How to Make “Cents” of the Changes to 529 Plans

Age based

Are you saving for your child’s education with a 529 account?

If you are already contributing to a 529 plan, reduced deductions in the new 2018 tax law mean you may want to increase your contributions – or even create a second 529 account – to offset higher state taxes.

If you haven’t yet opened a 529 account, this year’s important changes in tax and 529 regulations have made 529 accounts an even more valuable option for parents of school-aged or college-aged children.

Here are the changes and why contributing to a 529 account is more important than ever:

K-12 Tuition is Now Covered by 529 Plans

529 plans were originally created to let you to save and invest for your child’s college education – while paying no federal tax on qualified withdrawals. The good news is that benefit has now been expanded: you’ll be able to withdraw up to $10,000 per year per student for elementary, middle, and high school tuition if your child attends or will attend a private or religious school. And, if you’ve already been saving for K-12 with a Coverdell ESA, you can also rollover that account to a 529 plan without tax consequences.

Saving by Off-Setting State Taxes

The new 2018 tax law limits deductions for your state income and property taxes to $10,000, so you might find yourself paying more state tax this year. But if you live in one of the 34 states that offers a state tax deduction for contributions to a 529 plan, you can lower your state taxes by contributing more to your 529. In most states you have to be enrolled in one of that state’s own plans to take the deduction, but several allow you to deduct contributions from any state plan. And, if you live in one of the several states whose 529 plans include state tax credits, you could also find yourself paying considerably less.

Turbo Charging the Benefits for Younger Children

529 plans allow “front-loading,” a term for making up to five years of contributions at once. This not only allows you to “catch up” for a child already in elementary or secondary school, it also allows you to maximize state tax deductions or credits. And anyone can make contributions to your child’s 529 plan. Friends and relatives can each contribute up to $15,000 per recipient, they can also “front-load” up to five years of contributions as well, maximizing their own tax savings. Additionally, if they make direct payments to services provided for beneficiaries’ tuition or medical expenses, these expenses would be tax-free, even though the costs surpass the annual gift tax exclusion.

New Benefits for Special Needs Students

The new tax law allows assets in 529 accounts to be transferred to ABLE accounts without any penalties as long as they are transferred by 2025. ABLE plans – named for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act – are designed to provide tax-favored savings for people with disabilities without limiting their access to benefits such as Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The annual contribution cap for ABLE plans is $15,000 and an account can reach $100,000 without affecting SSI benefits. You can also make tax-free withdrawals when paying for expenses such as housing, legal fees and employment trainings.

Plans Can Be Transferred to Another Child

If you no longer need the account for the child it was created for, you can change the plan’s beneficiary to another family member, saving you the income tax on 529 earnings and 10% federal penalty you pay if you withdraw money for non-educational purposes.

The Bottom Line

Every parent – and grandparent – should consider opening one or more 529 accounts for their children’s education. There is no limit to the number of plans you can contribute to, or the number of accounts that can be opened for any child, so study up to determine which plans make the most sense for you. But remember: each state’s rules are different so – like your kids – you’ll want to do your homework.

Then, as with all smart savings plans, contribute on a regular basis over time, through market ups and downs, to benefit from dollar cost averaging and watch your interest compound – and your child’s educational opportunities grow.

 

For how the new tax law affects the “Kiddie Tax” for Uniform Gifts and Transfers to Minors (UGMAs and UTMAs) please click here.

At Sherman Wealth Management we’re passionate about children’s education so please give us a call if you have any questions about your state’s 529 options.

A version of this article initially appeared on Investopedia.com

 

 

The “Kiddie Tax” is Changing: What You Need to Know Now

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Saving on taxes, while saving for your child or grandchild’s college education, just got a little trickier thanks to important changes in the “Kiddie Tax”.

The tax bill that was signed into law in December made some significant changes to how Uniform Gifts to Minors Accounts (UGMAs) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Accounts (UTMAs) are taxed.

What is the “Kiddie Tax”?

