Financial Advice For Parents

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Raising a child in today’s world can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a parent of four children ranging from ages 5 to 16, I can attest to just how expensive kids can be. Besides just the essentials like food and clothes, there are club teams, tutors, dance lessons and so much more. With each additional family member comes new financial considerations and expenses. The importance of planning for these costs before they arise is a key reason why many financial advisors are targeting young families and helping them successfully navigate how to cover their children’s expenses without compromising their own financial security. Here are a few top takeaways from some of these advisors:

SAVING FOR COLLEGE

With a high school junior in our house, it won’t be long before we are paying that dreaded college tuition bill. And, due to the ballooning costs of higher education, this bill is not likely to be a small one! If possible, new parents should try to start saving as soon as they can for their child’s college tuition.The earlier you start saving, the better prepared you’ll be. If you save $500 a month at birth, you should have around $190,000 saved by the time that child reaches 18 (assuming an annual return of 6%). However, if you don’t start until your son or daughter is 10, you’ll only have around $60,000 by the time they graduate high school. Setting up a state-sponsored 529 college savings plan, allows parents to invest money and then withdraw it tax-free, so long as the funds are used for certain education expenses. However, as you prepare for your children’s future, make sure that you remain focused on your retirement saving as well. There are lots of ways to pay for college, but you can only use the resources you’ve accumulated for your own retirement.   

CHILDCARE AND HEALTH CARE

When our first child was born, my husband and I were both working, and trying to find affordable childcare was not easy. Childcare is one of the biggest expenses new parents will face, especially if both parents work. In some cases, one parent will decide to leave their job and take care of the child themselves, especially if the cost of childcare is more than one parent is making. This is exactly what happened when our second child was born, since it was no longer cost effective to pay for childcare for two children with my salary.   

Meanwhile, childbirth and adoption count as qualifying events that allow parents to make changes to their employee benefits outside of the open enrollment period at work. For example, new parents can expect to see their medical expenses rise and those who have access to a flexible savings account and health savings account at work should use them since the money put into an FSA or HSA avoids federal taxation. In some cases, employers offer a Dependent Care FSA, which can be used for costs picked up from a nanny, babysitter or childcare center.

When it comes to health insurance, if both parents work, you should examine which plan will cost less to add the child to. Most doctor visits in the first couple of years are considered wellness visits, which are typically free or very low-cost in most health-care plans today. But, you should look into which plan is most cost-effective in the event of a trip to the emergency room or having to see a specialist – even with good insurance, the price tag of a broken bone is a lot more than you might think!

LIFE INSURANCE

Even though it’s not something most people like to think about, preparing for death is of utmost importance when becoming a parent. Your financial advisor should be able to run various calculations to figure out the amount of protection you would need. Many families make the mistake of only getting life insurance for the main earner, experts say, but both parents should be covered. Many people think that since stay-at-home parent isn’t actually earning anything, they don’t need insurance. However, when it comes to life insurance, you need to evaluate what it would cost to have someone else take care of your children if something were to happen to that parent.  

It is also extremely important to put together estate planning documents, including a will and health-care directives, as well as discussing appointing a guardian in the event of an unexpected life event. When we found out we were expecting our first child, it forced us to have some difficult conversations about who we would want to take of our child and how our assets would be distributed if something happened to us. It’s also important to revisit those questions each time you add another child to your family or if there is another major change to your assets. The guardians you might have written in your will when you were 25 might not be the same guardians you would choose when you are 45. None of these decisions are easy ones, but they are vital to preparing for your life as a parent.

EMERGENCY SAVINGS

With all the additional expenses new parents can face, from diapers to a larger home and mortgage, it’s more important than ever to have a safety net for those unexpected costs. Having children is a good reason to have a bigger emergency fund, simply because there are now more people who are dependent on you financially. Aside from the random home and car repairs that always seem to pop up when you least expect them, now add braces, sports equipment and teenage social lives to the mix. Having some money from each paycheck deposited directly into an account that you don’t touch is an easy way to make sure you are creating an ample emergency fund should you need it.  

