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Friday, 12 October 2018 13:44

Smart Financial & Insurance Moves for New Parents

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As you start a family, consider these ideas. 

Being a parent means being responsible to a degree you never have been before. That elevated responsibility also impacts your financial decisions. You are now a provider and a protector, and that reality may make the following financial moves necessary.

Think about a budget. As a couple, you may have lived for years without budgeting. As parents, this may change. You will face new recurring costs: clothes, toys, diapers, food. Keeping track of weekly or monthly expenses will be handy. (The Department of Agriculture has an online calculator where you can estimate the total cost of raising a child to adulthood. The math may surprise you: the U.S.D.A. puts the average cost at $233,610 for a middle-income family.)1,2

Take care of health and life insurance. Your child should be added to your health insurance plan quickly. Most insurance providers require you to notify them of a child’s birth within 30 days. You can get started before then; be aware that a Social Security number and birth certificate can take weeks to arrive in the mail. If you are in a group health plan, talk with the human resources officer or benefits administrator at work, and let them know that you want to add a dependent to your health care plan. (If you have coverage through a private plan, your premiums may go up after you notify the carrier.) Under the Affordable Care Act, a parent or legal guardian who has health coverage arranged through the federal or state Marketplace has 60 days from the date of birth or adoption to enroll a child as a dependent on their plan; once that is done, health care coverage for the child will apply, retroactively.3

Term life insurance provides an affordable way for new parents to have some financial insulation against a worst-case scenario, and disability insurance (which may be available where you work) provides coverage in the event of an extended illness or injury that stops you from doing your job. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), you can contribute more per year when you have a child. The maximum annual contribution for a family is currently set at $6,850 (and for the record, the I.R.S. is allowing families to contribute up to $6,900 in 2018).4

Draft a will and review beneficiary designations. A will can do more than declare who receives your assets when you die. It can also name a legal guardian for your child in the event both parents pass away. Additionally, you can specify a guardian of your estate in your will, to manage the assets left to a minor child. While you may have named your spouse or partner as the primary beneficiary of your IRA or investment account, you may decide to change that or at least add your child as a contingent beneficiary.5

See if you can save a little for college. The estimated cost of four years at a public university starting in 2036? $184,000, CNBC reports. That may convince you to open a 529 plan or have some other kind of dedicated college savings account with investment options. Most 529 plans require a Social Security number for a beneficiary, so they are commonly started after a child is born, rather than before.2,6

Review your withholding status and tax forms. An addition to your family means changes. You may also become eligible for some federal tax breaks, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Adoption Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Child & Dependent Care Credit.7

Keep the big picture in mind. You still need to build retirement savings; you still need to have an emergency fund. Becoming a family might make accomplishing those tasks harder, yet they remain just as important.

After reading all this, you may feel like you need to be a millionaire to raise a child. The fact is, most parents are not millionaires, and they manage. Whether you are wealthy or not, you will want to take care of many or all of these financial and insurance essentials before or after you bring your newborn home.

   

   

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

    

Citations.

1 - cnpp.usda.gov/tools/CRC_Calculator/default.aspx [9/20/18]

2 - tinyurl.com/y8rlmm7w [2/26/18]

3 - healthcare.com/info/health-insurance/baby-health-insurance-newborn [10/18/17]

4 - tinyurl.com/ya5g75ez [5/1/18]

5 - everplans.com/articles/what-does-a-guardian-of-the-estate-do [9/20/18]

6 - cnbc.com/2018/05/07/this-is-how-much-parents-need-to-save-to-cover-college-bills-in-2036.html [5/7/18]

7 - efile.com/tax-deductions-credits-for-parents-with-children-dependents/ [9/20/18]

Thursday, 27 September 2018 13:45

Market Timing

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Riding all of the stock market’s ups – and none of its downs – is a popular fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to skip rough patches such as early 2018, late 2015 or all of 2008?

Alas, it’s impossible. Even the greatest investors are wrong maybe a third of the time.

But here’s some good news: You don’t need perfect timing to achieve marvelous returns. Time in the market beats timing the market – almost always.

Why? Consider three make-believe siblings, each with $10,000 to invest in U.S. stocks each year from 1977 to 2018 – a stretch that includes five bear markets.

Pretend they bought the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index (broader than the Dow).

Janette, with perfect timing, invests at each year’s monthly market low, earning each year’s full upside. Jebediah, a terrible timer, invests at each year’s monthly market high, missing more gains and capturing more downside. Jackpot, the clever youngest brother, knows he has no timing ability. He invests the first day of each year.

Fast-forward to June 2018. Janette’s 41 years of perfect timing earned an average annual return of 11.4 percent for a cool $8.2 million. No-timing Jackpot was close behind, with an 11.1 percent return and $7.8 million – still great. Even terrible-timing Jebediah got a 10.8 percent return – turning his $410,000 in contributions into $6.7 million. Sure, it's rewarding enough, but lagging little brother, no-timing Jackpot by $1.1 million is a high price to pay for bad timing.

Being Janette is impossible. Even trying to be Janette runs the risk of becoming Jebediah – or worse. Fancy timing increases the likelihood of errors.People want to buy after stocks rise, not after they drop. Were you eagerly buying this March, when the early-year correction avalanched? Or in February 2016 as headlines hyped election risks at the bottom of an eight-month slide? Or in March 2009 at the depths of the financial crisis? As I said last week, the best time to buy is surely when people least want to.

But time overwhelmingly swamps timing, good or bad. How so?

Consider Jill and Joaquin. Jill invests $10,000 in U.S. stocks each year, starting in 1977. Like Jebediah, Jill has terrible timing, buying at each year’s monthly market high.  Then, Jill stops contributing after 10 years, stops trading and just lets her S&P 500 stocks ride. Meanwhile, procrastinating Joaquin waits till 1987 to start investing his $10,000 annually. Yet Joaquin has perfect timing and, unlike Jill, keeps adding $10,000 every year through 2018. Surely this deck must be stacked against Jill.

No. Even with poor timing, Jill turned her $100,000 in contributions to $216,576 in stocks by the time Joaquin invests his first $10,000. Her head start more than offsets Joaquin’s perfect timing and greater total contributions. In June 2018, she has just over $5 million. Joaquin has less than half that, around $2.1 million. Jill’s compound time-in-the-market growth trounced Joaquin’s perfect timing.

Think you’d never be Joaquin? As I wrote last month, many investors left stocks after the financial crisis and stayed away for years. Many still haven’t returned. Yet since the March 9, 2009, low, U.S. stocks are up 419 percent with dividends. Since the precrisis peak? Up 132 percent. You didn’t need marvelous timing to come out ahead.

Remember these examples the next time markets sag and you want to bail – or the next time you have cash you’re waiting to invest. Is your desire to avoid bad times worth the risk of being Jebediah or Joaquin?

Author: Keneth Fisher

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