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Topics: Family & Relationships Advice

March 8, 2023

Estate planning is an essential step to help protect the wealth that you've spent your life building. Meeting with an estate planner will help to create a comprehensive plan that will allow your assets to effectively pass to your assigned beneficiaries. Creating this initial plan can feel overwhelming, and we are here to help you prepare.

Here are five important questions you can expect to discuss with your estate advisor as you start to plan for your future.

How Would You Like Your Wealth to Pass to Your Heirs or Elsewhere?

The basis of your estate plan is where you want to direct your wealth and how you'd like that to happen. No matter how large or small your estate is, you'll need to decide how it should be distributed among children, grandchildren, other family members or favorite charity organizations. For example, this could mean leaving different parties a percentage of your total assets, or leaving one child your business and another child your vacation home.

It’s important to also think about whether you want your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance all at once or not. If you have a disabled child requiring lifelong care on your list, or someone who needs a little extra help managing their money, you may want a trust or annuity structure in place to pay out the inheritance in increments.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Costs and Conflicts for Your Heirs?

Costs for your beneficiaries are most likely to come up if your estate needs to go through probate, which is the process by which a court distributes your assets. In addition to financial costs, there are other reasons to avoid probate. Probate can be a long and exhausting process – meaning, your heirs will not be able to access your estate right away. If you have dependents who will rely on the money in your estate, this can be an especially serious concern. In addition, probate adds your estate information to the public record, which you may want to avoid. There are several strategies your financial advisor might recommend to avoid probate. These include placing assets in a trust and moving funds into joint accounts with your beneficiaries.

Conflict among heirs is another common concern, especially in families where conflict already exists. While the legal documents included in your estate should help minimize disagreements and make it more difficult for someone to contest your wishes, communication during your lifetime is important as well. Disagreements often surround specific items like jewelry or sentimental pieces rather than your financial assets. Labeling these items, writing a letter of instruction and starting to pass on these things during your lifetime can all help make your intentions clear.

How Can You Reduce Your Tax Burden?

After a lifetime of working to earn your money, you likely want to direct your wealth to your loved ones rather than the government. In 2023, only estates valued at $12.92 million (or $25.84 million for some married couples) or more may be subject to the federal estate tax. If, upon your death, the total value of your estate is less than the applicable exclusion amount, no federal estate taxes will be due.

Depending on the state you live in, your heirs or your estate might also be subject to state estate or inheritance taxes. If taxes are a concern for your estate, there are several ways to reduce your tax burden.

One simple option is to start passing money along during your lifetime. Based on the 2022 gift tax exemption limit, individuals can give up to $16,000 per recipient per year. This lets you give money directly to your children or grandchildren while reducing the value of your estate, which will reduce your tax bill. Other options include a marital trust, which allows one spouse to place assets in trust for the other spouse, and an irrevocable life insurance trust, which can pay for life insurance premiums with tax-deductible funds and then avoid estate taxes later on.

Are You Already Working with Financial Professionals?

If you're already working with an estate attorney, a financial planner or a tax professional, it's important for your estate planner to understand the strategies your existing financial team has recommended. You'll want to make sure that all of these members of your team are working together so you aren't paying for duplicated efforts or conflicting suggestions.

If you aren't already working with a financial team, your estate planner may recommend that you do so depending on the details of your estate plan. If you have complex tax concerns, you might need to talk to a tax expert. Depending on the type of trust that you wish to establish, you may need an estate attorney to set it up.

How Will Changes in Your Life Change Your Estate Plan?

Your estate plan should have the flexibility to adapt to changes in your lifestyle, family structure or life expectancy. Your initial plan will be based on your current circumstances, but you should consider potential future concerns and possible solutions.

Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce and remarriage are common life changes that can affect your estate plan. If you remarry, you may not want your new spouse to manage the inheritance of your children from the first marriage. This can create the need for a new trust to be established. In addition, if you have more children in later marriages, you will again need to update your estate plan.

Life Expectancy and Medical Issues

There are other lifestyle considerations that might change as well. For example, if based on your family history you expect to live into your 90s, you might not want to start giving away assets to avoid estate taxes. And if medical issues arise and your life expectancy changes, you will likely need to adjust your plan.

While you won't need to make any decisions based on hypotheticals, it's a good idea to discuss the possibilities.

How to Get Started?

Your estate plan is a key component of your Life Plan. To create an estate plan that addresses the above questions and any other concerns you may have, you'll need to start by finding the right estate advisor. Talk to the Trilogy Financial team to take control of your finances today while maximizing your future opportunities.

Download your free Estate Strategies eBook to learn how to protect your estate.

