Financial Literacy More Important to Americans Than Health and Wellness

financial literacy blog

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.

Recently Graduated? How to Establish A Good Credit Score

credit score

Are you a recent college graduate? Are you starting your first job? While it’s extremely important to save money when you are first starting out, it’s also quite important to know how to spend money and understand the concepts behind your credit score and establishing good credit. 

As your first paycheck starts rolling in, make sure you are opening multiple lines of credit, including opening credit cards, putting your name on your school apartment lease, and signing your name on the comcast bill. However, when you open these lines of credit and sign your name, make sure you are paying your bills in full each month. If your roommate hasn’t paid your cable bill, make sure to stay on top of them so it doesn’t impact you down the road. However, if you have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay the full bill, make sure you understand to pay the minimum and reach to your creditor to figure out a reasonable solution or game plan. 

Here are five important credit concepts that you should be aware of:

  1. Low credit scores can cost  you thousands 
  2. Your credit score actually measures your risk of not paying
  3. Credit repair companies charge for services that maybe you can do yourself 
  4. Your age has nothing to do with your credit score, except for how long you’ve been borrowing credit
  5. All types of companies can check your credit score

Unless you have a perfect credit score, there is always room for improvement. The bottom line is that when you are just starting out, it’s easy to overlook the small steps needed in establishing a good score. However, having a good credit score is something that should be maintained and will impact many financial decisions you are able to make in your lifetime. If you have any questions about your credit score, how to obtain credit or how to fix a bad credit score, please contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Fees & Your Investments: What You Need To Know

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Whether your investment portfolio consists of a 401k or multiple brokerage and retirement accounts, it is important to understand the fees associated with your investments which can dramatically lower returns over the years. Here are some fees you should look out for. 

Account Fees:

For 401k accounts, there are typically fees charged by the plan provider to administer the plan. Brokerage accounts may also have various account service fees, so check the fine print for more details. Sometimes these are waived if you opt-in to electronic delivery and or meet certain account minimums.

Fund Fees:

When it comes to fund fees, ETFs tend to be lower cost than mutual fund fees. Most ETFs are passively managed index funds, while most mutual funds are actively managed funds although the reverse also exists. Actively managed funds will have higher fees, but fees will also vary depending on the underlying assets.

Expense Ratio

The expense ratio is the annual fee that ETFs and mutual funds charge their shareholders. It is expressed as the percentage of assets deducted for fund expenses such as management fees, administrative fees, operating costs, and all other asset-based costs incurred by the fund. Mutual funds also include 12b-1 fees in the expense ratio, which ETFs do not have. What is not included in the expense ratio of a fund is the cost to trade the fund itself.

Mutual Fund Specific Fees:

12B-1 Fees

These mutual fund fees are charged annually and are considered to be an operational expense associated with a fund’s “marketing and distribution.” This could be anything from paying brokers to sell the funds or providing sales incentives. These fees are included in a fund’s expense ratio meaning the higher the 12B-1 fee, the higher the expense ratio. Investors can locate more information about these particular fees in a fund’s prospectus.

Front-End Load Fees

Front-end load fees are paid out to a broker in the form of commission when he or she sells a mutual fund. When an investor purchases a front-end load mutual fund, a percentage of their investment, usually 2% to 5%, goes to the broker. 

Back-End Load Fees

Also known as a deferred sales charge or DSC, back-end load mutual funds charge a penalty fee if you sell your shares within five to ten years. Fees are highest within the first year of purchase, and decrease each year until the end of the agreed-upon holding period. 

Trading Costs:

Transaction Fees

Despite a trend of more brokerages offering free transactions, transaction fees still exist when buying and selling investments. The price range of transaction fees varies, and it should be an expense to keep track of if you make lots of transactions over time. 

Bid-Ask Spread

The bid-ask spread is a truly hidden cost to trading and is referred to as an implicit cost. This is the difference between the price to buy a security and to sell a security, which are not the same. Highly liquid securities will have very tight spreads, making this cost minimal, but it is important to pay attention to the liquidity of the fund. 

Advisor Fees:

Looking for someone to manage your finances? 

