They should not be left ill-informed or unaware.
Talking about “the end” is not the easiest thing to do, and this is one reason why some people never adequately plan for the transfer of their wealth. Those who do create estate plans with help from financial and legal professionals sometimes leave their heirs out of the conversation.
Have you let your loved ones know a little about your estate plan? This is decidedly a matter of personal preference: you may want to share a great deal of information with them, or you may want to keep most of the details to yourself. Either way, they should know some basics.
Having this talk can become easier when it is a values conversation, not a money conversation.
Values driven estate planning. You can let your heirs know that your values are at the core of the decisions you have made. You need not tell them how much they will inherit. You may let them know about the planning steps you have taken to make a difficult time a bit easier.
For example, you can tell your loved ones that you have a will and/or a revocable living trust. In all probability, your executor or successor trustee has been informed of his or her future responsibilities – but other heirs may not know who the executor or successor trustee will be.
You can tell them that you have an advance health care directive in place and inform them who you have named as an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. You can provide the contact information for your estate planner, your CPA, your retirement planner, and any insurance, legal, and medical professionals you consult. Have your heirs ever met these people? Tell your heirs the role they have played for you, your family, or your company and why the judgment of these professionals should be trusted.
Do people beyond your household need to know any of this? Think about it for a second. If you have grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, do they figure into your estate plan? Is it appropriate to let them know that you have made an estate-planning decision or two on their behalf? How about charities or non-profits you have supported – have you notified them of your intent to make a gift from your estate and could knowledge of your decision better facilitate the process? How about your business partner(s)? Do they need to be informed of particular estate-planning intentions you have?
Obviously, you must keep certain details close to the vest. Keeping everything to yourself, however, can be problematic. Are your heirs aware of the location of a copy of your health care proxy? Might they discover that you have planned for some of your estate to transfer to charity only after your death? Dilemmas and surprises like these may be avoided through communication – the type of communication that anyone planning an estate should make a priority.
Not every couple or individual does, though. BMO Wealth Management asked the high net worth clients it advises if they had disclosed the location of their wills and power of attorney forms with their heirs. Thirteen percent of respondents said their heirs had no clue; 25% said “only my spouse and I” knew the location of the documents.1
A 2017 Caring.com poll determined that just 42% of Americans had gone so far as to draw up a will, let alone an estate plan. So, if you have planned for the transfer of your wealth, you are ahead of many of your peers. Just see that your intentions, and some specific details, are effectively communicated.1
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 the purpose of 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.
1 - cnbc.com/2017/11/15/12-financial-planning-documents-to-handle-health-end-of-life-care.html [11/15/17]
Many plans need refining. Others need to avoid conflicts with Department of Labor rules.
At times, running your business takes every ounce of energy you have. Whether you have a human resources officer at your company or not, creating and overseeing a workplace retirement plan takes significant effort. These plans demand periodic attention.
As a plan sponsor, you assume a fiduciary role. You accept a legal responsibility to act with the best financial interests of others in mind – your retirement plan participants and their beneficiaries. You are obligated to create an investment policy statement (IPS) for the plan, educate your employees about how the plan works, and choose the investments involved. That is just the beginning.1
You must demonstrate the value of the plan. Your employees should not merely shrug at what you are offering – a great opportunity to save, invest, and build wealth for the future. Financial professionals know how to communicate the importance of the plan in a user-friendly way, and they can provide the education that “flips the switch” and encourages worker participation. If this does not happen, your employees may view the plan as just an option instead of a necessity as they save for retirement.
You must monitor and benchmark investment performance and investment fees. Some plans leave their investment selections unchanged for decades. If the menu of choices lacks diversity, if the investment vehicles underperform the S&P 500 year after year and have high fees, how can this be in the best interest of the plan participants?
You must provide enrollment paperwork and plan notices in a timely way. Often, this duty falls to a person that has many other job tasks, so these matters get short shrift. The plan can easily fall out of compliance with Department of Labor rules if these priorities are neglected.
