Estate Planning

How Americans are Retiring Poor

It’s Important to keep your finances well managed so you can enjoy a freedom of lifestyle during your retirement.  Sadly, reports say that less than 5 percent of Americans will be financially free by the age of 65. Changes in the U.S. economy coupled with increased health care costs and lack of personal savings have put millions of American workers at financial risk as they approach their retirement years. According to a study published online at cnbc.com, nearly 40% of America’s middle-class will experience poverty in retirement. Why?

One reason is that few Americans clearly define what financial freedom means to them. The definition is a wide array of personal opinion, but there is an economic equation that can easily encompass the most basic standard set for financial freedom; P.I ≥ L.E.Translated it means passive income = lifestyle expenses. An individual’s passive incomes from assets need to be equal to or higher than the income you require to afford your chosen lifestyle. Many people retire poor because they did apply this fundamental equation to their financial future. Some individuals are too disinterested to engage in financial planning or too lazy to be proactive and productive. The adage, “failing to plan is planning to fail” sadly applies to many Americans’ retirement strategies. Hoping things will work out is not a strategy any more than planning on winning the lottery is. Individuals must establish their goals and ruthlessly and relentlessly pursue them.

Every American has a different financial reality, and much of it is derived from the mindset they choose to adopt regarding finances. Consciously, as well as subconsciously, rich people think like rich people and poor people think like poor people. What you manifest is what you see and in turn, what you become. This mindset is why so often lottery winners go bankrupt after “hitting it big” and why wealthy people who go bankrupt often go on to develop a new fortune. Keep your mindset focus positive and reinforce your short and long term financial goals daily. Your attitude can determine your altitude.

Many Americans who retire poor chose the “let’s just wing it” path or did not attain sound and conservative financial management help. Do not be influenced by other poor people. Surround yourself with successful friends and family and learn from them. You can model their behavior in your own life. Retain a trusted accountant, banker, or financial advisor who can tailor your individual financial needs into an easy to follow set of steps and apply them. It does not have to be overly complicated and sometimes, the more straightforward the approach, the better. If you learn from successful people and sound financial consultants, you stand a better chance of becoming financially free. 

Some Americans stick their heads in the sand and never confront the facts of their financial reality. These are the people with stacks of unopened bank statements in their homes. While it can be painful to address a bleak economic reality, it is worse to have an inherent aversion to tackling the task at hand. You cannot abdicate your financial situation to anyone. You can receive trusted advice and help but do not avoid facing the truth of your finances. Oversight avoidance is how some famous athletes and performers have made vast fortunes but managed to squander every last cent. No one should care more about your financial freedom than you do.  

Many people who retire poor did not save any money, and those who inherited wealth squander instead of saving in the name of immediate gratification of a new car, or large home. Extravagant expenditures feel great at the moment, but the goal is to live beneath your means. Make saving money your number one habit. People who are successful at saving sometimes make a game of it like shopping online for the best deals or using coupons. Small savings during purchasing not only add up over time, but they also reinforce the habit of saving money. When you save money, you can apply the power of compound growth. Many people who retire poor do not understand how valuable the concept of compound growth is. It can take modest savings and in time, create wealth. Sadly, many Americans understand the concept of compound growth from the wrong side of the equation. Generally speaking, Americans are debt slaves. They rack up credit card debt and pay services charges, which are the bank lending industry’s compound growth money maker. People retire in poverty because they are on the wrong side of the compound growth equation.

Without the saving habit, compound growth equation, living beneath your means, and acquiring as little debt as possible you wind up working for money instead of money working for you. It is essential to assess the three following ways income can manifest itself in your life. There is earned income, which generally is in the form of a paycheck or salary for services or products provided. Then there is portfolio income which represents stocks, investments, and pensions. Finally, there is passive income, which comes in the form of royalties, patents, online services, or rental revenues, to name a few. These multiple streams of income can make retirement far more comfortable than relying on a modest pension and ever declining social security benefits check. People who retire rich have multiple streams of income, giving them a real path to financial freedom. People who retire in poverty continue working for money without the benefit of alternative sources of revenue.

There is little excuse to lack the knowledge and skillsets to become financially solvent in the digital age. Americans who struggle financially in retirement did not take the time to become financially educated. Being ignorant about finances is a sure way to retire poor. Online and for free, you can find many websites that generate articles about financial education. It comes as no surprise that people who retire with financial problems have the worst reading habits. If you don’t enjoy reading try financial literacy games for adults or learn through online seminars to boost your financial understanding. Even with financial knowledge if you lack a plan and the will power to follow it, you will retire without economic freedom. The practical application of your plan is crucial. Most Americans do not make a plan for their retirement, and many that do begin too late to affect a substantial change because compound growth and accrual of wealth take time. However, it is better to start your retirement plan late than not at all.