“The “Kiddie Tax” was first established in 1986 to keep parents from shielding income by placing investment accounts in the names of their children, who typically are in lower income tax brackets,” explains CPA Joshua Harris of Santos, Postal & Company. “The initial Kiddie Tax rules expired when a child turned 14. In 2008, this threshold increased to cover children through age 18 and full time students through age 23.”

How were Uniform Gifts and Transfers Taxed?

UGMAs and UTMAs have been a popular way to save money in a child’s or grandchild’s name precisely because of their significant tax advantages. A portion of the money earned – the first $1,050 of the child’s investment income (including interest, dividends and capital gains distributions) has been tax-free; the next $1,050 has taxed at the child’s rate; and investment income above $2,100 was taxed at the parent’s or grandparent’s “marginal” tax rate, ie the highest rate applied to the last dollar earned.

How is it Changing?

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made an important change to this graduated “Kiddie Tax.”

Instead of a child’s investment income above $2,100 being taxed at the parent or grandparent’s individual tax rate, it will be taxed at the 2018 trust and estate tax rates:

 

Investment Income Trust & Estate Tax Rate
Up to $2,550 10%
$2,551-$9,150 24%
$9,151-$12,500 35%
Over $12,500 37%

Will You Pay More or Less?

How much you will pay depends on the amount of investment income and your own marginal tax bracket. As a rule of thumb, the more you have the more you may be taxed this year.

While the Tax Code changed with this law, it unfortunately did not get simpler. And one alternative, if your rates are going up, may be to consider rolling the UTMA or UGMA into a 529 plan. Because of the complexity, it’s a good idea to speak with your Financial Planner about how the new law affects you, and what your best alternatives are now among the wide array of educational savings plans.

 

Please give us a call if you’d like to schedule a free consultation.

7 Fun Money Lessons to Teach Your Kids this Summer

Money Lessons for Kids

Summer is a great time for kids to catch fireflies, perfect their backstrokes, daydream, and learn some great lessons about money and financial literacy. Sound like a hard idea to sell to kids in vacation mode? Not if you make it a rewarding part of summer fun. Here are some tips to incorporate smart money lessons for kids from K-12 that will add to their summer fun and set a great foundation for making smart money choices later on.

SAVING

Ask your kids to set aside part their allowance for a special summer savings goal then sweeten the pot by telling them you’ll match whatever they save. For the little ones it could be as simple as setting up 2 jars, one for their summer goal (like a super-soaker, hula hoop, or the ingredients for s’mores) and one for the rest of their allowance. They’ll love seeing the jars fill up with coins and counting and re-counting their money. For older kids who are saving for a concert ticket or a tattoo (just kidding!), an app or a website that keeps track of their savings and your matching funds is a great way of getting them interested.

EARNING

Nothing like learning the satisfaction of having your “own” money! Even if your older children have an actual summer job, consider “hiring” them for extra chores like organizing your photo files, digitizing old cassettes and CDs, or washing the windows. For the little ones, watering plants, pulling up 20 weeds (counting skills!) or helping you rinse the car can help add their allowance jars.

INVESTING

There are fun games to teach kids of all ages about the stock market, investing, and the power of compound interest (like InvestQuest from the FTC.) The best way of course, though, is to follow the real stock market. Why not have every family member invest a virtual $1000 in 2 companies whose products they know at the beginning of the summer (Lego and Disney for the younger kids, for instance) and see who ends up with the most virtual profit by the end of the summer. Or, if you have the resources, open accounts for the kids with real investments, however small, so they can watch them go up and down, while earning interest, over the months and years ahead. The SEC’s site Investor.gov has a great compound interest generator to show kids how their money could grow.

SPENDING

Summer is also a great time to teach kids about comparison shopping, supply and demand, and the power of buying things when they are on sale. Keeping track of what you save each time you buy a sale-priced item this summer can be an eye-opening for your kids. As you enjoy vacation trips, or even day trips to waterparks, let your kids know about the value you are getting (rather than complaining about high prices.) Give the kids a choice when possible, telling them how much you have to spend for the day and ask their input about how to spend it. When they know that buying cotton candy means they are giving up two rides they learn a valuable lesson about resource allocation!