You must know the difference between 3(21) and 3(38) investment fiduciary services. The numbers refer to sections of ERISA, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act. Most investment advisors are 3(21) – they advise the employer about investment selection, but the employer makes the final call. A 3(38) investment advisor has carte blanche to choose and adjust the plan’s investments – and he or she needs to be overseen by the plan sponsor.2
To avoid conflicts with the Department of Labor, you should understand and respect these requirements and responsibilities. Beyond the basics, you should see that your company’s retirement plan is living up to its potential.
We can help you review your plan and suggest ways to improve it. An attractive retirement plan could help you hire and hang onto the high-quality employees you need. Ask us about a review, today – you need to be aware of your plan’s mechanics, fees, and performance, and you could face litigation, fines, and penalties if your plan fails to meet Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service requirements.
1 - cnbc.com/2017/08/23/qualified-retirement-plan-sponsors-are-fiduciaries.html [8/23/17]
2 - tinyurl.com/ycrqheey [4/7/17]
Deficient coverage may cost you someday.
Many households and businesses are insufficiently insured. The problem is not necessarily the quality of coverage, but the breadth and depth of it. Your own business or household may be more vulnerable than you realize.
Too many people go without disability insurance. If you work in a physically demanding field, your employer may provide short-term disability coverage – but many companies do not. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 39% of workplaces offer employees short-term coverage, and only 33% offer long-term coverage.1
If you are disabled and cannot work, your income soon disappears. Short-term disability insurance, which may last anywhere from 10-26 weeks, commonly replaces around 60% of it. Not ideal, but better than 0%. About 8% of the time, however, a short-term disability lasts more than six months and extends into a long-term disability. Long-term disability coverage can replace 50-70% of your salary for a period of 2-10 years, perhaps even until you turn 65.1,2
More people ought to have earthquake and flood coverage. You may think that earthquake insurance is only for those living right on top of fault lines. If your home sustains quake damage that you must repair with tens of thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money, or if your business is forced to close for two weeks after a major quake hits your area, your opinion will change.
Recent hurricanes and flood surges have underlined the value of flood insurance for those living in low-lying areas. Just 12% of U.S. homeowners have this coverage. A typical homeowner policy will cover minor water damage, but not flood damage.3
If you finance a car and it is stolen or totaled, will you have to pay for it? Not if you have GAP (Guaranteed Auto Protection) insurance. If you are going to finance a car, SUV, or truck, ask about this coverage – especially if you intend to use that vehicle for work or business. The coverage is cheap – payments are usually $10-15 more each month (over the life of the loan).4
If you buy a new truck for $25,000 and it is totaled a year later, the insurer providing GAP coverage will determine the current value of the vehicle and write a check for that amount minus your deductible. You may want GAP coverage if you are buying a vehicle with less than 30% down. Without it, you may risk owing more than the current market value of your vehicle if it is stolen or wrecked.4
Is your sewer line insured? Cities usually require homeowners to maintain the sewer lateral running onto their property – the “branch” of the main sewer system on the street that connects to their house. If that sewer lateral backs up, it could cost you thousands and create a health problem for your neighbors. (Businesses have the same responsibility.) Tree roots and even improper disposal of paper products and grease can lead to this problem. Coverage against it is relatively cheap – it just adds about $40-50 to the annual premium on a homeowner policy.5
Address the weaknesses in your personal or business coverage, today. You certainly do not want to look back with regret on “what you should have done.” Be prepared, and put coverage for some or all of these potential crises in place.
1 - time.com/money/4428179/short-term-disability-pay/ [6/19/17]
2 - thebalance.com/what-is-long-term-disability-insurance-1918178 [7/9/17]
3 - cnbc.com/2017/09/11/navigating-insurance-claims-post-hurricane-irma.html [9/11/17]
4 - chron.com/cars/article/Financing-a-car-GAP-insurance-can-keep-drivers-12200736.php [9/15/17]
5 - wnins.com/resources/personal/features/sewerbackup.shtml [9/15/17]
Consumers may be at risk for many years.
