Plan Now for a Year-End Investment Review

Plan Now for a Year-End Investment Review


 

Give Your Retirement Plan an Annual Checkup

Financial professionals typically recommend that you review your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan annually and when major life changes occur. If you haven't revisited your plan yet in 2015, the end of the year may be an ideal time to do so.

Reexamine your risk tolerance

This past year saw moments that would try even the most resilient investor's resolve. When you hear media reports about stock market volatility, is your immediate reaction to consider selling some of the stock investments in your plan? If that's the case, you might begin your annual review by reexamining your risk tolerance.

Risk tolerance refers to how well you can ride out fluctuations in the value of your investments while pursuing your long-term goals. An assessment of your risk tolerance considers, among other factors, your investment time horizon, your accumulation goal, and assets you may have outside of your plan account. Your retirement plan's educational materials likely include tools to help you evaluate your risk tolerance, typically worksheets that ask a series of questions. After answering the questions, you will likely be assigned a risk tolerance ranking from conservative to aggressive. In addition, suggested asset allocations are often provided for consideration.

Have you experienced any life changes?

Since your last retirement plan review, did you get married or divorced, buy or sell a house, have a baby, or send a child to college? Perhaps you or your spouse changed jobs, received a promotion, or left the workforce entirely. Has someone in your family experienced a change in health? Or maybe you inherited a sum of money that has had a material impact on your net worth. Any of these situations can affect both your current and future financial situation.

In addition, if your marital situation has changed, you may want to review the beneficiary designations in your plan account to make sure they reflect your current wishes. With many employer-sponsored plans, your spouse is automatically your plan beneficiary unless he or she waives that right in writing.

Reassess your retirement income needs

After you evaluate your risk tolerance and consider any life changes, you may want to take another look at the future. Have your dreams for retirement changed at all? And if so, will those changes affect how much money you will need to live on? Maybe you've reconsidered plans to relocate or travel extensively, or now plan to start a business or work part-time during retirement.

All of these factors can affect your retirement income needs, which in turn affects how much you need to save and how you invest today.

Is your asset allocation still on track?

Once you have assessed your current situation related to your risk tolerance, life changes, and retirement income needs, a good next step is to revisit the asset allocation in your plan. Is your investment mix still appropriate? Should you aim for a higher or lower percentage of aggressive investments, such as stocks? Or maybe your original target is still on track but your portfolio calls for a little rebalancing.

There are two ways to rebalance your retirement plan portfolio. The quickest way is to sell investments in which you are over weighted and invest the proceeds in under weighted assets until you hit your target. For example, if your target allocation is 75% stocks, 20% bonds, and 5% cash but your current allocation is 80% stocks, 15% bonds, and 5% cash, then you'd likely sell some stock investments and invest the proceeds in bonds. Another way to rebalance is to direct new investments into the under weighted assets until the target is achieved. In the example above, you would direct new money into bond investments until you reach your 75/20/5 target allocation.

Revisit your plan rules and features

Finally, an annual review is also a good time to take a fresh look at your employer-sponsored plan documents and plan features. For example, if your plan offers a Roth account and you haven't investigated its potential benefits, you might consider whether directing a portion of your contributions into it might be a good idea. Also consider how much you're contributing in relation to plan maximums. Could you add a little more each pay period? If you're 50 or older, you might also review the rules for catch-up contributions, which allow those approaching retirement to contribute more than younger employees.

Although it's generally not a good idea to monitor your employer-sponsored retirement plan on a daily, or even monthly, basis, it's important to take a look at least once a year. With a little annual maintenance, you can help your plan keep working for you.

 

What is a phased retirement?

In its broadest sense, a phased retirement is a gradual change in your work patterns as you head into retirement. Specifically, a phased retirement usually refers to an arrangement that allows employees who have reached retirement age to continue working for the same employer with a reduced work schedule or workload.

A phased retirement has advantages for both employees and employers. Employees benefit from the opportunity to continue active employment at a level that allows greater flexibility and time away from work, smoothing the transition from full-time employment to retirement. And employers benefit by retaining the services of experienced workers.

There may be other advantages attributable to a phased retirement. When you work during retirement, your earnings can be applied toward living expenses, allowing you to spend less of your retirement savings and giving them a chance to potentially grow for future use. You may also elect to work for personal fulfillment--to stay mentally and physically active and to enjoy the social benefits of continuing to work with the same co-workers.

