Life Packs
Settling Down

Made for anyone who is well into their career, is looking to establish a stronger financial foundation or shore up their finances even further, or is facing larger financial decisions: sending kids to college, caring for aging parents, approaching retirement.

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July 2, 2022

Introduction

You’re starting to get in the groove of life! Established in your career, but you’re still going strong. If you have kids, you’re moving from sleepless nights with infants to sleepless nights with teenagers. Speaking of teenagers, you may be thinking about paying for college in the next few years. If you own a home, we can help you consider if it is a good idea to refinance. As you accumulate assets and wealth, it’s important to consider estate planning documents (will, guardian form, financial PoA, Medical PoA). We’ll also take a look at term-life insurance coverage and make sure you are appropriately covered. Depending on net worth, it could also make sense to get Umbrella Insurance. Considering a rental property? We can help determine if it makes sense for you.

You’re probably entering your highest earning years, and we want to look at your budget to make sure you are saving and investing as much as possible. If there is any high-interest debt, paying that off should be a priority. Work to further optimize the amount of money you are putting in your 401(k) versus investing in a brokerage account.

For your investments, is your risk tolerance is appropriate for you? Everyone loves a good Tesla stock, but consider a cap for ‘play money’ investments and lean more towards diversified investments. If you have employer equity, the timing of exercising, as well as the tax implications can be complicated so it’s important to be familiar with how equity works.

Get excited! You’re going to start to see the results of your hard work and discipline. Take the time to enjoy being more established and we look forward to helping you on your journey!

Raising Kids

The cost of raising a child is no joke! The average cost for a middle-income family to raise a child through age 17 is approximately $284,570 (including projected inflation of 2.2%), not including college. No one wants to assign a monetary value to a child, but let’s be honest, that’s the price of a home (or a down payment, depending on where you live). But before you start sweating, let us help break this down and figure out how you can best plan financially for your new bundle of 𝗆̶𝗈̶𝗇̶𝖾̶𝗒̶ joy. And guess what? The cost of raising a child goes down with each child you have! So have 4 (kidding!)!

Budgeting

Even though having a child upends your life a little (or a lot), the way you approach your finances doesn’t change. You should still aim to save 20% of your income, and you may have to cut back in other areas to make it all work. You’ll have more expenses to consider (diapers, child care, clothing) and you’ll have to adjust as your child gets older. The baby/toddler expenses will fall off, but they will be replaced by new ones (think sports/hobbies/activities, auto insurance).

Reexamine your emergency fund to make sure you’re covered for 3-6 months at your new expense level each time you adjust your budget to account for your child’s costs.

Cost of Raising a Child by Percentages

Plan for College

If providing a college education to your children is important, this starts with a conversation with your partner. Make your priorities together- savings, retirement, college. Remember you can take a loan out for college, but not retirement. Discuss your intentions to fully or partially fund college, will you plan to cover public in-state tuition or private school? Will you cover tuition, books, fees, and room and board, or ask your child to help contribute to some of these costs? Once you have thought through this, you can develop a plan to save for college that is tax efficient and cost efficient.

Raise Financially Responsible Kids

In a world of crippling student debt, rising home costs, and disappearing pensions, it’s more important than ever that you teach your children basic financial literacy. You should take steps when they’re young to teach your children about money and the value of a dollar.

Whether positively or negatively, parents are financial role models for their children. Taking steps to plan ahead and factoring cushion into your budget will help set you up for success, and in turn your children some day. It’s never too early to create a plan!

Growing Your Wealth

Growing your wealth often takes time, lots of time. By having patience and diligence, it’s possible to meaningfully turn your hard-earned savings into true wealth. The definition of wealth varies greatly from person to person, so it is important to first consider what being wealthy looks like for you and your family. To some, it may be working less and enjoying more leisure time. For others, it could be a bigger home and the ability to travel the world.

In any case, growing wealth is often a long journey with very few shortcuts. In order to successfully grow your wealth, you must start with the basics of living within your means and paying close attention to your financial world. Beyond this, it can be helpful to consider a variety of strategies for building and growing your wealth over the long term. Below we share our best suggestions for wealth building strategies.

Woman watering a money tree

Keep to the Basics

Regardless of what additional paths to financial success you may take to further build your wealth, keeping to the basics of spending less than you earn and being involved with your finances are critical components. At the core, financial success comes down to math. If you save more money than you spend, you have an opportunity to invest and build wealth. Additional avenues for bringing in more money will only help you along your journey if you have mastered these key basics of money management.

Starting a Business

Starting a business can impact your opportunities for wealth and allow you to control your destiny along the way. Perhaps you have valuable knowledge or experience in a particular field, a novel idea, or a way to improve or disrupt an industry that could be leveraged to create a new business. Starting a business is not without challenges and can be a risky proposition, but the potential rewards make this an attractive way for many to work toward a desired level of wealth.