How long should you worry about identity theft in the wake of the Equifax hack? The correct answer might turn out to be “as long as you live.” If your personal data was copied in this cybercrime, you should at least scrutinize your credit, bank, and investment account statements in the near term. You may have to keep up that vigilance for years to come.
Cybercrooks are sophisticated in their assessment of consumer habits and consumer memories. They know that eventually, many Americans will forget about the severity and depth of this crime – and that could be the right time to strike. All those stolen Social Security and credit card numbers may be exploited in the 2020s rather than today. Or, perhaps these criminals will just wait until Equifax’s offer of free credit monitoring for consumers expires.
Equifax actually had its data breached twice this year. On September 18, Equifax said that their databases had been entered in March, nearly five months before the well-publicized, late-July violation. Its spring security effort to prevent another hack failed. Bloomberg has reported that the same hackers may be responsible for both invasions.2
Should you accept Equifax’s offer to try and protect your credit? Many consumers have, but with reservations. Some credit monitoring is better than none, but those who signed up for Equifax's TrustedID Premier protection agreed to some troubling fine print. By enrolling in the program, they may have waived their right to join any class action lawsuits against Equifax. Equifax claims this arbitration clause does not apply to consumers who sought protection in response to the hack, but lawyers are not so sure.1
Should you freeze your credit? Some analysts recommend this move. You can request all three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to do this for you. Freezing your credit accounts has no effect on your credit score. It stops a credit agency from giving your personal information to a creditor, which should lower your risk for identity theft. The only hassle here is that if you want to buy a home, rent an apartment, or get a new credit card, you will have to pay a fee to each of the three firms to unfreeze your credit.1
Three other steps may improve your level of protection. Change your account passwords; this simple measure could really strengthen your defenses. Choose two-factor authentication when it is offered to you – this is when an account requires not just a password, but a second code necessary for access, which is sent in a text message to the accountholder’s mobile device. You can also ask for fraud alerts to be placed on your credit reports, but you must keep renewing them every 90 days.1
What other tools can help watch over your statements? If your bank, credit union, or credit card issuer does not offer identity theft protection and credit monitoring, consider free apps such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Clarity Money. Apart from simply protecting your credit and bank accounts, programs like EverSafe, Identity Guard, and LifeLock have the capability to scan the “dark web” where personal information is sold in addition to monitoring your credit reports. (You may be able to take advantage of a free, 30-day trial.)1
When a pillar of worldwide credit reporting has its data stolen twice in five months, the trust of the public is shaken. The lesson for the consumer, as depressing as it may be, is not to be too trusting of the online avenues and vaults through which personal information passes.
1 - time.com/money/4947784/7-questions-you-must-keep-asking-about-the-equifax-hack/ [9/20/17]
2 - bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-18/equifax-is-said-to-suffer-a-hack-earlier-than-the-date-disclosed [9/18/17]
Wise money moves for parents under 40.
As you start a family, you start to think about certain financial matters. Before you became a mom or dad, you may not have thought about them much, but so much changes when you have kids.
Parenting presents you with definite, sudden, financial needs to address. By focusing on those needs today, you may give yourself a head start on meeting some crucial family financial objectives tomorrow. The to-do list should include:
Life & disability insurance coverage. If one or both of you cannot work and earn income, your household could struggle to meet education expenses, medical expenses, or even paying the bills. Disability insurance payments could provide some financial support in such an instance. Some employers provide it, but that coverage often proves insufficient. Every fifth American has a disability, and more than 25% of 20-year-old Americans will become disabled before reaching retirement age. One in eight working people will be disabled for five years or longer during their pre-retirement years. Could you imagine your household going that long on only a fraction of its current income?1,2
Generally, the earlier you buy life insurance coverage, the cheaper the premiums will be. The biggest savings await those consumers who buy coverage before age 30 and before they marry and have kids. After 30, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems may begin to show up on blood tests, and other health problems may surface. As an example, a single, child-free 25-year-old in good health purchasing a 30-year term policy with a $500,000 death benefit will pay a monthly premium of about $75. The premium jumps to around $115 for the typical 35-year-old married parent in good health.3
Estate planning. Is it too early in life to think about this? No. Life insurance, a will, a living trust – these are smart moves, especially if you have children with any kind of special needs or health concerns of your own that may shorten your longevity or lead to weaknesses in body or mind. Besides documents linked to insurance and wealth transfer, consider a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy.