 

family happy after meeting with estate planner
family happy with estate planning and secure future

 

April 15, 2020

When is the “end” of this Coronavirus season? Do we return to “normal” at the end of the summer? I have no idea. However, I do know that when it happens, I will have already given intentional thought to my plan to return because there are some lessons learned and best practices to hold on to during this period of being at home with my family and work. Here are just a few I’d thought I share:

Be Present. Being more present has always been a pursuit of mine. And amidst a shelter-in environment, I’ve been more present without the back and forth to the office. When we are present, we thrive. When we are present, we are listening to our clients. When we are present, we are having more fun with our family. Compare it to being in the zone in athletics. We are solely focused on the conversation or task at hand, making us ultimately more effective as leaders and parents. Be present.

Be Proactive. Even though none of us anticipated the spread of this virus, there have still been plenty of opportunities to be proactive. Despite the uncertainty, a forward-thinking strategy creates freedom and reassurance. Having the flexibility to make anticipated adjustments and then course correct from there helps us weather the difficult days and be ahead over the long-term. This relates to our financial strategy and our day-to-day structure with kids at home. Have a plan, discuss it, and see it to completion. That might result in a strategy to invest in the market with dollar-cost averaging or decide to double recipes so you don’t have to cook as much. Either way, be proactive in life and at work.

Keep Up Good Habits. I have enjoyed the opportunity to connect over Zoom. I’m still improving my ability to read the emotion through the technology but with the effectiveness of virtual meetings, could I plan to only have Zoom meetings on Friday and stay at home? This would give me a few more hours to spend with my family. I don’t think my clients would disagree with that. Give it some thought. Have there been practices at home that should continue? Read for 20 minutes in the middle of the day? Exercise at lunch?

I’ve been grateful for this time and yet I know, this has created immense difficulty for most people. Through my numerous conversations with clients and friends, I’ve been encouraged by the attitude and fortitude these times require. Here’s to having a plan before we return to normal again.

“The most powerful weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. Train your mind to see the good in this day.” –Marc & Angel Chernoff

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

March 10, 2020

It’s no surprise that I often talk about the need to have a strong, supportive financial team to pursue financial independence. These financial teams can consist of a CPA, an estate planning attorney or a real estate agent, with your trusted financial advisor acting as the general manager of your team. While each one provides a specialized level of expertise, for individuals who are married, there is another person that can make or break your route to financial independence: your spouse. Often, we underestimate the value your spouse brings to your financial house, which is why it is so important to make them the MVP of your financial team.

In order to pursue financial independence, couples must be on the same page and work together towards common goals. For many, though, that is just not the case. Nearly half of U.S. couples argue over finances.[i] These disagreements can be based on resentment over spending rather than saving. Sometimes arguments arise over differing risk tolerance. The heart of these issues lies in goal mismatch, a situation that arises when your combined goals are not aligned. When you and your spouse are not working together towards your combined financial independence, chances of reaching it are slim.

While some couples argue, others simply don’t communicate. Both people in a marriage need to be involved in their finances, agreeing on their financial goals and the steps they’re taking to get there. Being unaware of your financial household, whether it’s because only one person in the relationship is in charge of the household finances or because both parties have decided to keep separate financial lives, simply causes problems. When you don’t know what the other is doing with their money, you can’t be sure that you’re both working towards the same goals in the most effective way. Additionally, you may be setting yourself up for unfortunate complications if your partner unexpectedly passes or becomes incapacitated. Honestly, I’d rather have my clients argue than avoid discussing finances. At least they’re talking about it.

So how do you and your spouse get on the same page? You can start by taking my financial compatibility quiz. Not only will the quiz show you what areas the two of you are like-minded and what areas you need to work on, but it’ll also give you the conversation starters to mine those areas you may not see eye-to-eye on. If you need a little more guidance on what to talk about, you can check out my book, The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility. Also, make sure to get some time for yourself for date night – particularly a Financial Date Night. Make the investment for a babysitter to ensure some consistent quality time where you can have open, honest discussions on big-picture issues and long-term goals. For those really tough topics, you can use a trusted Financial Advisor to help you navigate the conversation.

I am a firm believer in investing in your future. Whether you invest in a book, a babysitter or your time, these investments go a long way to ensure your marital financial health. It’s when you make sure that you’re working together with your spouse that you build a strong and sure route to your financial independence.

 

[i] https://nypost.com/2017/08/03/the-reasons-most-couples-argue-about-money/

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

September 23, 2019

For many young adults, college is the first time they are independently managing their own money. It can be a time marked with excitement and new opportunities, or anxiety and worry. Financial skills built at this time can have long-lasting benefits. Likewise, money mistakes made now will carry on into their future. That is why about 70 percent of college students worry about their finances[i]. However, with the right skills and habits, this can be a great time to lay a strong foundation for their future financial independence.