READING

Find great books to read or listen to in the car about entrepreneurs’ success stories. Young children will enjoy books about Thomas Edison, for instance, or Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. Try a biography of Steve Jobs for the teens, or check out finance videos from Khan Academy.

PAYING

Take a moment to explain what you’re paying for when you’re paying bills: show your kids how the electric bills soar in the summer if you’re use air conditioning or your water bill if you’re watering the lawn. Calculate – or Google – how much it costs when they leave lights on. Not exactly entertaining but an empowering eye-opener for kids.

PLAYING

Nothing like a great game of Monopoly to while away summer nights while teaching kids about saving up for those houses and hotels (including our favorite trick: hiding money under the board so no one sees how much you are accumulating!)

In short, if you treat money matter-of-factly – and build in some challenges, competition, and entertainment – summer can be a great time to sneak in a little fun “schooling” that will help prepare kids for an empowered future.

 

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.

Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.

5 More Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s and 30s

Young Father Building Financial Foundation

You’ve made the commitment to start “adult-ing,” a very important first step. Don’t start to build from the roof down, though: make sure that you’re laying a strong financial foundation.

In our last post we talked about 8 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s and 30s. Here are five more money mistakes to watch out for:

1. Going on a Financial Blind Date With Your Significant Other: Not Having the Money Talk First

Talking about money isn’t romantic and can be downright uncomfortable. That’s why many couples go into marriage—a financial partnership—without knowing exactly who they are partnering with. Discussing personal finances, debt, goals, spending patterns and how you make financial decisions with your partner before marriage, or soon thereafter, is critical to your short- and long-term financial health. (For related reading, see: Don’t Let Financial Differences Lead to Divorce.)

2. Living la Vida Loca: Splurging on the Wedding or a Baby

Important milestones like a wedding, a first child or even your first house are exciting and make precious memories that last a lifetime. But be careful not to let them put you in debt or divert you from a financial plan that allows you to make other great memories down the road. Know what you can afford, get creative within your budget, and make sure you’re investing in your partner’s and children’s future as well. The kids won’t mind—or even remember—that you didn’t buy them that top-of-the-line stroller. What they’ll remember is your smile and their favorite red ball. #Priceless

3. Not Buckling Your Seat Belt: Neglecting Insurance

It’s tempting to skimp on insurance once you’ve covered your basic health and homeowner’s policies, but that’s a big mistake many young adults make. Insurance is an uncomfortable topic—and the options can be very confusing—so covering yourself with health, life, car, home, disability and long-term disability insurance often gets put on the back burner. Cover yourself adequately now so that when the unexpected happens, it’s not a financial disaster. (For related reading, see: Introduction to Insurance.)

4. Going for the Gold: Taking a Job for the Pay

While a great offer is always tempting, make sure that any job you take is something that will advance you in the direction you want to go. Don’t take a job just because the money is great, although that’s important too. If you do, you could get stuck in a job you don’t love with nowhere to go. Take a job that is going to move you closer to the job you want—and the even-higher salary you want—in a couple of years.

5. Putting Too Many Eggs in the Wrong Basket: Not Prioritizing Savings

Maxing out your 401(k) or IRA is smart, but don’t forget to save for other major purchases that may be coming up sooner than you think, like buying a new home, having children, or continuing your education. Multiple savings accounts can be a great way to keep your eye on multiple baskets! Be careful, too, not to prioritize your children’s education over saving for your own retirement. Student loans are less expensive than the kind of loans your kids would have to take out to support you if you haven’t set enough savings aside to support your own retirement.

Enjoy this special time, living your life to the fullest. If you make sure you’re also making smart financial choices, you’ll really enjoy your 20s and 30s, knowing that you’re building a solid future.

 

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions, please Contact Us.

 

8 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s and 30s

8 financial mistakes to avoid in your 20s and 30s

Your 20s and 30s are an exciting time. You’re starting to build the life you envision for yourself, or perhaps you’re still seeking out new experiences to learn more about yourself and your goals.

These are years when we expect to learn and grow by exploring jobs and careers, cultural experiences, social experiences and other educational opportunities. But too many of us forget to explore and master one of the most critical parts of building the future we want: financial literacy and financial planning.

