedule an appointment with USCIS via their appointment scheduling page. You can check for updates on cases like your visa or Green Card status without currently being in the United States.

Related Article | Things You Must Check In Your US Offer Letter

When Will My USCIS Case Status Be Approved?

The top question on your mind is probably regarding the processing time for your USCIS case. While it can take from months to years for a resolution, it ultimately depends on the type of form you submitted.

Check out the expected processing times for each form on the USCIS website.

Related Article | What You Need To Know About Form G-1145

Make the Most of Your Situation

Learning everything there is to know about visas, immigration, personal finances and more can make this process a challenging time. But, you can take steps like signing up for automatic updates on your USCIS case status to make everything easier. You’ll eliminate one task off of your plate by following the steps outlined in this article to take action on your USCIS case status.

Related Article | An Immigrant's Guide To Building A US Credit Score


MYRA provides personal finances for international and multicultural families in the United States. Our services include financial planning, investment management, and tax preparation.

To learn more Click Here. To get started Click Here.



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ITIN vs. SSN: What's the Difference?

March 30, 2020

7 MIN READ

There are countless requirements to consider when it comes to settling in another country, and few are more important than identification. Without this, you’ll struggle to achieve even basic lifestyle requirements, including, most importantly, your work and taxes. Even securing your living situation would become a challenge if you didn’t take care of this.

When attempting to settle in the US, two primary forms of ID will likely be relevant to you - social security numbers (SSNs) and individual taxpayer identification numbers. But, you may not understand from the outset which is most relevant to you. 

From a distance, both IDs can seem relatively similar, but the best way to determine which you need is to delve into the ins and outs of each. That's why we’re going to compare ITIN vs SSN so that you don’t have to. 

Related Article | The Finance Dictionary: Learn the jargon your Finance friends speak!

What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Social security numbers are the most well known of these two ID forms, so it makes sense to start with. First introduced back in 1936 and issued in 1972, an SSN is a nine-digit number issued to either US citizens or permanent residents holding green cards, student visas, and more. 

Given that it represents an individual's legal immigration status, this number alone makes it easier to carry out essential daily tasks, including opening a bank account, building credit, and filing medical forms. 

A valid SSN also ensures eligibility for retirement benefits later on. Perhaps the only lifestyle-related application that doesn’t require an SSN is a credit card application, though even this is guaranteed to prove much easier with a valid social security number and credit file behind you. 

Related Article | How Do I Get My Newborn In The US a Visa and Passport to Visit India?

The SSN Application Process

While US citizens are automatically granted a social security number at birth, those settling in the country are required to apply for a social security card for free using Form SS-5, which is available from any local social security office. 

Given that residency is a requirement here, it is typically necessary to wait for a minimum of 10 days after arrival before applying for an SSN to simplify the verification process. You will also be asked to provide in-person, proof of your valid resident status including:

  • Two original documents proving identity (passport, birth certificate, etc.)

  • Current US immigration documents (Form I-551, Form I-94, work permit, etc.)

  • Proof of age

Related Article | An Immigrant's Guide To Building A US Credit Score

What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

Individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) were first introduced by the IRS back in 1996, and are primarily intended to help foreign nationals who, for whatever reason, don’t qualify for a social security number. An ITIN is not proof of residency, nor does it mean individuals can work or claim social security benefits. Instead, this identification can only really help individuals to file their taxes if they’re earning in the US, and also provides an opportunity to open a bank account. 

Still, these can prove fundamental for staying on the right side of US law, especially if you do intend to earn money within the country. Even as a non-resident, you are, after all, required to pay taxes within allotted time slots like everyone else. 

Eligibility for an ITIN is not as strict as that of social security requirements, and you may be able to apply if you are:

  • Any nonresident with a US source of income

  • The spouse of someone living in the US on a temporary visa if you, too, want to access the country

  • Any US resident who does not meet the requirements for a social security number

Related Article | What You Need To Know About Money and US Student Visas

The ITIN Application Process

Applications for ITINs must be completed by the due date of the tax return, so applying as soon as possible is fundamental for due legal processes. Applicants must complete the IRS Form W-7. They can then mail this to either the address shown on the form, present it at an IRS walk-in office, or use an authorized acceptance agent, which could include colleges and financial institutions. 

Required documents must be presented with the form itself, and include a valid passport, a birth certificate, and more. Do note that if you have a social security application pending, applying for an ITIN is unnecessary, as no one can hold both of these identification forms at once. Once approved for an ITIN, regular use is also vital, or revalidation may become necessary after three years of non-use.