The first financial decision that most college students encounter are student loans. Before taking out student loans, make sure to explore other financial aid options, such as scholarships and tuition assistance from participating employers. Also, don’t forget the option of going to local community colleges for the first couple of years. If student loans are an option, it is best to resist the temptation to take the maximum amount one qualifies for. Instead, borrow only what is needed. This will help in the long run. College is an investment, and students need to be sure that their rate of return is worth it.

It is imperative that young people know how to budget, but unfortunately, that’s largely not the case. In fact, 43 percent of college students don’t track their spending[ii]. This is particularly crucial for those who have student loans. You can help your young people early by introducing them to the concept of budgeting well before you’re packing them up for college. A budget is not simply an account of where one’s money goes. It aids in making decisions, establishing financial priorities, and staying aware of how your money is working for you. Please always remind your college students that the less they spend now, the more they’ll be able to move forward in the future.

Another common first for college students is the first credit card. Credit cards are a good tool to establish small lines of credit, but monthly balances should always be paid off immediately. Not only does this avoid late fees, but it also avoids interest building on purchases. Also, protecting personal information is imperative. Students need to constantly be aware of who they are giving their information to and what is being charged to their account.

College is a busy time full of “firsts”. These experiences can have long-reaching consequences. Help your college students prepare a solid foundation to their financial independence by providing them with the proper education and tools for a bright financial future.

[i] https://news.osu.edu/70-percent-of-college-students-stressed-about-finances/

[ii] https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/student-guide-to-budgeting/

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

January 9, 2019

A recent survey found that among Millennial parents, nearly half have received financial support from their Baby Boomer parents in the past year, and 69% received financial support specifically for their own young children.(1) Another poll found that 3 in 4 parents with adult children have helped them pay both debts and living expenses.(2)

Clearly, it is common practice nowadays for parents to provide financially for both their adult children and their grandchildren. Many Baby Boomers are at a place where they are financially secure and have the desire to give their kids a leg up from where they were at the same age. For 2019, up to $15,000 can be gifted from one individual to another without having any tax effects. Many parents are reaching that limit with their gifts to their adult children for their own expenses and gifts to their grandchildren to fund their education and contribute towards their future well-being.

When Your Parents Give You Money

One-Time Gifts

The first thing you have to do is decide what to do with the money. Whether or not it is a one-time gift or will be ongoing will greatly influence your decision. If it is a one-time gift, it likely cannot be used to enhance your current lifestyle. Rather, you could use it to strengthen your current position by paying down debt. You could also use it for a one-time luxury, such as a vacation. Another good use would be to invest it to prepare for the future.

Of course, what you choose to do with the money will depend greatly upon your current financial situation and goals. If you decide to save it for the future, that brings up another set of questions. Where should you put the money? What kind of investment opportunities are available? How soon do you plan on needing it? The answer to each of those questions will determine what you do with the money, whether you put it in a money market account, invest in a brokerage account, or use it to fund your retirement accounts.

Ongoing Gifts

Though they are usually more beneficial, ongoing gifts are actually harder to plan for. You have to ask the same questions as above, but you also have many more options. If it will be a regular gift, you could use it to enhance your lifestyle instead of merely paying down debt or taking a vacation. Or you could use it to take advantage of a business opportunity that wouldn’t be feasible otherwise.

The hard part about ongoing gifts is knowing how safe it is to depend on them. If you make decisions based on the gift, what happens if it doesn’t come or is given sporadically? Many people fear sounding greedy or ungrateful if they ask their parents about money that they expected to receive but didn’t. The dependability of the gift money and the kind of relationship you have with your parents should be taken into account when planning for ongoing gifts.

One thing to be careful of, especially with ongoing gifts, is to not let it affect the stewardship of your own money. It is easy to change good habits and loosen the reins on your spending when you have extra money coming in. But is that wise?

Your parents are giving you money because they want to help you. Are they really helping you if you are simply becoming more careless? You should apply the same careful money habits as you would without the gift, even if it creates enough margin where you wouldn’t have to. Remember, what your parents give you is a gift. It is not required nor guaranteed, and you should manage it with that in mind.

When Your Parents Give Your Children Money

A lot of the same issues apply when your parents gift your children money or give it directly to you but for their benefit, especially when you aren’t sure if the gift will be regular and are not comfortable asking.

First, you need to decide if you should use it to meet current needs or future ones. If you save the money for your children’s college education, it could help them pay for a better school, get a better job, and avoid student debt. But if the money is spent today, it could pay for their childcare and thereby enable you to save more for retirement or get a house in a better school district, which could lead to a better education, admission to better colleges, and scholarships to avoid debt. There is no one right answer and it requires careful consideration of your family’s own unique circumstances and priorities.