The result is that many people enjoy their 20s and make important life changes in their 30s (or vice versa) without understanding how best to support their career and personal goals with a rock-solid financial plan. You could end up flying high, but forget to build a safety net!

Here are some key mistakes to avoid as you’re getting started:

1. Letting the Chips Fall Where They May: No Budget

A first job—or second, or third—is a great feeling. You’re earning money and it’s yours to spend. And too often, we spend it until it’s gone. While a budget may sound restrictive, it actually gives you more freedom because it keeps you from overspending in areas you don’t care about so you have the money you need for what’s important. A budget helps you understand where to splurge—on quality that lasts longer, for instance—and where it’s best to economize, such as buying a used car instead of a new one.

2. Keeping Too Low of a Profile: No Credit Rating

Many people just starting out have low credit ratings, or worse, no credit rating at all (if you’ve always used your parents credit cards, for instance). With a low credit score, your costs will be higher for things like insurance, car financing and mortgage rates. Building good credit now, by getting your own credit card and paying it diligently, or even getting a credit-building loan, will establish a good rating that will help you down the road.

3. Putting It off Until Tomorrow: Living on Credit Cards

Credit cards can be a godsend, particularly the ones with loyalty points. But those points pale in value beside the damage that finance charges can do. Do treat your credit cards like a smart way to keep track of your spending, but don’t spend more than you actually have. Paying credit cards off in full each month not only keeps you within your budget and keeps you from accruing finance charges, it also helps you build a great credit rating for when you do need to borrow money. (For related reading, see: 10 Reasons to Use Your Credit Card.)

4. Living on Perks Instead of Salary: Not Paying Yourself First

We’ve all been to that job interview where they say that the salary is low but they have a great exercise room, volleyball team and popcorn machine. That popcorn won’t pay the rent and it won’t pay a down payment when you find that great condo. Create a savings plan and pay yourself first before you splurge on lifestyle perks like vacations and expensive shoes. That plan should include saving for short-term goals, saving for an emergency fund, and starting to save for retirement. While retirement may seem a long way off, the earlier you start, the more you harness the power of compound interest. Make sure your budget includes saving and contributing, on a regular basis no matter how small the amount, to an IRA or 401(k) before you start spending.

5. Living on the Edge: No Emergency Fund

While it’s hard to imagine needing emergency funds when you’re young and just starting out, you never know what the future can bring. Crises like Hurricane Sandy and the 2008 crash left a lot of people struggling without a safety net, but even something as simple as a pet’s sudden illness can present a huge challenge when you’re on a tight budget. Try to start contributing to an emergency fund that you keep in highly liquid funds for when the unexpected happens. (For related reading, see: Building an Emergency Fund.)

6. Playing the Odds: No Health Insurance

Many young people who are in peak health think that they can skip—or skimp—on health insurance. While you may indeed be fit and healthy, that doesn’t protect you from potential sports injuries, appendicitis, bouts with the flu or—perish the thought—a car accident. High medical bills are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy. Get the best coverage you can afford: you’ll be amazed how quickly it pays for itself.

7. Going With the Flow: Not Setting Financial Goals

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you’re heading,” goes the famous quote attributed to Lao Tzu. That means it’s a good idea to think about where you’d like to be—in a year, in five years, in 20 years—and make sure that’s the path you’re on. Simple goals like “I want to save $20.00 a week,” or more elaborate ones, like “I’d like to work for myself from a house on the beach,” all begin with awareness and taking the first small steps. Set a few goals; you can always change them later, but if you don’t, you’re drifting without being mindful of where the currents are taking you.

8. Taking Your Eye off the Ball: Using a Non-Fiduciary Advisor or Commission-Based Investment Site

It’s never too late to become financially literate. The internet is full of great tips (like these) and sites that can help you organize your finances, and it provides access to a range of advisories. Having a financial advisor guide you is an excellent idea but blindly trusting just anyone can be dangerous. Many non-fiduciary advisors are compensated by the financial products they recommend, products that may not be the best ones for you. Make sure the advisor you consult is a fiduciary, i.e. someone who is legally obligated to only recommend options that are in your best interest.