Not all employers offer a phased retirement option, but if it's available, you may want to consider whether you'll still have access to affordable health care during this period, especially if you aren't old enough to qualify for Medicare. Also, some employer-sponsored pension benefit formulas may place a higher weighting on earnings during the final years of employment. If you're lucky enough to have an employer-sponsored pension plan, will working a reduced schedule with presumably reduced pay negatively affect your pension benefit? Some employers offer life insurance to their full-time employees. However, this benefit might be reduced or eliminated if you work fewer hours, which can affect your dependents at your death.

Will a phased retirement affect your Social Security retirement benefit? The Social Security website, socialsecurity.gov, provides some calculators that can help you determine the impact a phased retirement may have on your benefits.

Before enrolling in a phased retirement program, consider its impact on your entire financial picture.  

 

Periodic Review of Your Estate Plan

An estate plan is a map that explains how you want your personal and financial affairs to be handled in the event of your incapacity or death. It allows you to control what happens to your property if you die or become incapacitated. An estate plan should be reviewed periodically.

When should you review your estate plan?

Although there's no hard-and-fast rule about when you should review your estate plan, the following suggestions may be of some help:

• You should review your estate plan immediately after a major life event

• You'll probably want to do a quick review each year because changes in the economy and in the tax code often occur on a yearly basis

• You'll want to do a more thorough review every five years

Reviewing your estate plan will alert you to any changes that need to be addressed.

There will be times when you'll need to make changes to your plan to ensure that it still meets all of your goals. For example, an executor, trustee, or guardian may die or change his or her mind about serving in that capacity, and you'll need to name someone else.

Events that should trigger a periodic review include:

• There has been a change in your marital status (many states have laws that revoke part or all of your will if you marry or get divorced) or that of your children or grandchildren

• There has been an addition to your family through birth, adoption, or marriage (stepchildren)

• Your spouse or a family member has died, has become ill, or is incapacitated

• Your spouse, your parents, or other family member has become dependent on you

• There has been a substantial change in the value of your assets or in your plans for their use

• You have received a sizable inheritance or gift

• Your income level or requirements have changed

• You are retiring

• You have made (or are considering making) a change to any part of your estate plan

Some things to review

Here are some things to consider while doing a periodic review of your estate plan:

• Who are your family members and friends? How do you feel about them?

• Do you have a valid will? Does it reflect your current goals and objectives about who receives what after you die? Does your choice of an executor or a guardian for your minor children remain appropriate?

• In the event you become incapacitated, do you have a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or Do Not Resuscitate order to manage medical decisions?

• In the event you become incapacitated, do you have a living trust, durable power of attorney, or joint ownership to manage your property?

• What property do you own and how is it titled (e.g., outright or jointly with right of survivorship)? Property owned jointly with right of survivorship passes automatically to the surviving owner(s) at your death.

• Have you reviewed your beneficiary designations for your retirement plans and life insurance policies? These types of property pass automatically to the designated beneficiary at your death.

• Do you have any trusts, living or testamentary? Property held in trust passes to beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust.

• Do you plan to make any lifetime gifts to family members or friends?

• Do you have any plans for charitable gifts or bequests?

• If you own or co-own a business, have provisions been made to transfer your business interest? Is there a buy-sell agreement with adequate funding? Would lifetime gifts be appropriate?

• Do you own sufficient life insurance to meet your needs at death? Have those needs been evaluated?

• Have you considered the impact of gift, estate, generation-skipping, and income taxes, both federal and state?

This is just a brief overview of some ideas for a periodic review of your estate plan. Each person's situation is unique. An estate planning attorney may be able to assist you with this process.

 

When a Saver Marries a Spender, Every Penny Counts

If you're a penny pincher but your spouse is penny wise and pound foolish, money arguments may frequently erupt. Couples who have opposite philosophies regarding saving and spending often have trouble finding common ground. Thinking of yourselves as two sides of the same coin may help you appreciate your financial differences.

Heads or tails, saver or spender

If you're a saver, you love having money in the bank, investing in your future, and saving for a rainy day. You probably hate credit card debt and spend money cautiously. Your spender spouse may seem impulsive, prompting you to think, "Don't you care about our future?" But you may come across as controlling or miserly to your spouse who thinks, "Just for once, can't you loosen up? We really need some things!"

Such different outlooks can lead to mistrust and resentment. But are your characterizations fair? Your money habits may have a lot to do with how you were raised and your personal experience. Being a saver or a spender may come naturally; instead of assigning blame, try to see your spouse's side.

Start by discussing your common values. What do you want to accomplish together? Recognize that spenders may be more focused on short-term goals, while savers may be more focused on long-term goals. Ultimately, whether you're saving for a vacation, a car, college, or retirement, your money will be spent on something. It's simply a matter of deciding together when and how to spend it.