There are so many wonderful aspects of being a parent, but it is definitely a costly undertaking. Seeking some financial guidance before you become a parent is always a good idea, but it’s never too late to start planning for your future with a family. If you have any questions about saving for college, choosing the right health plan, putting together your estate documents or anything else related to your financial goals or plans, please contact us.  We offer a free 30-minute introductory consultation and would love to hear from you!  Check out our other blogs for more financial advice and tips.

 

The Best Credit Cards For Grocery Shopping In 2020

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As the corona-virus pandemic has put a halt on restaurant dining, Americans have found themselves cooking at home more and in turn, spending more money on grocery shopping. When increasing your spend in a certain category, it’s important to think about how you can maximize these purchases and your budget by building rewards. You may want to consider a rewards credit card that can help you earn over $100 a year on your groceries. 

We read an interesting article from CNBC select that discussed the best credit cards to apply for if your grocery spending has increased or is a large chunk of your monthly budget. The average American spends about $5,174 a year, or roughly $431 a month, on groceries, according to a sample budget based on the latest spending data available from the location intelligence firm Esri. That’s more than Americans spend on dining out, which comes to about $3,675 annually. 

The best grocery rewards cards offer up to 6% cash back at supermarkets. While they usually exclude wholesale clubs such as Costco and BJ’s, and big box stores like Target and Walmart, you can still take advantage of these rates at Whole Foods, Krogers and other big name grocers.

CNBC Select analyzed 26 popular rewards cards using an average American’s annual budget and digging into each card’s perks and drawbacks to find the best grocery store rewards cards based on your spending habits. 

Here are CNBC Select’s top picks for credit cards offering supermarket rewards

If you find that your grocery bill takes up a large portion of your monthly budget, take a look at these credit cards, to see if you could capitalize on your spending. Additionally, no matter where you spend the majority of your money, whether it’s travel or dining, make sure you look into credit cards that are the best fit for you. If you have any questions on your portfolio or credit cards to maximize your spending, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com

Here’s How The Pandemic Has Upended The Financial Lives Of Average Americans: CNBC + Acorns Survey

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From jobs to savings to retirement plans, the coronavirus pandemic has upended many Americans’ financial lives. While millions are still unemployed, many have seen their emergency savings run dry and others are figuring out ways to cope with the financial burden of the economic recession. However, not all aspects of the financial impact of the pandemic are necessarily negative.

According to CNBC and an Acorns Survey, many are saving more and spending less. In fact, 46% of the respondents said they are “more of a saver now” compared to before the pandemic. Additionally, 60% consider themselves “savers,” up from 54% last year. The poll, conducted by SurveyMonkey Aug. 13-20, surveyed 5,401 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of +/-2%.

 

About half, or 49%, said their monthly spending has decreased, compared to 33% last year. Some of those savings can be attributed to the fact that people stayed home and didn’t do things like dining out, said personal finance expert Jean Chatzky, co-founder of HerMoney.

While many have been struggling to get by these last few months, many have learned how to manage their money better despite the economic recession. People have learned how to go to the grocery store less and have utilized meal planning and money saving-skills, such as coupon-clipping and deal searching. They also have begun to really take a look at their monthly or annual subscriptions, removing themselves from services they don’t really use or need. By prioritizing wants versus needs and taking a look at how much money is going out each month, people have picked up better spending habits that will help them navigate these bumpy waters ahead. 

With extra cash and savings in the bank, it’s important to talk with an advisor about options and investing that makes the most sense for you, whether it be saving for retirement, college tuition, or something else. If you have any questions for us, please reach out at info@shermanwealth.com and we would be happy to set up a time to discuss a financial plan for your future.