Ultimately the choice rests with the individual. Most Americans would rather retire with adequate incomes for a comfortable retirement lifestyle. Remember that you are not a product of your circumstances; you are a product of your decisions. Make the right decision today for your financial freedom in retirement.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Millennials Financial Planning

A large part of millennials’ formative years was influenced by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis beginning in 2007, shortly followed by an international banking crisis, which led to what became known as the Great Recession. Millennials include fiscally conservative, savings oriented, and future planners seeking financial freedom as core attributes. The millennial generation would have ranged from ages 11 – 26 years of age when this economic downturn began. Living through this economic volatility, not seen since the Great Depression, gave rise to the fiscally conservative millennial mindset. The other socio-economic force that continues to shape the millennial fiscal mindset is the student loan crisis. Cbinsights.com finds 41 percent of millennials carry student loan debt for which there is no personal bankruptcy relief. This debt crisis places unique financial pressures on nearly half of a generation, and many are seeking new ways to manage their income, debt, and future savings. 

This conservative mindset has underpinnings of investment optimism about achieving financial goals according to reporting by the Union Bank of Switzerland Investor Watch report (UBS), and millennial goals are different from generations before them. The definitions of what being successful include a focus on personal success rather than maxing out returns on investments. This personal success is a balance of financial, relationship, and experiential factors, prioritizing long-term financial considerations like retirement or caregiving aging parents. Millennials understand their number one goal is to attain financial freedom, with a conscience. The UBS report goes on to say that 78 percent of millennials are more likely than other generations to believe income is a critical success factor and feel that income should be about 220,000 dollars to be considered a success. Millennials are also more apt to think money can buy happiness because their pursuit of money is geared toward financial freedom rather than excessive accumulation.

UBS Investor Watch Report

According to Forbes, many mid-life millennials (late 20’s and 30’s) are changing the order of, or opting out of traditional family and financial milestones of their predecessor generations. Some will have children before marriage; others will resolve all debt (think student loans) before entering into homeownership, and most will invest with sustainability and environmental concerns at the forefront of decision making. As the oldest millennials turn age 40 in 2020, many are conducting personal financial checkups, taking stock of their assets, liabilities, and insurance needs. Re-evaluation of and adjustments to financial plans help to ensure financial goals can be met.

Though most millennials do not yet have a professional financial advisor, ten self-directed steps can help to evaluate your current financial plans and make any necessary adjustments.

  • Specifically, relist your financial goals and work backward from them to see what financial processes you need to put in place to achieve those goals. Embrace learning and be patient as you track your spending, pay yourself first, and break long term goals into short achievable steps.
  • Think about life insurance. What will happen to your family or loved ones in the event your family has to survive without you and the income you provide? A death benefit will provide financial stability and help them to survive.
  • If you have not already done so, make a will and include medical directives, and consider a durable power of attorney should you become incapacitated.
  • Revisit the parameters of your current budget, and if you are willing, get outside professional input as most people’s expenses are higher than they think. There is a human tendency to overlook some existing expenditures and not be aggressive enough when it is time to make cuts in spending.
  • Assess and update your investment choices. Particularly pay attention to your 401(k) plan and other retirement savings vehicles like IRAs. Confirm they are aligned to your risk tolerance and perhaps reduce the number of high-risk equities into slower, high-dividend stocks. Look at the advantages of adding an annuity into your 401(k) plan and other changes that the SECURE Act of 2020 brings to retirement planning. Understand that the old model of 60 – 40 equities to bond ratio is no longer deemed advisable.
  • If you have excessive credit card debt, address it now. Pay down the highest interest balance(s) first if you are servicing debt as opposed to attacking a principal payment.
  • Do you have student loans? Again, pay down the highest-interest loans first by monthly auto-deducting it from your checking account. Explore the possibility of consolidating multiple student loans into one payment and negotiate a lower rate and longer time to pay lower monthly payments.
  • Weigh the costs of homeownership. Some millennials, particularly those without children, may prefer not to be anchored to home real estate, maintaining the flexibility of movement for job opportunities. Those who want a home must assess financial responsibilities beyond the costs of a mortgage and real estate tax, considering the workload and cost of home upkeep.
  • Review your health insurance, and be sure it is adequate to cover your family’s needs. Children especially are subject to many doctor visits and requirements for attending school with proper vaccinations. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance through your employer, check that the deductible and co-insurance options make the most sense for your situation.
  • Finally, take a good look at your health situation. While this doesn’t sound related to finances in the long run, it is. Is your diet unhealthy, and are you overweight? These factors potentially set you up for the likelihood of diabetes two and future joint and mobility problems. Are your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers in a healthy range? Do you need to reduce alcohol intake? Do you work out consistently in the three formats you need, which are weight training (strength building), aerobic exercise, and a stretching routine like yoga? Being as physically healthy as possible reduces overall health costs.

