Do you have a will, investing in education or building a Freedom Fund?
Amid the heat of mid-summer, do you remember your New Year’s resolutions regarding your personal financial planning? How are you coming with your to-do list?
It seems like only yesterday that, in late 1999, the worry du jour was Y2K, a fear that obsolete computer programs that did not allow for year 2000 would lead to widespread technology breakdowns and chaos. Did you hold your breath at midnight on January 1st of 2000, expecting the lights to go out? What happened? Nothing. We continued partying like it was 1999 (the reference is too easy).
Those who remember the media’s focus on that potential crisis now wonder what all of the fuss was about. Since then, we survived the tech wreck market decline and the 2008 stock market and real estate debacle, 9/11, two wars, the euro crisis, never ending Middle Eastern turmoil, a deep recession, a slow-growth recovery, the longest bull market in history, and one of the worst pandemics in recent history. Yet here we are, with the stock market at new highs and interest rates still at relative bargain levels.
Time is Fleeting
Our children grow up and we get older. Sand keeps passing through the hourglass of our earthly sojourn. The year 2021 is over half gone. In less than a month, children will start back to school and traffic will worsen. The summer break for most will be over. So it’s high time to get done what you need to get done.
As a financial advisor, it’s amazing to see the number of people with no wills or obsolete wills. Such a lapse in planning is especially critical in a marriage with minor children in the mix. An old will is better than no will, but it carries potential problems for minors, especially if both parents die at once, or a single parent passes on.
Often the bulk of a couple’s savings, or that of a single parent, resides in retirement plans. There too, money passing to a minor presents problems. Have you checked both the primary and contingent beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, and personal and group insurance policies?
Investing in Education
For those with young children, have you funded a 529 college savings plan? Anyone, a parent or a grandparent, annually may gift up to $15,000 each per beneficiary to such a college plan. Gifts are made with after-tax dollars, but the money grows tax-free and may be spent tax-free to meet qualified school expenses.
Individuals may contribute as much as $75,000 to a 529 plan if they treat the contribution as if it were spread over a 5-year period (the 5-year election must be reported for each of the 5 years). For example, a $60,000 529 plan deposit can be applied as $12,000 per year, leaving $3,000 in unused annual exclusion per year.
Parents of children with special needs, which may last into adulthood, should not delay trust and other planning measures.
Saving for a Rainy Day
How are you coming with plans to pay down debt and build savings outside of your retirement plans? Financial advisors urge individuals and couples to have a Freedom Fund, a pool of liquid capital equal to at least one-year’s worth of living expenses. Living paycheck to paycheck is motivation-draining stress. Liquid and available capital creates peace of mind and freedom to roll with the punches or pursue opportunities.
If you are a key breadwinner in a family or household, are you adequately insured against the consequences of disability or death? As advisors, we ask the same question of key persons in an enterprise, including business owners. Is there a succession plan? Is it up to date?
August is almost upon us. In slightly over three short months, holiday decorations will pop up on your street. The poet Irving Layton wrote, “Time flames like a paraffin stove, and what burns are the minutes I live.” (A Wild Peculiar Joy, 1982).
Your 2021 resolutions? Time to get cookin’ and keep them.