College Funding

If you do decide to save the money for your children’s future, that brings up another host of questions. Where is the best place to put the money until you need it? A savings account? A 529 Plan? An UTMA? The answer will depend on a number of factors, including how liquid you want the money to be without penalties and how much control you want to maintain over the money. There are a number of options available to you, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

When saving for college, you need to have a target goal in mind. It is important to estimate the cost of college for your child in order to measure how much you need to be investing, the types of investments you should use, and to monitor your progress. Another reason to have a set goal is to avoid overfunding a college account. There should be a stopping point where you no longer invest in a 529 but rather divert the funds elsewhere. While leftover 529 accounts can be transferred to family members or have the funds removed with penalties, it may be better to simply avoid overfunding them in the first place.

Multiple Children

Having multiple children makes things even more complex because it can be hard to keep things fair and equitable. What happens when your parents, who gave a lot towards your firstborn, begin to taper off the gifts with subsequent children? Or perhaps the same amount was given, but it was divided by more and more children? What can you do so that the later children are not at a disadvantage?

Also, what happens when the gifts begin after you already have more than one child? If your parents start funding a college account when your first child is 5 and your second is 1, then the second may end up with a much higher balance upon entrance to college. What can you do and what should you do to help balance things out?

How I Can Help

These are some of the questions that arise when parents gift money to their adult children and grandchildren. Depending on the scenario, things can quickly become complex. Not only do you have to decide what to do with the money, weighing the benefits and opportunity costs, but you have to decide the best way to accomplish your goals with that money.

This is a common situation that my clients find themselves in when they turn to me for help. Together, we first determine the circumstances in which the money was given and the intent behind it. If your parents had a specific purpose in giving you the money, it is often best to honor that purpose.

Next, we discuss how you can use the money in a way that doesn’t distract you from your goals or cause you to become financially irresponsible. We talk through different scenarios in advance and address the “what-ifs” that could occur in each in order to develop a solid plan. My clients really enjoy having me there as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, as well as to hear my insights based on the experience that I have had myself and with other clients.

If you’ve found yourself the recipient of financial gifts from your parents, or just need someone to help you sort through your own finances, call me at (949) 221-8105 x 2128 or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com. I would love to partner with you so that you can make wise financial decisions to build a secure future for you and your family.

(1) https://s1.q4cdn.com/959385532/files/doc_downloads/research/2017/Millennial-Parents-Survey-Key-Findings.pdf

(2) https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/pay-adult-childrens-debt-poll.php

November 26, 2018

Money is a commonly held taboo topic, like politics and religion. We just don’t feel comfortable talking about them – especially to people we care about. That’s because these topics are tied closely to how we view ourselves. These topics also garner a lot of judgment, and the last thing we want is to be judged on something that we feel is intrinsically linked to our intelligence or sense of maturity. Yet, by practicing a few simple tips, we can start tackling the taboo topic of family finances and get on that path to financial independence.

Be Honest

It is human nature to want to hide things we may not be proud of or want to avoid. Perhaps you charged a bit too much to your credit cards or haven’t saved as much as you planned for all of your family’s goals. You may want to avoid addressing such issues, but those who are part of your financial household need to know the honest, unvarnished state of your finances. Trying to hide the facts will just compound your issues when they come to light – and they will.

Be Frequent

Don’t just talk about money when money is a problem. That’s when stress levels are high and emotions are frayed. What needs to be a level-headed discussion can quickly escalate into an emotional shouting match. Instead, conversations about finances should become routine. If you schedule a monthly financial date night with your spouse, the frequent exposure will minimize the surprise and anxiety from these talks. Ultimately, there will be fewer surprises and more planning to help when unexpected or hard decisions need to be made.

Be Open to Feedback

You and your spouse are a team. Teams succeed by working together towards the same goals. Teammates, though, don’t always see things the same way and may have different approaches to the same objective. That’s why it’s important to get your spouse’s input on how your finances are being managed. Not only does your spouse’s input ensure you’re working towards the same goals, but different perspectives can also provide multiple solutions to financial issues. Most importantly, your spouse feels heard and validated, which is a precious thing to give to the one you love.

Be Non-Judgmental

What causes many to shy away from discussing finances is the idea that they will be judged for things they did or did not do with their money. Did you mismanage your funds and refrain from saving sufficiently? Were you too risky with your investments or not risky enough to provide for the household? To avoid the judgment, most will just avoid talking about their finances all together, which doesn’t often have good outcomes. Avoidance doesn’t help financial situations – it often just prolongs the mess. To help your spouse open up, it is beneficial to allow them to speak openly and freely and to listen without judgment.

I do believe that it is imperative to take the taboo out of talking about money with your spouse. Both of you should foster frequent and honest financial discussions, free of strife and judgment. Doing these things will allow you to solidify yourselves as a strong financial team and set you on your path for collective financial independence.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

October 11, 2018

How much time have you spent thinking about your future death? If you’re like most people, probably not much. Thinking about your death or that of a loved one can bring up plenty of unpleasant emotions, but having a plan to take care of the details can ease some of the stress in a time of grieving. So if you’ve lost someone close to you or just want to create a plan for the future, follow this checklist to help you deal with the financial side of an unexpected death.