Refinancing your mortgage

One sure way to grow your wealth is to pay close attention to the amount of money you pay on any debt you have. For most of us, the largest amount of debt that we have is in our primary residence. Refinancing your mortgage debt with the goal of obtaining a lower interest rate, and thus saving money on what you pay to your lender, can be time-consuming but the savings are well worth it.

Creating Passive Income Streams

When you hear the words passive income, you might think that this approach allows you to simply do nothing and let the cash roll in. But like most wealth building strategies, there is work involved.

Creating passive income usually means that the work you do is typically done upfront. Only once that work is completed will you be in a position to reap the benefits with little continued effort. Passive income can come from a variety of sources and is most commonly associated with a real estate portfolio or an investment strategy that consistently pays dividends or interest, although there are other methods for creating passive income streams.

Alternative Investments

For some, the investment options available on the publicly-traded stock market may not be quite enough of the risk-versus-reward opportunity they are looking for to grow their wealth.  For wealth builders with a bigger appetite for risk, investing in alternative investments can result in larger rewards. Popular alternative investments  include real estate, private equity or collectibles, commodities, and precious metals. It is important to note that these investments can be highly illiquid and difficult to properly value.

Do I need a CPA?

Your finances may be simple enough that you can easily file your taxes on your own or using an online tool like TurboTax. However as your wealth continues to grow, it’s important to seek the help of a professional who can guide you through the best way to file your taxes so that you are only paying what you truly need to pay in taxes. This way you can be tax efficient with your wealth building plans. You work hard for your money, so finding ways to reduce the amount you pay in taxes is a smart investment.

When starting to grow your wealth, start with the basics to build a strong foundation. Once that’s established, explore the topics we’ve discussed here to see which could work to get your wealth working for you to a greater degree!

Buying a Home

Preparing to purchase a home can be a time filled with excitement as well as uncertainty.  For many, it will be the most expensive purchase they have ever made. In addition to the typical concerns such as “am I in the right neighborhood?” or “is the home I am going to purchase in good condition,” there are also a number of financial considerations.

Where Are You Financially?

First and foremost, you need to look at your current financial situation. Is your emergency fund in place? Do you have excessive debt? Are you living comfortably within your means? Do you have enough saved outside your emergency fund for a down payment? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you should probably hold off on the home purchase. If you’ve checked all these off, read on my friend!

Buy or Rent?

One of the first considerations that you should explore is whether or not a home purchase is a good choice for you and your family.  Understanding the costs associated with homeownership compared to renting a home, how long you plan to live there, whether you’re ready to commit to the responsibilities of home ownership, the current market, etc. can help you figure out if homeownership is even something that you need to pursue.

Map of places in the United States where it is cheaper to own a home than rent

How Much Home Can I Afford?

The million dollar question (get it?). Aim for total housing costs to be 28% or less of your gross income. The additional costs you’ll incur when owning a home besides your mortgage are homeowners insurance, maintenance and property taxes. Lenders sometimes approve you for a higher amount than what actually fits comfortably in your budget, so it is important to understand the effect a mortgage payment may have on your other financial goals. Mortgage Calculator Home Price

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Selling Your Existing Home

If you are already a homeowner looking to purchase a different home, you may need to sell your current one. Selling a home doesn’t have to be stressful. You can get help from a real estate agent if you don’t feel comfortable with the process. If you feel like you have a good handle on how to sell, you can do it yourself or some hybrid between the two. There are some sites that walk you through the process, which can save you some money on real estate commissions.

Financing Your New Home

Likely the most challenging part of the home buying process and the one that is critical to get right is your home financing. Remember, you may have this loan for a couple of decades. There are many types of loans and ways to customize them. Get a knowledgeable loan officer who can explain all the terms of each loan type. Understanding loan terms and what that means for your monthly payment can be tricky but we have some great tips to consider as you are navigating this process.

Homeowners Insurance

The decisions don’t stop once you are ready to close on a home. You need to protect your investment. Homeowners insurance will be a requirement from your lender. You’ll need to  understand how to select a carrier and some of the important factors to consider when selecting coverage.

As you can see there is a lot to think about when purchasing a home. Proper research and education will help you better understand many of the considerations to make sure you can enjoy your new home and avoid buyer’s remorse.

Caring for Aging Parents

One in ten parents in the US are also caring for an adult, whether it be a parent or grandparent. As our parents age, it becomes increasingly important to have a plan to take care of them. Should they live in a retirement home? Or live with you? Or downsize? These are all questions you may need to help them with. Depending on the number of siblings you have, you may be sharing the burden or you may carry it alone. Helping parents with healthcare is a major concern that many people are financially unprepared for.