Be sure to check out our next post: 5 More Financial Mistakes to Avoid. You’ll enjoy your 20s and 30s even more knowing that you’re also building a solid future.

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions, please Contact Us.

Don’t let Financial Differences Lead to Divorce

Divorce

Financial differences rank among the leading causes of divorce among couples, both young and old. The statistics are alarming, but perhaps not surprising. How we handle money is not usually a topic of that comes up while we are dating. As a result most couples don’t discuss financial compatibility before saying “I do”. When the honeymoon is over, though, and the bills start rolling in, couples often experience a reality check. While love is grand, it can’t pay the bills so it may not take long before fights erupt over different money habits.

Part of the problem is that it is simply uncomfortable to talk about money. Whether we like it or not, we tend to tie our own feelings of self-worth to money matters. It’s not uncommon to see how much money we make as a direct reflection of how much we are contributing to the relationship. These feelings can become further complicated if there have been financial missteps along the way. While avoiding conversations about money can allow us live in a blissful state of denial for a while, the long-term consequences can be life-altering.

The good news is that it is never too late to make meaningful changes and save a marriage that is threatened by financial discord.

According to financial planners who work with couples, money conflicts fall under five main categories:

  • Differences in spending and saving habits
  • Disagreements about who should control the money
  • Differences in priorities
  • Dishonesty about debt and habits
  • Differences in risk profiles

Whether you are experiencing frustration around one of these issues or all five, there are ways to build better financial health as a couple and avoid relationship problems.

Effective Communication Leads to Greater Financial Success

Effective communication can make a world of difference when it comes to financial matters. Establishing trust, which is cultivated through honest communication, is key. Trust is built when each partner commits to openly expressing their feelings about money and listening to what the other partner has to say. This includes being willing to reveal financial failures, knowing that your partner will be forgiving and withhold judgment.

Be Willing to Compromise

Although it is easier said than done, another key to resolving money issues is compromise. The first step is for both partners to sit down and agree on a common set of financial goals and what steps they will take to meet those mutual goals. Establishing a family budget – and committing to it – is critical. That budget should include some freedom for spending on things that are important to both partners, regardless of who is earning more money.

Be Patient

As you begin the process of rehabilitating your financial health and establishing clear lines of communication with your partner, remember to be patient. Keep in mind that spending habits are deeply ingrained in each of us. Both you and your partner have been influenced by your parents’ habits and your approach to money has been formed over a lifetime of experiences.

Enlist the Help of a Financial Planner

Whether you need help mediating tough conversations or you want expert advice on how to establish a budget that will help you meet your financial goals, don’t try to go it alone. Work with a financial advisor who can offer helpful insights and steer you in the right direction. With the right help, you can get back on track financially and strengthen your relationship. If you are to the point where money issues are creating such a strain on your marriage that you are considering divorce, outside intervention from an experienced financial advisor can be critically important in finding solutions that work for both of you.

Avoid Conflict

Often couples will argue about whether they should give or loan money to family members. While each case is different, and very personal, it is generally a good idea to try to avoid making these kinds of loans. Once that first loan is made, you have set a precedent and you are more than likely to receive follow-up request for additional money. While it can be difficult to say no to friends and family, it is always in your financial best interest to avoid these types of transactions.

A Happy Ending

Even in the best marriages, there are bound to be differences over finances, but those disagreements don’t have to drive a wedge between you and your partner, or worse, lead to divorce. If you actively work to establish trust through open and honest communication and recognize when it is time to seek outside help from a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor, you are taking important steps to letting your financial life be a solid foundation for your marriage – and not the wall between you.

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This post originally appeared on Investopedia.
The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions, please Contact Us.

5 Important Planning Tips for New Parents

7parentingtips

Expecting a visit from the stork soon or has it already dropped off a new bundle of joy? If so, you know the full range of emotions that come with a growing family. Along with the love and excitement you feel with a new baby boy or girl, comes the pressure of new responsibilities and additional financial obligations.