While some advisors are commission based and make money through the commissions associated with each investment transaction, here at Sherman Wealth, we are a fee-only (RIA) financial planning advisor, and can help you manage your finances and encourage you to think differently about your money.

As a fee-only registered investment advisor (RIA), we charge a flat rate for our services. RIAs have a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients’ best interests. Unlike investment brokers who can end up costing the client a lot of money depending on the frequency and volume of trades, we provide advice and make transactions without taking commission-based compensation. RIA’s  tend to use low-fee investments, including low-cost no-load mutual funds, individual stocks and bonds and investments that do not have 12B-1 fees.

If you have any questions or think we could be of service to you, please sign up for a free 30-minute consultation here. We would be happy to help you and answer any questions you may have. 

 

Inheriting Money Attitudes – Are Financial Habits Learned?

teaching kids about money

Whom we become as adults is largely influenced by how and by whom we are raised. Our parents shape us in many ways. If you are given chores as a child, you are more than likely to become an independent worker as an adult. If you live in a house where there are lots of arguments, you are more likely to struggle to form healthy relationships on your own.  As we consider that these types of characteristics are often learned as we grow up, does how we are raised also impact our finances?  A recent survey gives us a better understanding of how certain financial upbringings can shape our money attitudes as adults.

EARLY INFLUENCE

According to over three-quarters of those surveyed, parents influenced their financial habits as adults and those in good current financial standing were the most likely to have had some parental influence at an early age.  Those with bad financial standing also claimed that their parents influenced their financial habits.

For some reason, many parents shy away from money conversations with their children, even though it could have a positive influence on their financial habits. Over half of those surveyed said their parents never talked to them about the value of their financial accounts or life insurance or whether they had investments or debt. If these topics were discussed, it typically wasn’t until the children were adults themselves. Of the parents who did talk to their children about money, it was most commonly about their general financial standing and occurred around age 15.

FINANCIAL EMERGENCY DISCUSSIONS

Research suggests that talking to your children about the scarier side of money can be quite impactful. Respondents whose parents talked to them about the possibility of financial crises or recessions as children were more likely to be in good financial standing as adults. A key component of financial security is having cash resources you can tap in case of a financial emergency. This is why it’s important to talk to your children about financial crises or recessions, like the “dot-com bubble” that changed the way many baby boomers viewed investing, or the Great Recession that scarred millennials. Now, the COVID-19 global pandemic is likely to have a similar impact on Generation Z. Discussing these worst-case scenarios increases the likelihood that your children will plan ahead with an emergency fund as adults. 

PRINCIPLES FOR FINANCIAL STABILITY

Teaching your children financial life lessons could reduce the possibility of entering into credit card debt. According to our respondents, people whose parents taught them basic financial life lessons had less credit card debt than those whose parents didn’t teach them anything about money. The most common financial lesson parents taught their millennial children was the difference between a need and a want.  Despite having received the most financial education from their parents, millennials reported the highest instance of being worse off financially than their parents.  However, the majority of millennials thought they would eventually be better off than their parents. Their financial optimism may be due to the fact that nearly one-third of millennials received a pay raise in the past 12 months. 

The least commonly imparted financial lesson for all generations was how to invest, which is unfortunate given those whose parents did teach them how to invest typically reported having the highest income and estimated net worth. When it comes to gender, parents were especially negligent in discussing investing where their daughters were concerned; men were 35% more likely than women to have been taught to invest. Men were also more likely to have been taught about financial goal setting. One reason for the discrepancy could be that mothers are more likely to teach their daughters about finance, thus causing traditional gender roles to get passed down from generation to generation. However, when it comes to generational changes, many millennial women have made strides in income and now earn more than their mothers.

SPENDING STYLES

The survey results suggested a connection between parents’ spending style and their children’s style. The more responsible a parent is with his or her spending, the more likely their children are to be responsible spenders themselves. Over half of respondents whose parents only spent money when they could afford it reported being debt-free today, compared to only 42% of respondents whose parents often spent beyond their means. Children whose parents were conservative spenders, often choosing to forgo luxuries even when they could afford it, were the most likely to have an emergency fund as an adult and children whose parents only spent when they could afford it were slightly less likely to have emergency funds as adults. Having a parent who often spent beyond their means can lead to more debt and less in emergency funds, but the majority of children brought up in such households said they’ve done better for themselves as adults. Children of responsible and conservative spenders were far more likely to emulate their parents’ spending habits as adults. 