 

Here’s The Importance of Financial Literacy

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Sherman Wealth has long been advocates of promoting financial literacy and empowering our world to become more educated on how to manage all aspects of their financial lives. We want to highlight an interesting article we saw on www.evidenceinvestor.com, discussing several reasons why “high flying professionals fail at investing”. This piece highlights the lack of financial literacy in our country, regardless of occupation or socio-economic upbringing. According to the article, “the best investors often times aren’t those with the highest IQs or who’ve read the most books, it isn’t knowledge, but SELF-knowledge, that really sets them apart.” 

Often, high-earning professionals think they are saving enough but countless financial complexities exist within a professional services career track. Biases or mental errors are some of the biggest things standing in the way of financial success, mainly because they’re not easy to recognize in ourselves. Additionally, people are naturally resistant to change and most people are hesitant to pay small costs even for big gains. 

Failure to rebalance is also something that many people struggle with and contributes to financial literacy. People are reluctant to take action to rebalance a portfolio. It’s too much fun to let winners run. It’s also psychologically difficult to sell winners to buy losers. But failure to rebalance quickly causes the client to be dangerously exposed to a downward turn in the markets

People also tend to overestimate the significance of recent events and irrationally discount longer-term trends. Those of us over a certain age remember Black Monday on October 19th, 1987. The stock market lost a quarter of its value in a single day. That spooked a lot of people – and many got out of the market right after. Looking back at it now, Black Monday barely registers as a blip on the graph. This is an example of recency bias. Recent losses play havoc on our emotions and cause us to lose perspective. The long-term trend of the stock market makes any single day’s volatility look insignificant in comparison, so when we look back at a single day like Black Monday on a chart, we wonder how we could have panicked. Furthermore, given the current climate with COVID-19, it’s important to consider this idea, as people may have panicked back in March, selling assets in their portfolio, instead of holding onto them as the economy recovers. While it often seems natural to panic during an economic downturn, it’s important to remember that these dips recover naturally over time. 

These are just a few examples of how society and perception can lead us to make poor financial decisions. Given the current climate we are living in today, it is crucial to make sure you fully understand the decisions you make within your portfolio and that they are long-term, strategic moves. With a lack of financial literacy amongst all career fields and economic classes in our society, we realize the importance of being financially educated and would love to help you to make smarter decisions. If you have any questions or would like to set up a time to talk about your finances, please feel free to reach out at info@shermanwealth.com. Check out more of our blogs that discuss the importance of financial literacy.

New Fed Strategy Means Cheaper Loans For A Long time — Here’s How You Can Benefit

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As we’ve all been waiting to hear about the outcome and policy changes from the Jackson Hole symposium, there’ve been some updates that you should know. In a major policy pivot, the Federal Reserve said it will allow inflation to run “hotter than normal” to help the economy bounce back from the coronavirus crisis, meaning the Fed will be less likely to hike interest rates. This will allow borrowers to benefit from cheap money for a longer period of time. According to some commentary, this policy change is meant as a stimulus, to get people to spend more. 

Although the federal funds rate, which is what banks charge one another for short-term borrowing, is not the rate that consumers pay, the Fed’s moves still affect the borrowing and saving rates they see every day. For example, most credit cards come with a variable rate, which means there’s a direct connection to the Fed’s benchmark rate.

Since the central bank lowered its benchmark rate to near zero in March, credit card rates have hit a low of 16.03%, on average, according to Bankrate.com. Other short-term borrowing rates are even lower. The average interest rate on personal loans is currently about 12.07% and home equity lines of credit are as low as 4.79%, according to Bankrate, both notably less than the APR on a credit card.

On the flipside, the Fed’s willingness to tolerate higher inflation means that longer-term loans will offer less opportunities for borrowers. “Low inflation has helped suppress mortgage rates,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, an online loan marketplace. “If you let inflation go up, mortgage rates will also go higher.”