Babies change your life in many ways, including requiring large amounts of time and money. While you may already be thinking about childcare costs and options, or about paying the medical bills that accompanied your new child, there are several other – important – financial considerations you should be thinking about even before the new baby arrives.

Evaluate Financial Priorities. It’s important to consider both short-term and long-term expenses that come with the addition of a new family member. It is a natural impulse, for instance, to want to put your child first and redirect retirement savings into college savings. But remember, you can borrow for college but you cannot borrow your way through retirement. It’s also important to balance long-term goals, like retirement and college expenses, with current financial needs, to help you allocate resources in an appropriate way.

Update Insurance Needs and Your Will. With the expansion of your family, insurance needs can change significantly. Having enough insurance is important in feeling confident about your family’s financial future. Adding your child to your health insurance policy can usually be done with a phone call. Making sure you have enough life insurance for both parents can help ensure you have the funds to raise your child if the unthinkable happens. Short-term disability insurance provides benefits if you have an accident that takes you out of work temporarily. Long-term disability insurance is critical in case a major accident has a permanent impact on your ability to work and earn. While some companies offer disability insurance, it can also be purchased independently.

Updating your will or creating a trust can provide care instructions for your child and allocate resources for their upbringing. Without a will or trust, if you and your spouse die, the state will decide who will raise your children. A will establishes your wishes for who will care for your child. A trust can direct funds specifically earmarked for raising your children and can be an effective way to cover financial expenses and provide for college expenses.

Start Planning For College Early. The sooner you start the better. While it is impossible to know exactly how much you’ll need to save – given that you don’t know what kind of college your child will choose – consider that in 2013-2014 the cost of a moderate in-state public university was $22,826 per academic year and the cost of a “moderate” private university averaged $44,750, according to a College Board survey. ¹

For new parents this means that college could cost over $100,000 for a public college and more than double that number for private school. Instead of trying to fund the entire cost of their education, determine how much you want to contribute. Having children be responsible for a part of their education is often a good lesson in work ethic, even if you can afford to pay for everything, and a critical life lesson if you can’t.

Keep Spending and Debt under Control. When you have an adorable child it’s very easy to overspend. You want them to have the best of everything. Setting a budget and sticking with that can help you keep your spending in line with your established budget. This can also help you maintain the discipline needed to continue contributions to long-term financial goals like retirement and their college education. And remember, the best gift you can give your children – your time and attention – is free.

Another important consideration is debt. When you carry debt, you are paying today for yesterday’s bills. Investing potentially allows you to pay today for tomorrow’s bills. By keeping yesterday’s bills settled and debt to a minimum, you lay the foundations for having enough to enjoy today with your children and plan for tomorrow.

Teach Children About Finances At An Early Age. Finances are a part of our daily lives. When you involve children early on they gain an appreciation for what things cost and how to choose what we want and what we can live without. As soon as your child old enough, start helping save their pennies for something they really want, and teach them that work is part of the process of earning money. These skills, if taught early, can lead to a lifetime of responsible money management.

Parenting is an amazing adventure that changes the way you see yourself and the world. Keeping an eye on finances can provide you with the confidence you need to not only enjoy your growing family but help lay the foundations for a stronger future.

 

¹ http://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleId=10064

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10 Important Things To Discuss Before Marriage

7thingsbeforemarriage

10 Things to Discuss Before the Big Day

You are excited, in love, and planning the wedding of your dreams. Probably the only money questions on your mind are the down payments for the caterers and the florists!

Yet – whether your wedding reflects a minimalist sensibility or is a no-holds-barred extravaganza – it’s better to have a good understanding of each other’s finances before the “I Do’s”. This is a time when procrastination could cost you a bundle, even if neither one of you currently have a lot of assets.

Getting married is more than just substituting the word “ours” for “yours” and “mine”.  It’s combining your finances, histories, dreams, aspirations, possessions – even your music – and making all of that “ours too. Since a significant part of those dreams and aspirations involve money, having multiple financial conversations before marriage (or right after, if you’re newlyweds!) can help you start married life on a firmer footing, with regard to financial goals.