A penny for your thoughts?

Sometimes couples avoid talking about money because they are afraid to argue. But talking about money may actually help you and your spouse avoid conflict. Scheduling regular money meetings could help you gain a better understanding of your finances and provide a forum for handling disagreements.

To help ensure a productive discussion, establish some ground rules. For example, you might set a time limit, insist that both of you come prepared, and take a break in the event the discussion becomes heated. Communication and compromise are key. Don't assume you know what your spouse is thinking--ask--and be willing to negotiate. Here are some questions to get started.

• What does money represent to you? Security? Freedom? The opportunity to help others?

• What are your short-term and long-term savings goals?

• How much money is coming in and how much is going out? Never assume that your spouse knows as much about your finances as you do.

• How comfortable are you with debt, including mortgage debt, credit card debt, and loans?

• Who should you spend money on? Do you agree on how much to give to your children or how much to spend on gifts to family members and friends, for example?

• What rules would you like to apply to purchases? One option is to set a limit on how much one spouse can spend on an item without consulting the other.

• Would you like to set aside some discretionary money for each of you? Then you would be free to save or spend those dollars without having to justify your decision.

Once you've explored these topics, you can create a concrete budget or spending plan that reflects your financial personalities. To satisfy you and your spouse, make savings an "expense" and allow some room in the budget for unexpected expenses. And track your progress. Having regular meetings to go over your finances will enable you to celebrate your financial successes or identify areas where you need to improve. Be willing to make adjustments if necessary.

Finally, recognize that getting on the same page is going to take some work. When you got married, you promised to love your spouse for richer or poorer. Maybe it's time to put your money where your mouth is.


Finley Davis Financial Group, Inc. offers complimentary financial planning tools to PeaceHealth employees. If you are interested in learning more about your retirement future, please call us at 541-342-2224 or email nichole@finleydavis.com

Happy Holidays!  

Papé Retirement Benefits

Papé Retirement Benefits

Are You Ready To Retire?


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INVESTMENT ANALYSIS

We analyze your retirement account(s) to make sure your investments match your goals and time horizon. We often find that people make choices in their retirement accounts based on the name of the investment, not the actual investment; thus not truly understanding what they have in their portfolio. We make sure you have a diversified investment portfolio and coordinate your retirement accounts.


Help You Decide When to Take Social Security

For many, Social Security is a large part of retirement income; and it is a decision that one has to live with throughout retirement. We help determine the best time to begin Social Security for your specific situation.


FAMILY INCOME PROTECTION

Income has become a major part of families’ financial success; without income, families would not be able to continue to have the same lifestyle which they have had prior. We help you to truly understand the options on how to protect your family in the event that we no longer have this income.


Elderly Care

Being in the medical field, many recognize that life changes quickly and we will all get to a point when we need additional help and care. For most of us, it is important to get to choose the level of care, as well as, where that care takes place when the need arises. We help you plan for that day by pointing out the best options to protect yourself and/or your family.

Retirement Projections


It is very important to understand if you are on track for retiring; this varies depending on your specific goal of desired retirement. With that in mind, we do a retirement analysis that takes into consideration: taxes, inflation, anticipated growth of retirement/investment accounts, social security income, and any other assets such as real estate or inheritance. In the examples below, the graph on the left represents a client’s retirement projection before the help of Finley Davis Financial Group; where as the graph on the right is what their retirement plan looks like after guidance and modifications from our advisory firm. What does your retirement projection look like?

If you are interested in learning more, please respond by emailing nichole@finleydavis.com or call us at 541-342-2224

All of the services mentioned above are complimentary financial planning tools that we offer exclusively to Papé employees. There are no out of pocket fees/costs.

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center

Are You Ready To Retire?


INVESTMENT ANALYSIS

We analyze your retirement account(s) to make sure your investments match your goals and time horizon. We often find that people make choices in their retirement accounts based on the name of the investment, not the actual investment; thus not truly understanding what they have in their portfolio. We make sure you have a diversified investment portfolio and coordinate your retirement accounts.

Help You Decide When to Take Social Security

For many, Social Security is a large part of retirement income; and it is a decision that one has to live with throughout retirement. We help determine the best time to begin Social Security for your specific situation.

FAMILY INCOME PROTECTION

Income has become a major part of families’ financial success; without income, families would not be able to continue to have the same lifestyle which they have had prior. We help you to truly understand the options on how to protect your family in the event that we no longer have this income.

Elderly Care

Being in the medical field, many recognize that life changes quickly and we will all get to a point when we need additional help and care. For most of us, it is important to get to choose the level of care, as well as, where that care takes place when the need arises. We help you plan for that day by pointing out the best options to protect yourself and/or your family.