CREATING A BETTER FINANCIAL FUTURE

How we raise our children has a formative impact on who they become as adults. If you teach them how to save and invest, they are more likely to become financially responsible adults. A financial education should be a key aspect of any child’s upbringing. It is important to facilitate healthy conversations about money with our children so they are prepared for the important financial life lessons as they grow up.  Teaching key financial tools to our children will enable them to budget, manage their finances and plan for their futures as adults.  If you have any questions relating to teaching your children about early financial habits, please contact us – we are here to help!

The Importance of Financial Literacy

financial-literacy

It was recently announced that the state of South Carolina was pushing to pass a bill that would require all high school students to take a course on financial literacy in order to graduate. Five states (Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia) are the only other states to have passed a similar law. As professionals who strive to preach the importance of this topic, we are very happy to see these developments. In fact, we think it’s particularly great that we, as a nation, are beginning to demand that children learn the basic of personal finance, before they step out into the real world.

But first off, let’s tackle what the actual definition of “financial literacy” is. Financial literacy is the combination of financial, credit and debt management and the overall knowledge that is required to make responsible decisions regarding financial matters. Really, we are talking about the impact of finances on the daily issues an average family may encounter.

Is the rate of financial literacy low in the US? Yep. (Actually, it’s low around the world.) Of course, the level of financial literacy varies according to education and income levels. However, there is a lot of evidence out there that shows that highly educated individuals with above-average incomes are almost equally as under-educated on these topics as those who may live a more modest lifestyle.

source: S&P GLOBAL FINLIT SURVEY

Given this information, it is becoming increasingly more important to ensure that we are preparing our children with this knowledge well before they are starting college, creating families, and living an “adult” life. Why? Because it’s about the “long game”. Financial literacy is critical in helping people plan for retirement and avoiding high levels of debt. Last year, a study from TIAA-CREF showed that those with high levels of financial literacy  are more likely to make astute decisions and typically, over their lifetime, amass twice as much wealth as those without a plan.

If you can’t build a simple household budget, then you are likely financially illiterate. If you are oblivious to money-related decisions, are unsure of the consequences of these decisions, or you simply don’t care, then you’re financially illiterate. Most importantly, If you have learned the “hard way” over the years that not being up-to-date on financial matters has affected your life in a negative way, it is imperative that you do not allow your children to make the same mistakes. Important financial decisions are popping up earlier and earlier in life, as the world becomes more complex. You don’t “build” wealth and then figure out how to manage it properly. That ability to grow comes with managing it properly along the way.

The statistics mentioned above are some of main reasons we have created the “Beers with Brad” seminar series. We feel that increasing your financial literacy is incredibly important to your long term financial goals and obligations. If you are in the DC/Maryland/ Virginia area and would like to hear more, feel free to stop by our next event.

Introducing Beers with Brad

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We have hosted two very successful Beers with Brad financial literacy seminars in Gaithersburg, Maryland at Launch Workplaces.  We’ve had terrific beer from great local breweries around Maryland. I think when you’re able to relax and have a beer, hear what everyone else is thinking about financially and truly see that you are not alone and other people have the same fears around money it enables the conversation to expand and for questions to surface that you may not have asked before.

I created the idea of Beers with Brad because people are so hesitant to speak up about their financial anxieties and worries about how to save for retirement.  Many questions surround saving for kids college education and how to valuate the interest rate on your student loan debt versus what you could be potentially making in the diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, and other asset classes.  There is so much information available that it can be overwhelming and many people I’ve talked to are searching for clear answers.

As Morgan explains:

That’s because investing is not the study of finance. It’s the study of how people behave with money. And behavior is hard to teach, even to really smart people. You can’t sum up behavior with formulas to memorize or spreadsheet models to follow. Behavior is inborn, varies by person, is hard to measure, changes over time, and people are prone to deny its existence, especially when describing themselves. –Morgan Housel

Young families have so much going on in their lives that they don’t have the time to discuss personal finances and one of the greatest stresses in a marriage is finance.  We created this video to show exactly what Beers with Brad is, how relaxed it is and how engaging the conversations are.