Here are a few conversations that will get your marriage off to a smoother financial start:

1) Views on money. How we feel about money is often very emotional and very personal. Our family’s views on money can have a big impact on the way we see finances. In some families money may not be talked about. In others, one partner may hide money or spending from the other. While we might not consciously have these same behaviors, our upbringing will have an impact on how we feel about money and how we save, spend, and budget.

The best way to address unconscious – and sometimes conflicting – money behaviors is to start by recognizing how you each feel about money. Then you can take a practical approach and implement the best strategies from the past and incorporate them into your new relationship. This will also give you a chance to address any not-so-beneficial attitudes and behaviors and work to consciously change them.

2) Spending/Saving Habits. Chances are the two of you don’t spend and save money the same way. The interesting thing about spending and saving habits is that they give insight into priorities, both financial and otherwise because we tend to spend money on things we feel are most important and scoff at spending on things we see as unimportant.  Some people value saving more than anything and could be considered “tightwads”. Other people have a “live for today” attitude and spend whatever they have available, saving nothing or little for later. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle.

Not agreeing on spending priorities can lead to serious conflicts down the line. While there is no right and wrong answer regarding priorities and habits, it’s valuable to know and understand each other’s habits earlier rather than later.

3) Divvying Up the Bills. This is an important conversation about how you will manage your money together. Will you have separate or joint accounts? Who will be responsible for paying the bills and investing for long term goals? A realistic understanding both of your current incomes and current debts is important so you can create a realistic budget based on your combined income and expenses.

4) Credit History. No one likes to talk about credit ratings because they highlight past mistakes and spending habits. Yet it’s essential to know and discuss your credit histories. This can help you talk about past money mistakes, current debt loads, and how to address any issues that are lurking. Having this conversation now will also help if you’re planning to borrow money for a large purchase, such as a home or car; credit history will effect how much you’ll pay in interest for loans, as well as how much it will cost for things like insurance. Many companies even pull credit for potential job applicants. When it comes to credit, it’s best not to have surprises down the road, so have the conversation now.

5) Risk Tolerance and Financial Goals. Couples often have very strong – and differing – feelings about risk and money that are deeply rooted in past experiences.  Your family may have gone through periods of unemployment, for instance, or  you may have grown up taking financial security for granted. One of your parents may have owned a business and you saw it go bankrupt,  so you might be very conservative with your money and not want to take unnecessary chances. Or perhaps they invested in a business that was a huge success.

Everyone brings a different level of comfort when it comes to risk tolerance and it’s important to understand your partner’s because it has an impact on spending and savings habits – everything from where you invest to how much money you want to set aside. Money provides a level of security that can be very powerful and risk tolerance is directly linked to that feeling of security.

6) Ongoing Financial Obligations. If this is a second marriage, are there child support or alimony payments that need to be considered in the budget process? If so, how much and how long will the obligations need to be fulfilled. Caring for elderly parents might also be a long term expense you will be facing as a couple.

7) Net Worth. When it’s a first marriage, often neither partner has much in the way of assets, but if one partner has more than the other, are you going to want a pre-nuptial agreement? When discussing net worth it is valuable to discuss not only current net worth, but also aspiring net worth. What household income level are you both hoping to achieve. Will reaching those aspirations include additional education? Will it mean switching jobs several times early in your career? Will it mean working 80 hours a week for decades? As a couple, understanding financial expectations and future net worth aspirations will help you plan a life together that will meet both of your needs, financially and emotionally.

8) Family Plans. The family size you hope to have will also have a big impact on your financial needs. Children, as wonderful as they are, are very expensive to raise. Do you both want to have children and, if so, one child or several children? Discussions about how the children will be raised and educated are also valuable from a financial perspective. Will one of you stay home to raise the children? Will you pay for day care? How far apart should the children be? Each of these answers will have a significant financial impact to the family budget.

9) Combining Physical and Financial Assets. Particularly with couples getting married later, both partners will have accumulated possessions that now need to be combined. This can be as simple as which sofa and bedroom set to keep, or more complicated when multiple homes, retirement accounts, and other investments are brought into the mix. Discussing whether property, accounts, and debt should be left in individual names or held jointly is also an important conversation to have.