Related Article | Guide To Understanding Your American Pay Stub

ITIN vs SSN: What’s the Real Difference

Now that we understand the intricacies of ITINs and SSNs, it’s time to get the heart of the matter - what’s the real difference between the two? 

Ultimately, looking at each option separately reveals their differences unclearly, but to simplify the problem, the main variations between these forms of identification include the following. 

Residency Requirements

Only US residents are eligible for SSNs, meaning that a green card or valid visa is relevant for anyone attempting to apply here. By comparison, ITINs are in place for individuals and nonresidents who fail to qualify for those stringent SSN requirements, including those with foreign status who do business in the US in some capacity. 

Application for an SSN largely relies on in-person proof of identification and eligibility, while ITIN applications are relatively more straightforward.

Use Cases

SSNs can be used for a wide range of purposes, from bank accounts, right through to medical services, and beyond. By comparison, the use cases for ITINs are far more limited, with even accepted holders generally only able to file taxes, open bank accounts, and apply for driving licenses in some rare cases. 

Timeframes for Application

The time frames for application between these two identification forms also vary a fair amount. Individuals seeking an SSN must wait at least ten days to prove their residency/situation, while the need to file before the date of tax return means that fast action is fundamental where ITIN applications are concerned. 

Related Article | Can I Freelance For A US Company While I Am On An H1B Visa?

How Do You Know Which is Right for You?

Ultimately, this all comes down to which identification form is right for you and your US journey. Given that SSNs grant more absolute ease of use across the board, these are the first option for many. but note that stringent requirements may prevent this from being an option in your case. Primarily, then, understanding whether to apply for an SSN or an ITIN comes down to - 

  • Your US residency status

  • The intended length of your stay

  • The identification you’re able to supply

  • Your purposes for application (residency, business purposes, etc.)

Consider each of these points wisely, and be sure that you’re clear on whether an ITIN or SSN would best serve your purposes before you go ahead with applying for either. One thing’s sure, with the application only possible for one identification at a time, one wrong move could prove a drastic setback in your residency journey!

Related Article | The EB5 Investor Program: How Immigrants Make America Great Again!

An ITIN vs SSN Comparison

Identification and the role it plays for noncitizens have become increasingly fundamental due to law changes surrounding citizenship in recent years. Differences aside, ITINs and SSNs alike both play vital roles in helping you to settle into a legal US lifestyle and should be a pressing priority from the moment you arrive in the country. 

If you’re in any doubt about the correct options for your needs, don’t hesitate to seek the information necessary to get this right every time. Whatever you do, don’t put off this crucial decision any longer than you need to. Doing so could leave you on the wrong side of the law, and thus compromise your ability to remain in the country for good.

MYRA provides personal finances for international and multicultural families in the United States. Our services include financial planning, investment management, and tax preparation. 

To learn more Click Here. To get started Click Here.

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4 Concepts that Will Help You Understand Economics Fast

March 23, 2020

11 MIN READ

If you’d like to know how world events affect the economy, this article is for you. You’ll no longer feel clueless after watching the news or reading an article online. The next time you’re with friends and family, you’ll be able to confidently discuss economics as it relates to the United States and beyond. 

Provided in this resource is information on the concept of supply and demand, monetary and fiscal policy, and business cycle theories. Specifically, this article talks about how supply and demand can be shifted, and its price elasticity. Also touched on is the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measurement of inflation, and how monetary and fiscal policy can be used to influence the economy.

Related Article | The Finance Dictionary: Learn the jargon your Finance friends speak!

Supply and Demand

Supply

Supply is the quantity of a good that businesses are willing to produce and sell. The supply curve shows the relationship between the market price and the amount of the commodity that the producers are willing to produce and sell. The main force that determines supply is profit, which ultimately affects the cost of production. 

Another element influencing supply is the price of related goods or goods that can be used as a substitute. If the price of one good increases, the supply of its substitute is likely to decrease. A reduction in tariffs and quotas on foreign goods will likely increase the supply. However, if a market becomes monopolized, the price at each level of output will increase. 

Factors affecting supply include:

  • The price of the good
  • Technology
  • Input prices
  • The price of related goods
  • Special government tax incentives

Demand

The number of commodities people buy will usually depend on its price. This relationship between the price and quantity bought is called the demand curve. If the price of a commodity is raised, all other things equal, buyers will purchase less of that commodity. When a price is lowered, all other things equal, the quantity that is demanded will increase. 