Plus, who doesn’t like a good local craft beer?

https://youtu.be/msM_rkQYkpc

 

If you have any questions about the event contact us at info@shermanwealth.com we hope to see you there!

If you are unable to join this month, please let us know if you want to be added to the email list for the future events below:

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How Much Money Do You Actually Need in America?

Sherman Wealth Management | Fee Only Fiduciary

In my line of business, we talk a lot about wealth management. The idea, of course, is that financial planners and wealth managers assist you in creating a road map for your money that helps you grow savings for lifestyle goals like retirement, purchasing a home, or sending your kids to the college of their dreams. The term “wealth management” often begs the question: What does “being wealthy” mean? And when do you need a financial planner to help you manage your wealth?

How Do People View Wealth?

A recent study has shown that the definition of being wealthy rises as people age. Bloomberg states that Boomers tend to view $2.4 million as a requirement to be “wealthy” whereas millennial’s view wealth as a $2 million requirement. That’s a fairly large discrepancy – and it’s pretty clear what’s causing it. The younger we are, the more likely we are to view our financial future with a sense of optimism. We also tend to be more short-sighted in our financial planning, and believe that a smaller amount of wealth will last longer.

As we age, we become more realistic about our finances. We start to see the big picture, and that honest truth is that we often need a lot more money than we realize.

What Does Wealth Mean to You?

Despite the discrepancy in what quantifies “wealth” among generations, one thing stays the same: people view wealth as several consistent things. They believe that wealth is:

  • Options
  • Freedom
  • The ability to stop worrying
  • A secure future
  • Caring for yourself and your loved ones

Many people also say that being wealthy equates to taking time for themselves in their daily life. According to the same survey, the majority of millennial’s believe that they will be wealthy in the future. However, the same optimism doesn’t translate to Boomers and other generations.

The Importance of Saving

The key to building wealth is saving a lot, and saving early. The sooner you can start to prioritize saving in your budget, the sooner you can begin to take advantage of compound interest. I’ve discussed this in previous blog posts, but to review:

Compound interest is essentially a snowball effect. As a snowball rolls down a hill, it grows in size. Even if you start with a small amount of money invested, it picks up more and more snow with each revolution. By the time you reach the bottom of the hill, the snowball has grown significantly, and will continue to grow faster the more you have invested.

This demonstrates the importance of saving early on in your financial life. Although many millennial’s feel positively about their opportunity for wealth, they won’t be able to capitalize on these goals if they don’t prepare now.

The Importance of a Financial Plan

This wealth study by Bloomberg also indicated that most people, unsurprisingly, felt more secure in their finances when they worked with a financial advisor on constructing their financial plan. Many millennials have yet to employ their own financial advisor, and it’s time to rethink that trend.

At Sherman Wealth, many of my clients are millennial’s. I enjoy working with families and young professionals to both clearly define their goals and help them build a plan that moves them in the right direction. When advisers have the opportunity to work with millennial’s to grow their wealth, they have a leg up on pre-retirees who focus on financial planning as they near retirement: time.

When you implement a financial plan early in life, you have time on your side. With time, your wealth can grow significantly, and working with a financial adviser can help you make the right money moves early on to set yourself up for success in the long run.

Are You Ready?

In my recent video reviewing MarketWatch’s article on what you need saved for retirement by the time you’re 35 years old, I stressed the importance of saving early. It’s critical to start growing your wealth, even as a millennial who has many years until retirement, through targeted savings and a smart investing strategy. The critical thing to remember is you’re not just saving for retirement – you’re saving for all future goals like buying a house, sending your kids to college, or living well throughout your life. Saving is truly the only way to ensure wealth in your future, which means that saving is the only way to ensure options, freedom, and a lack of worrying about money as you age.

If you’d like to discuss your saving strategy, schedule a consultation today. Building a comprehensive financial plan that prioritizes saving while mitigating the impact of taxes and investment fees is key to growing your wealth and building a financial future you can rely on, and I’d love to help.