Organize Documents

In the aftermath of a loved one’s passing, his or her will is not the only document you will need. In order to do things like request benefits or change the name on car titles, you will also need copies of the following:

Birth certificate

Death certificate

Marriage certificate

Social Security card

Automobile titles

Property Deeds

Insurance policies

Bank, investments, and retirement account statements

If you want to plan ahead, ask yourself: Do you have an organized filing system, or are all your important documents strewn about in different places? As you organize your family’s documents, make sure the appropriate people have access to the information they will need in the event of an unexpected death.

Notify The Appropriate Contacts

There are a few people you will need to contact who will be able to help you through the process of taking care of the deceased’s finances. As soon as you are able, reach out to their financial advisor, insurance agent, attorney, and accountant. These professionals are trained to know how to handle an unexpected death, and they will be able to direct you to the right sources of information and help you make the best decisions possible.

Take Care Of Immediate Financial Needs

When someone close to you dies, there are many time-sensitive tasks that need to be taken care of. These tasks often have a financial element involved. For example, when making funeral arrangements and covering burial expenses, be sure to review life insurance policies and look for any pre-arrangement details or last wishes the deceased may have left. Some expenses may be covered, which will save you a financial headache. Speak to the deceased’s financial advisor to see if there are any easily accessible funds set aside for bills or debt payments that cannot be deferred.

Review Benefits

Surviving family members may be entitled to certain benefits, such as Social Security benefits and perhaps pension benefits, life insurance, and annuities. Contact the human resources department of the deceased’s employer, who can explain and document the following benefits that may be available to you, including:

Life insurance

Healthcare, or extended healthcare coverage through COBRA

Compensation due, such as stick options or unused vacation pay

401(k) or pension

Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may need to apply for Social Security survivor benefits, update insurance beneficiaries, and apply for settlement.

Manage Their Estate

Finances can get messy when someone dies. Our financial lives can be complicated, so use this list as a starting point for closing accounts, updating information, and taking care of the countless details. Look into whether the deceased had any of the following accounts and contact the institution:

Checking Account

Savings Account

Brokerage Account

IRA

401(k)

403(b)

Health Savings Account

Flexible Spending Account

College Funds

Don’t forget about debts. Debts don’t disappear when someone passes away. Investigate the following and make sure those who are now responsible for these debts are aware of the creditor’s name, outstanding balance, name on the debt, loan terms, and the amount, timing, and method of payments.

Mortgage

Home Equity Line of Credit

Automobile Loans

Personal Loans

Student Loans

Credit Cards

Make sure you don’t forget about recurring household expenses, such as utilities, and how and when to pay them: .

Property Taxes

Electricity

Sewer

Water

Natural Gas

Garbage

Telephone

Cable TV

Internet Service

Landscaping

House Cleaning

Homeowners Association Dues

Other organization membership dues

Work With A Trusted Advisor

Handling the details after the death of a loved one can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. Financial professionals are experienced with these situations and can guide you through the steps that apply to your unique circumstances. They will not only help you take care of pressing problems and concerns, but can also help you feel more secure in a time of financial change. A financial advisor can make sure your affairs are in order, update your financial plan, and implement appropriate strategies to help you stay on track financially.

October 8, 2018

Your Financial Future Family ties are amazing. These connections, based in DNA, history and genuine care, can prompt many to support their loved ones through times of need, be it emotional, physical and even financial. It is natural to want to support your family, but the players involved can double (or even triple or quadruple in cases of blended families), increasing the financial strain. Since these familial situations can snowball quite quickly, I urge you to focus first on your own financial independence and be sure not to let your parents and your children squeeze your financial future. While many hate to be a burden on their family, it’s actually quite common for people to financially assist other family members. According to Ameritrade’s Financial Support Study, one-fifth of Americans are Financial Supporters, meaning they provide financial support to a parent and/or an adult child.1 A survey conducted by GoBankingRates found that 63 percent of children plan to financially support their parents in some way once they retire.2 On the other end, parents are also financially supporting their grown children. Per Financial Planning OWS, 24% are helping with rent and 39% are paying cell phone bills.3

My primary advice is to always pay yourself first. Be sure to establish a healthy emergency fund and contribute to your retirement. It’s similar to what you hear on airplanes about placing the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on others. You need to be sure that you are fiscally secure before you provide for those who are financially struggling. This is very sound, logical advice, which can be difficult to follow once emotions come into play.

Most of the decisions I see my clients struggle with are when the emotional and the financials are at odds. When your daughter wants to go to that expensive, out-of-state college that you didn’t save enough for, it’s tempting to try to make it work, whatever means necessary. Or perhaps your son is going through a costly divorce, and the only way you feel you can support him and ensure you see your grandkids is to borrow from your retirement to hire him a good lawyer. These are the moments when you need to be able to tell your child and yourself, “No”. In most cases, there are other options and alternatives in place. They may not be the dream situation, but they will still get the job done. Don’t sacrifice your future for your child’s dream, no matter how compelling. Don’t let emotions cloud good judgment.