The quantity that is demanded falls as prices rise. The substitution effect is when the prices of goods rise, and consumers substitute other similar goods. On the other hand, the income effect is when the prices rise, and the consumer restrains their consumption. 

Factors that affect demand include:

  • The price of the good
  • The average income of consumers
  • Population
  • Price and availability of goods
  • Taste and preferences
  • Special influences such as forecasts

A shift in demand is different from a change in quantity demanded. A shift or change in demand indicates that the curve has shifted, but a change in quantity demanded indicates a movement along the curve.

Related Article | 11 Investment Risks You Need To Watch Out For In Your Portfolio

Supply and Demand Interaction

Market equilibrium comes at the price and quantity when supply and demand are in balance. Supply and demand can be used to predict the impact of changes in economic conditions on prices and quantities. When demand or supply changes, so does the market equilibrium of price and quantity. Rationing by prices is when the market allocates the scarce goods of the society to possible use by determining the equilibrium price and quantity of all input and output.

Price Elasticity of Demand

Price elasticity is the responsiveness of the quantity demanded of a good to changes to the good’s price. Goods differ in their elasticities. Demand for necessities responds little to price changes, but luxury goods are highly sensitive to price. 

A good elastic is when the quantity demanded responds greatly to price changes, and inelastic when the quantity demanded only responds a little. 

Unit-elastic is when the percentage change in quantity is exactly the same as the percentage change in price. Therefore, the slope is different from the demands curve because the demand for the demand curve depends on the changes in price and quantity, whereas, elasticity depends on the percentage changes in price and quantity. 

As a whole, elasticity helps to foresee what impact a price of changes can do on the total revenue of producers. When the demand is price inelastic, a price reduction in the commodity will reduce the total revenue because the quantity will stay constant. However, when demand is price elastic, a price decrease will also increase revenue because the quantity will increase accordingly. In the case of a unit-elastic demand, a price decrease will have no change whatsoever to the total revenue. 

We need to recognize that economic factors determine the magnitude of price elasticities for goods. Whether or not a good is considered a luxury or a necessity depends on the substitutes that are available, the time available for response, and the importance of the goods in the consumer's budget. Overall, the price elasticity of supply measures the percentage change in quantity supplied in response to a 1% change in the commodity price.

Related Article | Tax Benefits Of Investing in Opportunity Zones

Inflation

Inflation references the increase in the general level of prices. The inflation rate is the rate of change of the price. The opposite of inflation is deflation, the decline in the general level of prices. There is also something called a disinflation, which means a decline in the inflation rate. During times of inflation, prices and wages tend to move at the same rate and time. Generally, inflation or deflation will help redistribute income to different classes of people. Inflation will redistribute wealth from creditors to debtors, they help those that have borrowed money while hurting those that have lent money. A deflation will have the opposite effect. 

Inflation affects the economy in two different areas: total output and economic efficiency. Inflation will tend to be associated with a higher or lower level of output and employment. Usually, the higher the inflation rate, the greater the changes in relative to prices. 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of inflation. It measures the market cost for consumer goods and services, things that are used for day to day living. A price index is made by weighting each price according to the economic importance of the goods. Each item is assigned a fixed weight proportional to its importance in consumer spending.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) deflator is another measure for inflation, but basically a broader price index than the CPI. It measures the change in the average price of the market of goods included in GDP. In addition, it also includes prices for capital goods and other goods and services that are purchased by businesses and governments. 

The Producer Price Index (PPI) is also another measure of inflation. It measures the average change of selling prices over time by domestic producers of goods and services. PPI measures the changes in the perspective of the seller, which is opposite to CPI (buyer or consumer).

Related Article | 4 Important Ways that Consumer Protection Laws Benefit You

Monetary and Fiscal Policy

Monetary Policy

The Federal Reserve Bank, or simply the Fed, controls the money supply. This allows them to significantly affect interest rates. The Fed allows a loose monetary policy if it wants to increase the money supply to increase income and employment. On the other hand, if inflation is high and the Fed wants to restrict the money supply, they will make a tighter monetary policy. Expansionary monetary policy is having a looser monetary policy, and a restrictive monetary policy is having a tighter monetary policy. 

The Fed also has other methods to control the money supply. It is able to change the reserve requirement for member banks of the Federal Reserve Bank. As the requirement is increased, less money is available to be loaned out to customers, which will lead to strict money supply.