Teaching Children Financial Responsibility: Start Early

close up of family hands with piggy bank

Would it surprise you to know that students graduating from high school enter college with little to no knowledge about their finances, how to budget, or save for their futures? The problem has become so severe that 40% of these students wind up going into debt in order to fund their social lives and 70% of these students wind up damaging their credit ratings shortly after college graduation.

Unfortunately, it seems as though this debt will not be going away anytime soon.  The average student loan debt for the class of 2016 increased by 6% from the previous year and the financial literacy rate in the U.S. has not improved over the past three years. While college enrollment and the number of college graduates has continued to increase, financial literacy lags among these young people at record lows. Where does this disconnect come from?

Few states offer personal finance or economics courses and even fewer states test students on the financial knowledge they have acquired. It therefore comes as no surprise that American students (and we can infer American adults) have one of the lowest levels of financial literacy when compared to other countries.  While the number of student loans has increased,

  • 44% of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency
  • 43% of student loan borrowers are not making payments
  • 38% of U.S. households have credit card debt
  • 33% of American adults have $0 saved for retirement

Why does it matter? How is it affecting the economy?

Students are graduating with loans they can’t afford to pay back and with minimal financial knowledge in planning for their futures. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans have over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, which is more than double the total U.S. credit card debt of $620 billion. This debt is becoming a major barrier to home ownership. 43% of student loan borrowers are not making payments and most of these individuals do not have any savings. A lack of sound financial knowledge will affect the economy as these millennials enter the labor force burdened with student loans.

As parents, we play a vital role in educating our children about the importance of personal finances.  In the Sherman household, we are teaching our children the importance of finances on a daily basis. Our 4 year old son is learning about savings by doing chores in return for an allowance, which he saves in his piggy bank. He is learning to save and spend his money wisely.

Parents can begin educating their children at home in order to increase the financial literacy of their kids. By demonstrating wise financial habits, parents can serve as role models for their kids. Talking in an age appropriate way to your children about the dangers of debt and the importance of saving a portion of any money they earn instills financial values and lessons your child can use throughout life.  You may find that using an allowance is a way that you can teach your kids about saving and spending appropriately. Since it has been shown that kids who manage their own money have been found to demonstrate better financial habits in the future, giving your kids the opportunity to spend and save their own allowance or money earned is a good way to prepare them for later on. Even a simple trip to the store can be used as an opportunity to start the conversation about the danger of credit cards and how they should only be used in an emergency.  Educating your kids at an early age will enable them to better learn and practice sound financial habits while under your watchful eye and cause them to be less likely to make irrational decisions once they are out on their own.

kids managing money

 

This issue is not only affecting students and young adults.  Many professionals with advanced degrees have spent countless hours studying and researching information in their particular field.  Despite all of the hours spent earning their degrees, many of these people have never taken a single course in financial education and are surprisingly not prepared to deal with the important financial decisions affecting their futures.  As a result, many extremely smart and successful people are making critical financial errors which can negatively impact the amount of money they have saved upon retirement.

Beginning in 2011, studies were conducted where participants were shown a computer generated rendering of what they might look like at their age of retirement.  They were then asked to make financial decisions about whether to spend their money today or save that money for the future. In each study, those individuals who were shown pictures of their future selves allocated more than twice as much money towards their retirement accounts than those who did not see the age-progressed images.  Seeing the images gave the participants a connection with their future selves that they did not possess before. As a result, their spending/saving behavior changed dramatically because “saving is like a choice between spending money today or giving it to a stranger years from now.”

The benefits of educating your children about the importance of personal finances are undeniable, and you’ll be able to set them up for a promising future and help them prepare for retirement. Visit us online for more information about how we can help improve your financial life.

Paying Hidden Costs Because your Broker’s not a Fiduciary?

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Investors often choose big banks and investment firms over smaller financial advisors because they think the brand name and size makes the service and product offerings better. In actuality, it’s often the reverse.

Unless your firm is a Fiduciary, chances are there are sales quotas and contests for the non fiduciary, “suitability” reps, who are often paid extra to put clients in proprietary funds that are not in the clients’ best interests, but that reap commissions for the brokerage house.