On the other end of the spectrum, is a harsh reality. When dealing with parents who may not have planned sufficiently or are in the midst of a financial crisis, be sure that you are communicating as one adult to another. If possible, you may want to tackle those financial conversations early. Some of these difficult financial conversations with parents are tied to medical issues, so be sure to discuss before physical situations become dire.

When you find yourself in the midst of these difficult situations, please don’t forget about your support system. Your financial advisor can act as an unbiased referee in moments of disagreement or emotional struggle. They will likely remember the important financial issues that may slip your mind and will be ruled by numbers rather than nostalgia. At the moments when you need a pragmatic perspective to shine through the cloud of emotions, a trusted financial advisor can be invaluable.

In a time where many people find themselves part of the Sandwich Generation, taking on financial burdens can seem inevitable. Yet, so much can be avoided and accomplished when you act in advance. Start chatting with mom and dad while they’re still in good physical and financial health. Start saving for colleges as early as possible. When you’re proactive, you can prepare. When you’re reactive, people and finances can take a hit.

  1. https://s1.q4cdn.com/959385532/files/doc_downloads/research/TDA-Financial-Support-Study-2015.pdf
  2. https://www.gobankingrates.com/retirement/planning/kids-plan-financially-support-parents-retirement/
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynrosenblatt/2018/07/09/aging-parents-helping-adult-children-financially-unhealthy-results/#321bb1e2ef39
September 24, 2018

“What’s top of mind?” is an incredible starting point for a financial planning conversation. A client will oftentimes start with a story, not the balance of their retirement account or what they spent last month on dining out. More recently, children have been top of mind for a lot of families. How should we pay for college? Should we pay for college? I want to save for my child, but have more flexibility than an education account. Education and the cost of college is the obvious priority with kids. I’ll suggest protecting your child with life insurance with accelerated benefit riders as a second priority. Let me explain, after you just tensed up and committed yourself to not discussing.

As a parent, I pray nothing happens to my two sons. Unfortunately, I don’t have complete control of that outcome. Here are three reasons why I’ll suggest life insurance for your child.

Accelerated benefit riders give you access to the death benefit, if your son or daughter experiences a terminal diagnosis, chronic disability, or a critical event. If any of these conditions take place, I’m not going back to work the next day. I’ll living at the hospital, eating restaurant food, and spending money on unanticipated expenses outside of what health care pays for, without having to take a loan on my 401k or deplete my savings account.

A death benefit (unimaginable) provides peace of mind that if the worst were to happen, your family wouldn’t have to think about work, the mortgage, or time off. You simply could spend time together grieving the most difficult time in your life. Enough said.

The cash value growing inside of your indexed universal life policy (form of permanent insurance) creates a saving vehicles indexed to the S&P 500 over the life of the policy. If at a certain point in your now grown child’s life, you can surrender the policy and provide a jump start for their first down payment, wedding, or other significant event in their life, OR even give the policy to your child for them to now pay their own premium and have a level of life insurance in place.

Why don’t I invest my money in the market and have more to give to my child when he/she is grown? I agree with this philosophy, assuming none of the aforementioned events happen while your children are under your roof. Since the cost of insurance for a child is so low, I’m willing to protect my child first, then if nothing happens, I have an opportunity to gift them their starter policy as they start their own career and family. If you have a term policy in place, you can oftentimes add a child term rider for a small additional premium. Cheers to being a parent. If you have further questions about this type of planning, please reach out to Mark Nicolet, CFP®, at mark.nicolet@trilogyfs.com or 303-300-3323 ext. 5227.

This material contains only general descriptions and is not a solicitation to sell any insurance product or security, nor is it intended as any financial or tax advice. For information about specific insurance needs or situations, contact your insurance agent. This doesn't take into account your personal characteristics such as budget, assets, risk tolerance, family situation or activities which may affect the type of insurance that would be right for you. In addition, state insurance laws and insurance underwriting rules may affect available coverage and its costs. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company.

August 30, 2018

Whether we attribute it to a decline in marriage rates, poor job prospects, student loan debt, technological improvements, or generational shifts, times have certainly changed for young adults. One major topic which my clients bring up centers around their adult children moving back home. While this was not a common conversation ten years ago, I come across this topic more often nowadays. I’ve heard statistics such as “a third of young people, or 24 million of those aged 18 to 34, lived under their parents’ roof in 2015”, and look at it as my job as an advisor to provide advice on how to best navigate through this new landscape.(1)

Within this topic, a common question that I try to help my clients answer is this: Should I charge my adult children rent if they move back home? What I’ve found is that every situation is different, so what may work for one family, may not work for another. However, in this article, I hope to provide a framework to consider when trying to answer the question.