10) Wills, Trusts, and Life Insurance. When you’re getting married, you don’t really want to think about death. Yet wills, trusts, and life insurance need to be updated soon after you say, “I Do.” This is true especially if you have assets or children. The process of obtaining a will or trust is fairly straightforward; it’s the discussions that lead up to it that provide the most value. Both of you should have a good understanding of what you have and what you want to happen, should the unthinkable occur.

Financial advisors can be a real asset, when it comes to pre-marital financial discussions. They can help you determine when it is best to hold assets jointly or separately. Assistance with budgeting and planning for long term goals will help you create a strong financial plan. Advisors can also guide you in building a strategy for reaching financial milestones.

So, if you’re getting married (or just got married), congratulations! And while these discussions may not be the most romantic ones you’re having, they do have the ability to bring you closer together. Planning together and sharing your dreams will give you better insight into the mind and heart of the person you’ve fallen in love with and allow you to become stronger partners when it comes to reaching your goals as a couple, emotional as well as financial.

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
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Discussing Personal Finance is Difficult for Many – but Critical

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Money can be a difficult subject for any of us to talk about, although it seems to be particularly challenging, statistically, for women.

According to a recent study released by Fidelity, 80% of women surveyed said that they had refrained from discussing financial issues with friends or family, despite the fact that over 92% of those surveyed expressed an interest in learning more about financial planning. Among those surveyed, some of the most common reasons given were that money was too personal a topic, it felt uncomfortable to talk about, or it was considered “taboo.” Additionally, women are also more likely to feel that they don’t know enough about the subject to speak about it intelligently. This is despite the fact that studies have shown that women tend to be better investors than men.

Money is, however, a critical subject that we all need to discuss – and discuss often – in relationships. A little while ago I wrote about the 7 Things Married Couples Should Discuss Today, where I talked about why it is critical that married couples go over their finances together. Marriage is not, however, the only relationship that requires having difficult conversations about money.

We need to communicate with our parents and children about money, and even friends, coworkers and extended family members in some cases.

With money playing such an important role in our daily lives, it’s critical that we learn to overcome our desire to avoid the topic and learn how to effectively and confidently communicate about financial matters.

Fortunately there are a few things you can do to make the topic of money easier to discuss:

1. Realize that difficult conversations are sometimes necessary

Whether you need to confront your parents about their retirement plans, your spouse about where to allocate investments, or your children about their spending habits money can be a difficult topic to talk about. By reminding yourself that these are conversations that you will ultimately need to have however you are setting yourself up for success.

2. Find someone knowledgeable about finances who you can trust

No one has all the answers when it comes to money, which is why it is often helpful to turn to others for ideas and suggestions. You should find someone – whether it’s a friend, family member or a financial advisor – who is knowledgeable, who you know has your best interests at heart, and with whom you feel comfortable speaking.

This will give you the opportunity to ask questions, bounce around ideas, and learn and grow. It will also give you the confidence to discuss finances with others.

3. Get educated

One of the best ways to feel comfortable discussing money with others is by learning as much about the subject as you can. Read books, ask questions, and get help when needed. By learning as much as you can, you feel more comfortable giving advice, making financial decisions and having what would otherwise be difficult conversations.

4. Don’t procrastinate when discussing finances

If there is a money-related conversation that you have been putting off, bring it up now or at the next time possible. Don’t wait!

Here are a few more suggestions for important conversation starters:

With your spouse:

  • Family’s budget
  • Retirement savings
  • Saving for children’s college fund
  • Where to invest money

With your children:

  • Allowance
  • Spending
  • Basic financial principles

With your parents:

  • Their retirement plans
  • Location of legal documents including wills, trusts and insurance paperwork

If you’re like most people, chances are there are many other subjects that you need to discuss with those you’re close to. It may be a good idea to contact a financial advisor to help you with these as well as other issues revolving around money.

Brad Sherman is a financial planner in Gaithersburg, Maryland who is committed to helping individuals and families achieve financial independence and gain confidence with regard to financial issues.

Call him today to see if his services are a good fit for your needs.

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