The Fed could also use the Federal Reserve discount rate, which is a rate in which member banks can borrow funds from the Federal Reserve to meet the reserve requirements. If the Fed decides to raise the discount rate, it will raise the cost to borrow money, and discourage banks from borrowing funds. This will lead to a contraction of the money supply. The Fed can also lower the discount rate if it wants to increase the money supply. This way, banks can borrow funds at a lower rate and lend more money. 

Lastly, they could use open market operations to control the money supply. Using this method, the Federal Reserve purchases and sells government securities in the open market. The Fed will buy government securities if they want the money supply to rise, and sell if they want to restrict the money supply. 

Fiscal Policy

Taxation, expenditures, and debt management by the federal government are what is called fiscal policy. The goal of changing a fiscal policy is to have economic growth, price stability, and full employment. Fiscal policy is controlled by Congress. Expansionary fiscal policy is when the government increases the purchase of goods and services while holding its revenue constant, this creates a deficit in the budget and stimulates aggregate demand. On the other hand, a restrictive fiscal policy is when the government either reduces its expenditure or raise taxes, it will cause a budget surplus or a reduction in the budget deficit. 

Changes in taxation affect corporate earnings, disposable earnings, and the economy. Increasing taxes make corporations after taxes decline, which reduces their ability to pay dividends, and causing their equity price to decrease. Tax increases also reduce individual disposable income and will limit the money entering the economy. 

The demand for tax-free investments is influenced by changes in taxation policy. As taxes increase, tax-free investments become more and more appealing. Corporate earnings benefit from the increase in government spending expenditure. A deficit spending can occur when expenditures exceed revenues of the government. By selling securities to finance deficits, the Treasury competes with other securities and drives down the prices. The decrease in price causes yields to rise. 

The price of borrowing money is determined in interest rates. The nominal interest rate measures the yield in dollars per year per dollar invested. The real interest rate is the nominal rate adjusted for inflation and is considered to be a more accurate measure of the impact of interest rates. 

Related Article | 5 Scams To Watch Out For As An Immigrant Business Owner

Business Cycle Theories

Business cycles consist of swings in national output, income, and employment which is marked by expansion or contraction in different sectors of the economy. A business cycle usually occurs as a result of the shift in aggregate demand. They consist of the expansion and contraction phase, and two points of the peak and trough. 

The expansion phase comes to an end and goes into a contraction phase at the upper turning point. On the contrary, the contraction turns into expansion at the lower turning point. The business cycle is affected by the growth or decline of GDP

A recession is a decline in real GDP for two or more successive quarters characterized by: 

  • Declining consumer purchases
  • Business inventories expand 
  • GDP starts falling
  • Capital investment falls
  • Demand for labor lowers
  • Unemployment is high 
  • Commodity prices fall
  • Business profits fall    
  • Interest rates fall as a result of reduced demand for money

The business cycle is a dynamic system that has a cycle. Each cycle is characterized by different conditions that may be an indication of the current or upcoming cycle. Some other economic variables always show greater fluctuations than others in the business cycle. Durable goods are the ones that have the greatest cyclical fluctuations due to it not being for immediate consumption. 

Leading indicators can be used to predict changes in the business cycle because they tend to come before any changes. They include bond yields, investors sentiment, and durable goods orders. 

On the other hand, coincident indicators occur at the same time during the business cycle in order to confirm the current state of the economy. Examples include the level of unemployment, consumer income, and profits. 

Lagging indicators are those that change after the economy has shifted to another stage of the business cycle. Examples include the average duration of unemployment and the prime interest rate.

Gross domestic product is the total monetary value of goods and services that are produced in a country over the course of a year. GDP is a measure of the health of the country’s economy and standard of living. Real GDP is just an inflation-adjusted GDP figure. On the other hand, the Gross National Product is a little similar to GDP but includes income generated by both domestically and internationally. Unlike GDP, it does not include income that is generated domestically by foreign firms.

Related Article | Can I Invest In And Start A Company On An H1B Visa?

MYRA provides personal finances for international and multicultural families in the United States. Our services include financial planning, investment management, and tax preparation. 

To learn more, Click Here. To get started, Click Here.

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Ideal Clients

  • Gen X
  • Gen Y/Millennials
  • Graduate Degree
  • Immigrants

Ways Advisor Charges

  • Monthly Fee
  • Quarterly Fee
  • Flat Fee
  • Assets Under Management

Fee Options

  • Monthly Fee: $250+
  • Quarterly Fee: $900+
  • Flat Fee: $3,000+/engagement
  • AUM: 0.3%

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