Setting Expectations

Depending on your own experiences and values as parents, as well as the specific circumstance of your adult child, you may insist that they live at home rent-free. For example, if your adult child is being responsible by saving a good share of his/her paycheck for a house down payment and you want to reward that responsible behavior by letting him/her live at home rent-free, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. For other parents, such an assistance for an adult child does not make sense, and no matter what the circumstances, would believe it only right to charge for rent if living at home.

No matter where you fall on this spectrum, it is important to set expectations with your adult child. For instance, if you decide that it is out of your comfort zone to charge your child rent for living at home, then what other mechanisms can you put into place to make sure he/she does not get too comfortable? In my experience, I’ve seen parents create timelines and goals, as well as make it crystal clear that the adult child must still pitch in, in other ways such as chores or errands. While it may be a tough conversation initially, imagine the alternative. What if your child gets too comfortable living at home and would rather stay at your “hotel” rather than spread their wings in the real world!

Whether rent is being paid or not, the adult child will have a particular reason as to why they want to or need to live back at home. If they are simply being lazy and are not making an effort towards adulthood, it is crucially important to provide clear expectations. As parents, you want to always help and support, but you never want to enable. Therefore, in this example of being lazy, a parent could set expectations of applying for X number of jobs per week, or something similar.

How Much To Charge For Rent

If you do decide that it makes sense to charge your adult child rent, how much should you charge? In my experience, parents usually charge well below market rates. As parents, you want to help your child out, but you also want to build up their personal finance awareness. How much you charge will also be highly correlated to what your daughter or son can afford, and could change over their time living with you. By having an open conversation and being clear about why you will be charging them, it should not be hard to fall on a number that makes sense for your family.

Alternatives

There are also other ways in which your adult child could pitch in that could be alternatives to paying rent. Such alternatives could be household chores or errands, cooking meals, or even helping parents with their own work. In addition, it could make more sense to have your adult child pay for other household expenses (instead of rent), such as internet, tv, or groceries.

Another alternative could be to make their stay at your home contingent on them depositing money into their own retirement account. This way, you are teaching them how to save and plan for the future.

Finally, if you want to help them grow personally, you can make their stay at your home contingent on community service or volunteering. This is a win-win as well!

Budgeting

This experience can also be thought of as a great teaching moment for your child. Specifically, parents in this situation are in a unique position to extol the virtues of budgeting and personal finance when their child needs it most. If the adult child in your household has to pay you rent and decide how to allocate their small-to-no income, they will quickly learn how to budget. As a parent, you may decide to get creative and instead of using the rent money for expenses, stash it (and maybe even match it) into a savings account for your child. They will be happily surprised with a small nest egg to leave home with!

Other Considerations

Other considerations that I make sure clients consider is their own budget and retirement goals. If your adult child is going to come back home and live there, you’ll want to make sure that adding another adult to the household does not negatively affect your own goals. Because you’d anticipate that household expenses will go up, you must make sure you budget for them, based on your expectations and timeline with your adult child. Again, by having an open conversation with your adult child, I am confident that a reasonable game plan can be implemented with success.

Having this conversation is not always an easy one, but I hope that the considerations above help provide better ways to think about it. If you’d like to discuss your situation further, call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

May 22, 2018

“I have no interest in learning about finances. My [husband/wife] takes care of that.”

I have heard this statement from many clients throughout my career, and I understand the sentiment that prompts this response. Human nature has shown that when groups of people come together, they divvy up tasks to different individuals based on their strengths or roles in the group. You see this in many different groups, including families. My wife cooks dinner, and I’m great at taking out the garbage. With my siblings, I’m great at being the peacemaker while my sister knows how to shine a light on different perspectives. These established roles help our family units function smoothly and effectively…

Until one of the pieces of our unit is no longer around.

I’ve seen it far too many times. Clients come in distraught and overwhelmed because they’ve lost a loved one who typically acted as the family’s Chief Financial Officer. Sometimes they don’t know if there is a will or where legal documents are saved. Perhaps they are aware of a family safety deposit box, but they’re not sure where it is or how to access it. They aren’t sure about account balances or how to read statements. They may not even have access to critical accounts because the deceased was the one who knew the passwords. Now they are dealing with grief and heartbreak, compounded by confusion as to what the next steps are for maintaining their family’s financial solvency.

