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Reasons Not To Write Your Own Will PDF Print
Friday, 21 August 2015

Do-it-yourself is cheaper, but you could do some things wrong.

 

Legal freeformMaybe you have seen those will-in-a-box kits. Maybe you have even considered picking one up. Think twice about that. While you can draft a will on your own, there are plenty of reasons why you may not want to go that route. Most people do it to save money, but they may overlook or forget to take care of some important details – details that may eventually cost them much more than the amount they could save. Some of the big mistakes include...

 

Ignoring state law differences. Many will kits and online wills and trusts do not take state laws regarding the administration of probate or trusts into account. An estate planning attorney will inform you of these state laws; a will kit or website may not.

 

Blind faith in software. While software or an online form can help you draft a will, there is no guarantee that the technology will ask you the specific, unique questions an attorney might pose in regard to the fine points of your estate. It may not even make you aware of them.

 

Not revoking an earlier will. Most wills contain boilerplate language that automatically revokes any preceding will. If you are writing your will totally on your own (some people still do), you may not realize the necessity of such a clause.

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Mid-Life Money Errors PDF Print
Thursday, 20 August 2015

If you are between 40 & 60, beware of these financial blunders & assumptions.

 

(Photo: Creative Commons "Rear - Audi R8" by alpha is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

 

Mid-Life CrisisBetween the ages of 40 and 60, many people increase their commitment to investing and retirement saving. At the same time, many fall prey to some common money blunders and harbor financial assumptions that may be inaccurate.

 

These errors and suppositions are worth examining, as you do not want to succumb to them. See if you notice any of these behaviors or assumptions creeping into your financial life.

 

Do you think you need to invest with more risk? If you are behind on retirement saving, you may find yourself wishing for a "silver bullet" investment or wishing you could allocate more of your portfolio to today's hottest sectors or asset classes so you can catch up. This impulse could backfire. The closer you get to retirement age, the fewer years you have to recoup investment losses. As you age, the argument for diversification and dialing down risk in your portfolio gets stronger and stronger. In the long run, the consistency of your retirement saving effort should help your nest egg grow more than any other factor.

 

Are you only focusing on building wealth rather than protecting it? Many people begin investing in their twenties or thirties with the idea of making money and a tendency to play the market in one direction – up. As taxes lurk and markets suffer occasional downturns, moving from mere investing to an actual strategy is crucial. At this point, you need to play defense as well as offense.

 

Have you made saving for retirement a secondary priority? It should be a top priority, even if it becomes secondary for a while due to fate or bad luck. Some families put saving for college first, saving for mom and dad's retirement second. Remember that college students can apply for financial aid, but retirees cannot.

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How Might Higher Inflation Affect Your Investments? PDF Print
Friday, 24 July 2015

With the Fed poised to gradually raise rates, this is worth considering.

 

Hot Air Balloon FLAMEAmerica once experienced something called "moderate inflation." It may seem like a distant memory, but it could very well return in the second half of this decade.

 

A remote possibility? Most economists think the Fed will start raising interest rates in late 2015 and take them higher in 2016 through a series of incremental hikes – a march toward normal monetary policy, in which the Fed funds rate ranges between 3-5%. Once the Fed begins tightening, it usually keeps at it – as an example, the central bank raised rates 17 times during 2003-06 alone.1

 

Keep in mind that there are two forms of interest rates. Short-term interest rates are mainly controlled by Fed policy. Long-term interest rates ride on the bond market's expectations. Still, short-term rate hikes have an effect on investors as well as lenders. They influence the mood and outlook of Wall Street; they affect interest rates on credit cards, some home loans and short-term savings vehicles.

 

What if moderate inflation resumes & the Fed reacts? What might higher inflation (and correspondingly higher interest rates) mean for your portfolio? Under such conditions, your investments may perform better than you think.

 

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Taking a Loan from Your Retirement Plan = Bad Idea PDF Print
Thursday, 23 July 2015

Patience6 reasons why you should rethink this move

 

Thinking about borrowing money from your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 account? Think twice about that, because these loans are not only risky but injurious to your retirement planning.

 

A loan of this kind damages your retirement savings prospects. A 401(k), 403(b), or 457 should never be viewed like a savings or checking account. When you withdraw from a bank account, you pull out cash. When you take a loan from your workplace retirement plan, you sell shares of your investments to generate cash. You buy back investment shares as you repay the loan.

 

So in borrowing from a 401(k), 403(b), or 457, you siphon down your invested retirement assets, leaving a smaller account balance that experiences a smaller degree of compounding. In repaying the loan, you maybe repurchasing investment shares at higher prices than in the past – in other words, you will be buying high. None of this makes financial sense.1

 

Most plans charge a $75 origination fee for a loan, and of course they charge interest – often around 5%. The interest paid will eventually return to your account, but that interest still represents money that could have remained in the account and remained invested.1

 

Your contributions to the plan may be halted. Some workplace retirement plans suspend regular employee salary deferrals when a loan is taken. They can resume when you settle the loan.1

 

Your take-home pay may be docked. Most loans from 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans are repaid incrementally – the plan subtracts X dollars from your paycheck, month after month, until the amount borrowed is fully restored.1

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The Fine Art of Flexible Estate Planning PDF Print
Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Specialized trusts & private loans can help address some "what ifs."

 

Warrior PoseEstate planning professionals often contend with ambiguities. A plan may need to be modified in the future when some development in family life occurs – and there are some estate planning tools that may help to provide that kind of flexibility.

 

Standby trusts. These are unfunded revocable living trusts that go into effect when and if families need them. (Sometimes they are referred to as contingent trusts.)1

 

In a common scenario, a family has a history of hereditary illnesses, and mom or dad worry about one day being mentally or physically disabled to the point where they cannot make financial decisions. So a standby trust is declared through a living trust document – or alternately, a will may contain a provision authorizing one when necessary.2

 

A standby trust goes into effect upon a triggering event. It could be the death of the grantor; it could be a diagnosis of a terminal illness or a form of dementia for that individual. At that point, the revocable standby trust can become an irrevocable trust with assets transferred into it via a durable power of attorney.3

 

Should the grantor recover from a prolonged disability or illness, the standby trust can remain revocable and the grantor can regain control over the assets.4

 

From a life insurance standpoint, the mechanics work as follows.

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