If you are considering designating a guardian for your children in the event of the unthinkable, whoever you appoint needs to be comfortable with the possibility of taking legal responsibility for your child. That person must also have the financial wherewithal to be a good guardian, and his or her family or spouse must also be amenable to it.
College planning. What will a year at a public university cost in 2035? Vanguard, the investment company, conducted an analysis and projected an average tuition of $54,070. (The 2035 projection was $121,078 for a private college.) So, the message is clear: start saving now. Saving and investing for college through a 529 plan, a Coverdell ESA, or other accounts that offer the potential for tax-deferred growth may give you a better chance to meet those future costs.4
An emergency fund. Ideally, your household maintains a cash cushion equivalent to 3-6 months of salary. Build it a little at a time, set aside a bit of money per month, and you may be surprised at how large it grows during the coming years.
Address these priorities now, and you may lower your chance of financial stress in the future.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. 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 the purpose of 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.
1 - ssa.gov/disabilityfacts/facts.html [8/10/17]
2 - blog.disabilitycanhappen.org/life-insurance-vs-disability-insurance/ [7/14/17]
3 - moneyunder30.com/buying-life-insurance-young-saves-money [1/5/17]
4 - teenvogue.com/story/college-tuition-cost-future [3/18/17]
Crises pass, and markets eventually regain equilibrium.
We have seen some uneasy times lately. Uneasiness impacts the financial markets. When it does, we all need to keep some long-term perspective in mind. Those who race to the sidelines and exit equities may regret the choice when crises pass.
Wall Street loves calm. Traders literally want “business as usual,” every day. If breaking news disrupts that calm, it can rattle the market – but every investor must realize that these disruptive events are exceptions to the norm. (If the major Wall Street indices rollercoastered dramatically every day, who would invest in stocks to begin with?)
History shows how the market has bounced back in the past. You probably know the old financial industry saying: past performance is no guarantee of future results. That is certainly true, but it is also true that the major indices have staged some impressive recoveries when confronted with turbulence.
We do not need to look back very far to see some of this resilience. In May, the S&P 500 posted a single-day loss of 1.8%. Just three market days later, 85% of that loss had been recovered. Remember the stunning Brexit vote in the United Kingdom? The S&P fell 5.3% in the two trading days after that news broke. It took about a week to gain all of that back.1
When China startlingly devalued the yuan in August 2015, there was a true correction in the S&P; it lost 11%. In roughly two months, it was back at its former level.1
Looking back further, we can be encouraged by how stocks rebounded after the unthinkable shock of 9/11. Wall Street was closed for five calendar days after the attack; on September 17, 2001, the Dow slid 7.1% (684 points). It would eventually drop more than 14%. The S&P 500 retreated 11.6% during the week when the market reopened. Even so, one month later, the three major U.S. equity benchmarks had recouped their losses.2
Stock market corrections happen regularly. In fact, this current period is one of the calmest on record. As the summer of 2017 wraps up, the S&P 500 has gone more than a year without a 5% dip. The last stretch this long without a 5% pullback was in 1995, and this has happened only six times since 1950.3
Back on May 17, the Dow slipped 373 points. Yet with the index comfortably above 20,000, that single trading session saw only a 1.8% retreat. A 1,000-point, single-day fall for the Dow 30 is now a possibility. If the Dow drops 1,000 points in a day for the first time, investors will be shocked – but they should remember that the Dow also rises.4
1 - businessinsider.com/stock-market-news-buy-the-dip-bulletproof-rebound-2017-8 [8/15/17]
2 - investopedia.com/financial-edge/0911/how-september-11-affected-the-u.s.-stock-market.aspx [9/11/17]
3 - investopedia.com/news/why-stock-market-correction-may-rattle-investors/ [7/18/17]
4 - latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-market-corrections-20170530-story.html [5/30/17]