This is why I insist that both parties in a marriage are involved in financial planning meetings and decisions. I also recommend, especially for my senior clients, that other family members or loved ones are aware of the basics of their financial plans. It makes things so much simpler if all important documents, including a list of passwords, are stored together. If security is a concern, there are plenty of third party vendors that will virtually store that information for you. In most cases, though, a virtual safekeeper of your important information isn’t ideal. What is really needed is someone who will help guide your loved ones during that difficult time. That’s when a financial advisor can be an invaluable asset. I have had many Trilogy clients express how relieved they are to know that their financial advisor will be around to guide and assist the loved ones after he or she has passed. At Trilogy Financial, we don’t consider it a job. We consider it an honor and a calling.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. The truth is, it takes a village to care for anyone. Please make sure that your village is prepared and has the proper tools to take care of you. If you’re not sure where to begin, you may want to meet with a financial advisor. Our Trilogy Advisors are not only trained to assist your family on how to prepare for the future, but will also be there to provide support and service during a difficult and overwhelming time.

November 2, 2017

The day you become a parent is a day of overwhelming emotions. You may experience joy at the sight of your precious child, relief that he or she made it out of the womb, and for many of you, fear and anxiety because you somehow have to turn that seven-pound baby into an independent, responsible, and successful adult.

As parents, there are so many things we have to teach our children, beginning with the basics of how to eat and share toys to more complicated lessons such as making decisions and getting along with others. As a society, we are excelling in some areas of parenting, but falling behind in others. In a recent National Financial Capabilities Study, only 24 percent of Millennials (age 23-35) were able to answer the first three financial literacy questions correctly, and a mere 8 percent answered them all correctly.[1]

Most parents agree that we need to do a better job teaching our kids about money. Last year, T Rowe Price reported that 80 percent of parents didn’t think schools were doing enough to teach kids about financial matters.[2]However, parents cannot abdicate all responsibility to the schools. Raising children and teaching them to navigate the world is first and foremost a parent’s responsibility.

Set A Good Financial Example

The first step in teaching your kids about finances is modeling what you want them to learn. Few parents would disagree with this concept. The same T Rowe Price study mentioned above found that 69 percent of parents are very/extremely concerned about setting a good financial example for their kids. The vast majority, eight out of ten, feel that they are setting a good financial example, but two-thirds also admit to doing things that wouldn’t qualify as setting a good example.

An enormous 40 percent admitted that when it comes to talking to their kids about finances, it’s “Do as I say, not as I do.” Anyone who has raised kids knows that isn’t enough. My clients tell me they are very concerned about setting a good example for their children. The first step in teaching your kids about money is simple: Show them.

Talk About Finances

Sometimes a silent model isn’t quite enough, and some areas of personal finance aren’t very visible. That is why it is imperative to talk to your kids about finances. But talking about money may be a long-standing cultural taboo. Often this reluctance to discuss financial matters spills over into the home as well.

Forty-nine percent of the parents in the T Rowe Price study said they rarely or never discuss family finances with their children. Eighteen percent admitted to being very/extremely reluctant to discuss financial matters with their kids and 72 percent of parents experience at least some reluctance to having such a discussion. But how are kids going to learn about money if you avoid talking to them about it?  Some topics require more in-depth discussion and openness and finances are one of them.

Get Your Kids Involved

If you want financial understanding to actually sink in, you need to get your kids involved. Learning theory and research have consistently shown that the more active a learning experience is, the greater the learning gains and retention.[3] Most people have to do something to truly learn it.

How does this work with kids? Here are some ways I’ve put this into practice with my daughter: Even though she is young, I have taught her the difference between a penny, nickel, dime and quarter. Beyond just teaching the values of the coins, I then show her how to earn money by completing basic, age-appropriate chores such as making her bed and folding her clothes. As her coins start adding up, she has the opportunity to buy a toy or to save her money and earn interest (a penny for every dollar). Just as any adult, she loves the idea of making money for no extra work, so she often chooses the savings option!

At this point, I take a step back and let my daughter make her own financial decisions (and sometimes mistakes) so that she can learn from them. She and I have different values and I’ve learned that I need to let her be independent and respect her choices. On one occasion, she decided to impulsively purchase a My Little Pony beanie baby that I thought would be a waste of money. Rather than refusing to buy the toy for her, I took a step back and allowed her to buy it with her own money. Sometimes I am surprised in the process, as she still plays with this toy three months later!

Imparting financial wisdom to your kids is a challenging process that takes years. So, if you don’t feel like you’re doing an adequate job of teaching your kids about money, you’re not alone. Even if you are doing a good job, you probably agree with the 77 percent of the T Rowe Price survey parents who said that they wished there were more resources available to help them teach their kids about financial matters.

I believe that every child can learn critical financial lessons at a young age that will set them up for future success. I want to provide you with the tools to help you on this journey. To set up a meeting, call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at mike.loo@trilogyfs.com.

[1] http://gflec.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/a738b9_b453bb8368e248f1bc546bb257ad0d2e.pdf

[2] https://corporate.troweprice.com/Money-Confident-Kids/images/emk/2015-PKM-Report-2015-FINAL.pdf

[3] http://www.joe.org/joe/1994august/a6.php

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