More than 10 Million Millennials act as unpaid caregivers to aging parents or grandparents; 75% of which also work full-time

Medicare and Medicaid

Once your parents turn 65, they can enroll in Medicare to cover their healthcare. While it covers a number of things, it isn’t free. If parents do not have a lot of assets in their name, they can instead enroll in Medicaid, which is free. Additionally, you can transfer assets out of a parent’s name so they can enroll in Medicaid. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of Medicare when making these decisions.

Long-term care

One thing not covered by Medicare is long-term care. Long-term care refers to the medical and non-medical care of someone who cannot take care of themselves because of a chronic illness or disability. Long-term care is expensive, and unfortunately, so is the insurance that covers it. Medicare may cover the medical care, but the non-medical care is much more commonly needed and is not covered by Medicare. Lower-income Americans can use Medicaid to pay for LTC, and wealthier Americans might just pay it, which puts middle-class families in a tough spot with few options. Do they try to pay it themselves? Buy LTC insurance? Research all your options and know what is available to you.

Passing on

When a loved one dies, there are a number of financial items that need to be taken care of that can add more stress to an already stressful time. It will be a lot easier if you have everything in order before your parents pass away. If you can, sit down with your parents and find out where all their accounts are, if they have a will and where it’s located. This will decrease the amount of searching you’ll have to do later on and eliminate assets getting lost. We’ve outlined the first things you should do when a loved one passes to help get you started.

There are many things to consider as your parents age, and we cannot express enough the need to plan ahead and weigh the various options available to you. There are strategies and insurances that can assist with the planning process, and their pros and cons need to be appropriately weighed.

Creating an Estate Plan

For many of us, we struggle to see estate planning as relevant. It’s human nature to focus on the here and now, while procrastinating things like planning for the end of life. However, the key advantages of creating an estate plan include minimizing the probate process and related expenses, delays and loss of privacy. If you wish to maximize what you can pass to your survivors, and minimize the amount that goes towards taxes, this is important to consider as soon as you have assets or dependents.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of designating who will handle your responsibilities during your life should you become incapacitated, and disposal of your assets after your death. One priority of estate planning is to ensure beneficiaries receive assets in a way that minimizes estate tax, gift tax, income tax and other taxes.

What Happens if I Don’t Have an Estate Plan?

A recent survey showed that 68% of Americans do not have estate planning documents. If you die “intestate”- without a will (it even sounds icky), your state intestacy laws will dictate who gets what. In general, assets are distributed to spouses and children. If you’re unmarried, or have a nontraditional family, this might not be the way you want your estate allocated. Basically if you don’t have a will, your state will create one for you. Rather than leave this up to them, create a plan so your wishes are known.

Catalog your Assets and Liabilities

First, you’ll want to prepare a complete list of your assets and liabilities. You may not think you have much of an “estate,” but once you start taking inventory you may be surprised at what you actually have. This list will help the estate attorney know the potential estate size, estate tax liability, and identify planning opportunities for you. The more you can be prepared in advance, the less time you’ll pay the attorney to go through this with you (these rates range from $250-600/hour) so make sure you do your homework!

What makes up your estate?

You should also think about what you want your legacy to be. Will you provide for children, grandchildren, or give to charities? Thinking about this in advance can also help save billable time.

Choose an Attorney

Next you’ll want to start interviewing Estate Attorneys. Ask your network of advisors (your tax person or finance manager, for example) for referrals. Most attorneys will meet with you briefly to discuss your needs and you can determine if you think the attorney is a good fit for you or if you should keep looking. You can also consider online estate planning companies like Trust and Will. Complex estates with unique challenges such as a high net worth, limited liquidity, or blended families (just to name a few) may require a traditional estate attorney. However, if you have a simple estate plan you may be a good candidate for an online estate planning service. And you can save a lot of money this way (potentially thousands of dollars!). For example, if you have a young family and you’re just starting to accumulate wealth, you may be a good candidate for an online estate plan to make sure your family is covered. Either way, your estate attorney will review your specific situation and advise what type of estate documents you need.

Update your Beneficiary Designations and Asset Titling

As part of your engagement with your attorney, they’ll advise you how to title your assets and you’ll need to take steps to make these updates yourself. Too often people forget to take this step after they’ve gone through the hard part of preparing the estate plan. All that goes to waste (including the attorney fees) if you don’t implement their recommendations. You may also need to update your beneficiary designations for your retirement plans and life insurance policies to be consistent with your estate plan. Lastly, take this opportunity to make sure you have enough life insurance to cover your survivors.

It may be hard to prioritize preparing your estate plan, but the benefits to your survivors are immeasurable. Often survivors are left trying to figure out the decedent’s assets and liabilities, organize their household, and at the same time grieve for their loss. You can take steps now to help take care of your loved ones, and leave a legacy for generations.

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