With these cheaper loans for a longer period of time, it’s important to take a look at where you can lock in those lower rates, such as through credit card balance transfers or refinancing your mortgage. If you have any questions about this new policy, and want to see how this could be an advantage for your portfolio, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com and we would be happy to discuss with you. 

How Much Longer Until The US Economy Is Back To Normal? This New Index Shows We Have A Long Way To Go

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As we approach the six month mark from when COVID-19 turned our world upside down, we are beginning to adjust our lives to this new “normal”. As we continue to adapt to this different way of life, some things are seeming back to the way they were before, but much remains new and strange. We are going about our days wearing masks and social distancing, watching our favorite sports teams play in “bubbles”, empty stadiums and arenas, and spending our work day in sweats and from the comfort of our homes. 

As we begin to normalize some of these news ways of living, it raises the question of how far we really are from our old way of life? How much progress are we making towards this new “normal” that will be our future? As of right now, we’re seeing what’s called a “K” shape recovery, which is that the stock market is recovered, but the economy and mainstreet remains suffering. People are wondering if there will be a double dip recession potentially in the fall and winter months if the virus comes back. 

We’ve been thinking about how to tackle these difficult and unknown questions and found an interesting article by CNN Business and Moody’s Analytics, which raises some of these questions as they relate to the economy.

According to their analytics team, the U.S. economy remains far from normal. Based on the back-to-normal Index that they constructed, which takes into account 37 indicators, including traditional government stats and metrics from a host of private firms to capture economic trends in real time, the U.S. economy was operating at only 78% of normal as of August 19th. They are using the economic data from prior to when the pandemic struck in early March as a baseline as “normal”. They are saying that the “economic activity nationwide is down by almost one-fourth from its pre-pandemic level-far from normal”. 

Even though that data is not so promising, it’s important to note that it is substantially better than the darkest days of the pandemic in mid-April, when we were unsure of how dangerous this virus could be. As business re-opened between mid-April and mid-June, according to their back-to-normal index, the economy opened too quickly, with many surges in coronavirus cases throughout the summer leading to states halting their reopening plans. The back-to-normal index also calculated that states who locked down harder early on are now enjoying lower infection rates and stronger economies and “states that were quicker to end shelter-in-place rules and to reopen in the spring have paid an economic price.”

While our country is recovering slowly but surely from this deadly pandemic that has swept our world, we still have ways to go to reach our pre-pandemic “normal”. While the economy still needs time to recover, it’s the best time to think about your finances and how to manage your money to make sure you come out of these unprecedented times strong. Find out how much risk you are taking on, what investments you have and where you want to be given the circumstances and with the all time highs in the markets. If you have any questions about your portfolio or ways you can manage your money during these rocky times, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to help. 

Why Choose A Financial Advisor With A Big Tech Stack

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In the times of the coronavirus pandemic and with working-from-home becoming our new norm, we are all learning how to conduct our daily lives from the confines of our laptops and smartphones. Furthermore, while adjusting to this new way of life, it is crucial that the platforms and technology we use to connect with other professionals is as high-tech as possible. This is why having a financial advisor with the most current and state-of-the-art technology is crucial. 

In an article written by the Financial Advisor Magazine, they said that advisors with inadequate technology  weren’t able to conduct all aspects of their business during the pandemic. The article further states that more than three quarters of U.S. and Canadian advisors in a recent survey reported losing business due to inadequate technology as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. 

As mentioned previously, the ability to meet with your clients virtually and interact with them as if you were face to face is the only way to make these unprecedented times feel somewhat normal and keep your clients happy. According to the survey, eighty-nine percent of the respondents said their desktop software and firm-provided technology had become more essential during stay-at-home mandates; and 74% wished their firm had access to better technology tools.