Last Friday the SEC issued a statement announcing that three investment advisers “have settled charges for breaching fiduciary duties to clients and generating millions of dollars of improper fees in the process.” The release goes on to say that “PNC Investments LLC, Securities America Advisors Inc., and Geneos Wealth Management Inc. failed to disclose conflicts of interest and violated their duty to seek best execution by investing advisory clients in higher-cost mutual fund shares when lower-cost shares of the same funds were available.”

And according to an article in Investment News last week, it turns out smaller credit card and savings customers may not have been the only ones who were misled in the Wells Fargo “fake account” scandal. The article states that “according to inside sources, some clients of the bank’s wealth-management division were steered into investments that maximized revenue for the bank and compensation for its employees.”

When will this stop and why would any one continue to do business with one of these non Fiduciary firms?

The big problem is lack of transparency. Most investors don’t understand how the business works and how broker-dealers make their money. That means the investors are, in effect, investing blindfolded. And while there are many good, principled people at the larger firms, because they are not bound by the Fiduciary Standard, there is lots of potential for recommending something that is “almost as good” as the best product for you.

The result is that, according to a survey just released by the CFA Institute, a majority of investors believe that their advisors fail to fully disclose conflicts of interest and the fees they charge. Only 35% of individual investors polled believe that their advisor always puts their clients’ interests ahead of their own and only 25% of the institutional investors who participated in the survey.

April is National Financial Literacy month and one of the most important Financial Lessons investors – and potential investors – can learn this month is what “Fiduciary” means and why it’s so critical to your financial health.

When you’re working with a fee-only Fiduciary, they have sworn to only recommend financial products that are the best for their clients. Most broker-dealers in large wire houses have only agreed to uphold the “suitability” standard, which means they are allowed to recommend investments that are “suitable” – not best – for you but potentially yield a markup for their company or bonus or commission for them.

If you’re unclear about what fees you are paying, share classes you own, or how much your funds are costing you in annual expenses, contact us for a free analysis of your currents investments and the costs associated with them.

Particularly during Financial Literacy Month, make sure your Financial Advisor is working for you.

 

Your Next-to-the-Last Will and Testament: Estate Planning When You’re Young

Age based

There was an excellent article in the WSJ last week about a topic most of us don’t really want to think about (but really need to:) how to prepare in case you die young.

No one likes to think about dying and absolutely no one likes to think about the possibility of dying young. Lately it’s hit home for me, though, because two of my high school friends were diagnosed with cancer over the last year. Both are in remission now, thankfully, but it brings home the fact that it never hurts to be prepared.

The bottom line is: if you’re old enough to be filing your taxes this month, you’re old enough to take basic steps to create basic estate documents. And yes, things will evolve and there will be adjustments to make over your – hopefully – long and prosperous life. But it’s never too early to get started.

  • The single most important thing we all need is a will and/or account beneficiaries, so that it’s clear where you want your assets to go. Statistics show that not only do most young people not have a will, but that most young parents who do have wills haven’t updated them when they had a second or third child. At the very least make sure you’ve named beneficiaries for all your bank and investment accounts (also known as TOD or  “transfer on death” provisions), to prevent having the courts probate and decide how to transfer your assets. If you need help we can connect you with our excellent network of Washington area professionals who can advise you about making the best choices for you and your loved ones.
  • If you have kids, naming guardians for them is critical, to protect them should the unthinkable happen.
  • And don’t forget yourself! My mother just had knee replacement surgery about two weeks ago and, just before she did, she handed me her advanced medical directive. I was grateful she did (she’s fine!) and your loved ones will be grateful to know what your preferences are if they ever need to make decisions for you. In addition to a life insurance policy, don’t forget disability insurance in case for some reason you can’t work. I’ve never had to use the policy I took out in my 20s but I’m glad it’s there.
  • And finally, why not create a notebook or file where all your important documents are handy? It’s a great habit to get into when you’re young. Or you could gather your documents in a tool like the online document vault our clients have access to. So take a moment and get organized – most likely you wont need it for a long time but you’ll have created a great habit for yourself.

April is a great time for an overall financial check-up: you have all your tax documents organized, which means it will be that much easier to get these important personal documents organized as well. April is also Financial Literacy Month so, as always, call us if you have questions or for a free consultation and financial check-up.