Millennials are at the cusp of their middle age planning stage of life and realizing that life’s priorities are a moving target.  While the above pertains to millennials, the importance of planning – both legal and financial – is critical at any age.

We help families of all ages plan for what is important to them, and to make sure their plans and wishes and properly documented. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please give us a call. We’d be honored to help. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

Steps to Discussing Finances and Estate Planning with Aging Parents

Sometimes these conversations can be difficult but it’s essential that as your parents’ age, you have conversations with them about their finances. To broach the topic, you might bring up current events like the coronavirus pandemic, its effect on economic conditions, and how it relates to the security of their financial future. The conversation should come from a calming place of love and concern. Speak to them respectfully about how the coronavirus pandemic has you thinking about the importance of their planning and preparedness.

Once you begin the conversation, move away from the pandemic as your introductory technique as you do not want to create a sense of panic or fear.  Instead, delve into legal and financial reviews, processes, and parameters. US News reports that your parents’ financial analysis should include essential legal documents, financial accounts, and associated vital contacts, long-term care decisions, and claims. If you live apart, lay the groundwork to help them with their finances remotely.

It is generally most comfortable to begin your conversation with legal documents that hopefully your parents already have in place like a will, trust, living will, and a health care proxy. If your parents do not have these documents, they must retain an attorney and create the ones that best suit their needs. If you need to help your parents manage their finances, you must have a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney allows you to make financial decisions for your parents in the event they become incapacitated. This is an essential estate planning document. In the absence of a durable power of attorney, the courts become involved, and solving health or financial issues becomes a lengthy, expensive process over which you have little control. If your parents already have their legal documents drawn up, find out where they keep them and review them carefully. If any documents need to be amended, suggest that your parents meet with an attorney to make the relevant changes. Be sure their documents reflect the state law in which they reside.

Once you have assessed your parents’ legal documents, it is time for some financial discovery. Even if your parents do not currently need help, having an overview of their finances and a durable power of attorney to help them in the future is crucial to their aging success. Begin by listing all of their accounts, account numbers, usernames, and passwords as well as employee contact names. Include insurance policies, the agent’s name, and where the policy is, as well as how they pay their premiums. Include any online medical accounts or list their doctors’ names and office numbers. The idea is to create a comprehensive list of all of these accounts. Gather your parents’ Medicare and Social Security numbers and their drivers’ license numbers. Know where they keep this information so that in the future you will know where to look. Also, learn about any online bill paying or automated, re-occurring activity. These usually include monthly bills like electricity, natural gas, water, etc. but may also include quarterly payments or annual subscriptions.

If your parents still live in their long-time home, discuss if it is viable that they live out their days there, or if downsizing to a retirement community or moving closer to where you live appeals to them. Help them come to a decision that is best for their set of circumstances.  If they do not have long-term care insurance or some other mechanism to aid them in times of need, talk about the topic, and try to come up with a solution. If they do have long-term care, be sure you have a copy of the policy, contact information, and the name of the insurer and agent. Review the requirements for receiving benefits so you can help them when they need to file a claim as most policies have a waiting period of 30 to 90 days before benefits begin. Know what to expect.

Digital technology has made oversight of parents and their finances easier than ever as long as you have a durable power of attorney and access to their account information. If they do not yet pay their bills online, or use auto payment, help them set up this option for their monthly bills. Remind them you will provide oversight to ensure proper billing. Offer to help them with their annual tax filings. Your help relieves some pressure on them and provides you with information about the goings-on in your parents’ accounts. For your parents’ peace of mind, you can establish a monthly video chat to let them know their bill payments are progressing normally. Your involvement will allow you to identify any abnormalities in account activity, which may indicate scam attempts.

Having these financial and planning conversations with your parents today can help them live more securely and with less stress as they age. Most parents will try to avoid these discussions with their children because they may not be adequately prepared for what can lie ahead. Conversations that focus on proper legal documents and gathering financial account information will give you the data you need to help protect your parents.

We would be happy to help you and your parents with critical planning documents. We are open and taking new clients, and we hope to talk with you soon about your particular needs. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.