Sherman Wealth has always utilized the most high-tech and innovative technology to serve our clients with. From staying in touch virtually via zoom meetings, texting, digital forms, screen sharing, or conference calls, to allowing our clients to constantly check their portfolio with the simple click of a button that takes them to our client app, this technology keeps our clients on top of their portfolio at all times. It also allows them to add in held away accounts that are not managed here or any bank accounts and debts to get a full financial picture. Our online scheduler allows our clients to book appointments at the tip of their fingers in order to stay connected at their leisure. Furthermore, our firm offers a risk tolerance questionnaire, where our clients can check their risk number at any time, to see how much risk you are actually taking within your portfolio. When choosing your financial advisor, make sure to think about choosing a firm that can reach you and give you the best service, especially during times like these when face-to-face communication is not possible. If you would like to inquire more about any of the technological services we offer to our clients, please reach out and we would be happy to share more information with you.

Financial Literacy More Important to Americans Than Health and Wellness

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As we’ve mentioned previously, financial literacy is a skill that is lacking in our education system and amongst individuals across the country. A recent survey by Charles Schwab discusses the importance of financial literacy to Americans and how it should take precedence over health and wellness. 

According to the survey, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for basic personal finance and money management skills. Nearly 63% of U.S. adults said financial education was the most important supplementary graduation requirement to Math, English, and Science. That’s comparable with 43% of individuals who said health and wellness was more important. 

History shows that everytime our country faces a detrimental crisis, “the need for greater financial literacy becomes more apparent,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation.

The following data was collected to support the need for financial education within our schooling system and within our country. 

Nearly nine in 10 Americans (89%) said a lack of financial education contributes to some of the country’s social issues, including poverty (58%), lack of job opportunities (53%), unemployment (53%) and wealth inequality (52%).

They survey found half of respondents would be hard-pressed to cover a $1,000 or less emergency expense in the next month if they had to. Financial education stresses the importance of saving and building up an emergency fund. 

Many respondents indicated that they wished they had been taught financial skills when they were younger, including the value of saving money (59%), basic money management (52%) and how to set financial goals and work toward them (51%). Due to this lack of financial education, so many individuals are lost when it comes to how much they should be saving, where they should save, where they should invest and more. 

Sherman Wealth has long been a strong advocate of increasing financial literacy in our country and encouraging our youth to educate themselves early on in their lives. A thorough financial education is now more important than ever. Learning the proper way to manage money and set yourself up for financial success will ensure you are prepared at all times, even during an economic crisis, such as a pandemic. 

Many schools across the country are realizing the importance of beginning a financial education at an early age. Studies show that having state-required classes can have a significant impact on students’ money moves in the future. Forty-five states now include personal finance education in their curriculum standards for kindergarten through 12 grades. In addition to programs in schools, Wall Street Bound is an organization that provides urban youth with financial, educational, and technical resources to get them closer to Wall Street. If you are passionate about spreading awareness about financial literacy, you can support Wall Street Bound with a donation.  As always, Sherman Wealth is here to answer any questions you may have and most importantly, happy to help educate you and those around you on what money means and how you should make financial literacy a priority.

What’s Ahead For Your Taxes If Biden Takes The Presidency

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With the election around the corner and recent news of Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, we wanted to take a look at his proposed tax plan and what impact it may have on the finances and current tax plans of Americans.

As Biden accepts his party’s nomination for president this week at the Democratic National Convention, high-income earners are beginning to wonder if it’s time to revisit their tax plans. Indeed, taxpayers with taxable income over $400,000 could see their individual income taxes tick up under a Biden presidency. The former vice president has also called for raising taxes on wealth transfer.

Below we will outline Biden’s proposed tax plan, which CNBC has sliced into two categories, income taxes and estate planning. 

Income Tax 

On the income tax side, Biden calls for raising the top individual income tax rate to 39.6% from 37%, and applying it to taxpayers with taxable income over $400,000, according to an analysis from the Tax Policy Center.

He’s also talking about an increase to payroll taxes. Biden would apply the 12.4% portion of the Social Security tax — which is normally shared by both the employee and employer — to earnings over $400,000, the Tax Policy Center found. Currently, the Social Security tax is subject to a wage cap of $137,700 and is adjusted annually.

Finally, Biden would also boost rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends to 39.6% — the same top rate as ordinary income — for those with income over $1 million, according to theTax Foundation.  The long-term capital gains tax rate in 2020 is 20% for single households with more than $441,451 in taxable income ($496,601 for married-filing-jointly).

Estate Planning 

Last month, the Democratic presidential contender collaborated with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and the two formed six task forces to release a 110-page policy document. The document gives some insight on what we might expect from a Biden administration. “Estate taxes should also be raised back to the historical norm,” the task force wrote in the policy plan.         

Indeed, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act roughly doubled the amount that you can transfer to other people — either at death or as a gift during life — without facing the 40% estate and gift tax. The gift-and-estate tax exemption is $11.58 million per individual in 2020.

Biden has set his sights on the “step-up in basis,” a provision in the tax code that allows an individual to hold onto an asset for years, watch it appreciate and then bequeath it to an heir at death. The owner’s basis — the original investment in the asset — steps up to market value at death, which means the heir is subject to little to no capital gains taxes if he sells it. Biden proposes taxing the unrealized capital gains in the asset at death, which essentially does away with the step-up. Wealthy households are likely to use gifting strategies to head off this change, said Bertles of Tiedemann Advisors. “This can be as simple as giving assets to a trust or outright to kids or grandkids while using the exemption,” he said.

Make sure to take a look at Biden’s proposal and think about how that may impact your situation. In just a few short months, this plan could be put into effect, so start thinking about any changes you could make to your tax plan and talk to an advisor for some guidance. As always, we are here to help if you have any questions regarding what these changes could mean for you. 

 

3 In 5 Parents Say Remote Learning Will Negatively Impact Their Finances

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It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over and another new school year is only a few weeks away. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, distance and hybrid learning will become the new normal this fall. Those with school age children will need to adjust in order to make this situation as successful as possible and many parents are in the process of converting their homes into a virtual learning space for their children.

This change in schooling is not only disrupting the educational system as we’ve known it, but a new survey conducted by Bankrate revealed that “61% of parents with school-aged children are forced to re-evaluate their finances and careers as they prepare for a unique school situation”. Parents also revealed that “they are not feeling particularly optimistic about the educational side of remote learning” with 42% of respondents anticipating negative impacts on their child’s education. 

One of the huge tangible expenses that goes along with remote virtual learning is technology. In the past, most pre-school children and even middle/high-school children did not have access to their own laptops, as it was not necessary for their educational success. However, remote learning is forcing all students, regardless of age or grade, to have undivided access to their own digital device to access their teachers, homework, and resources. And those families who had shared technological devices amongst a few family members are now forced to purchase a device for each person, which is a huge added expense. However, before purchasing your child a new computer, please check with your school to find out whether they are providing laptops for each student for the upcoming year since many districts will be offering them.

Another factor that will negatively impact parents as children begin remote schooling is time. In the pre-coronavirus world, parents had the ability to drop their children in school, enroll them in after-school activities, while also fully engaging in their personal careers. With students learning from home, needing supervision and assistance in their learning, parents are worried it will negatively impact their careers and work/life balance. Some parents will find they have to cut work hours to help their children learn or incur additional expenses such as tutors/babysitters so that they can continue to work. And on top of that, some parents may need to quit their jobs completely. 

While this transition will be difficult for many, it is crucial to remember the importance of utilizing all your resources, which we have spoken about in previous blogs. Reach out to family members for help, scan the web for good deals before making a big purchase and remember that we are all in this together. Lastly, as we adjust to our new complicated normal, remember to keep track of your finances and manage your money. You may find it useful to create a new budget for the upcoming school year since it is likely to look different than it did in the past. As always, if you have any questions about your portfolio or finances, please reach out to us and we are happy to help!