Retirement Projections


It is very important to understand if you are on track for retiring; this varies depending on your specific goal of desired retirement. With that in mind, we do a retirement analysis that takes into consideration: taxes, inflation, anticipated growth of retirement/investment accounts, social security income, and any other assets such as real estate or inheritance. In the examples below, the graph on the left represents a client’s retirement projection before the help of Finley Davis Financial Group; where as the graph on the right is what their retirement plan looks like after guidance and modifications from our advisory firm. What does your retirement projection look like?

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If you are interested in learning more, please respond by emailing nichole@finleydavis.com or call us at 541-342-2224

All of the services mentioned above are complimentary financial planning tools that we offer exclusively to McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center. There are no out of pocket fees/costs.

Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente

Are You Ready To Retire?

Investment Analysis

We analyze your retirement account(s) to make sure your investments match your goals and time horizon. We often find that people make choices in their retirement accounts based on the name of the investment, not the actual investment; thus not truly understanding what they have in their portfolio. We make sure you have a diversified investment portfolio and coordinate your retirement accounts.

 

Help You Decide When to Take Social Security

For many, Social Security is a large part of retirement income; and it is a decision that one has to live with throughout retirement. We help determine the best time to begin Social Security for your specific situation.

 

Family Income Protection 

Income has become a major part of families’ financial success; without income, families would not be able to continue to have the same lifestyle which they have had prior. We help you to truly understand the options on how to protect your family in the event that we no longer have this income.

 

Elderly Care

Being in the medical field, many recognize that life changes quickly and we will all get to a point when we need additional help and care. For most of us, it is important to get to choose the level of care, as well as, where that care takes place when the need arises. We help you plan for that day by pointing out the best options to protect yourself and/or your family.

 

Retirement Projections

It is very important to understand if you are on track for retiring; this varies depending on your specific goal of desired retirement. With that in mind, we do a retirement analysis that takes into consideration: taxes, inflation, anticipated growth of retirement/investment accounts, social security income, and any other assets such as real estate or inheritance. In the examples below, the graph on the left represents a client’s retirement projection before the help of Finley Davis Financial Group; where as the graph on the right is what their retirement plan looks like after guidance and modifications from our advisory firm. What does your retirement projection look like?

If you are interested in learning more, please respond by emailing nichole@finleydavis.com or call us at 541-342-2224

All of the services mentioned above are complimentary financial planning tools that we offer exclusively to Kaiser Permanente. There are no out of pocket fees/costs.

Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center Retirement Benefits

Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center Retirement Benefits

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Investment Analysis

We analyze your retirement account(s) to make sure your investments match your goals and time horizon. We often find that people make choices in their retirement accounts based on the name of the investment, not the actual investment; thus not truly understanding what they have in their portfolio. We make sure you have a diversified investment portfolio and coordinate your retirement accounts.

 

 


Help You Decide When to Take Social Security

For many, Social Security is a large part of retirement income; and it is a decision that one has to live with throughout retirement. We help determine the best time to begin Social Security for your specific situation.

 

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Family Income Protection

Income has become a major part of families’ financial success; without income, families would not be able to continue to have the same lifestyle which they have had prior. We help you to truly understand the options on how to protect your family in the event that we no longer have this income.

 


Elderly Care

Being in the medical field, many recognize that life changes quickly and we will all get to a point when we need additional help and care. For most of us, it is important to get to choose the level of care, as well as, where that care takes place when the need arises. We help you plan for that day by pointing out the best options to protect yourself and/or your family.

 

Retirement Projections



It is very important to understand if you are on track for retiring; this varies depending on your specific goal of desired retirement. With that in mind, we do a retirement analysis that takes into consideration: taxes, inflation, anticipated growth of retirement/investment accounts, social security income, and any other assets such as real estate or inheritance. In the examples below, the graph on the left represents a client’s retirement projection before the help of Finley Davis Financial Group; where as the graph on the right is what their retirement plan looks like after guidance and modifications from our advisory firm. What does your retirement projection look like?

 

If you are interested in learning more, please respond by emailing nichole@finleydavis.com or call us at 541-342-2224

All of the services mentioned above are complimentary financial planning tools that we offer exclusively to Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center. There are no out of pocket fees/costs

Samaritan Health Services

Samaritan Health Services

ARE YOU READY TO RETIRE?


INVESTMENT ANALYSIS

We analyze your retirement account(s) to make sure your investments match your goals and time horizon. We often find that people make choices in their retirement accounts based on the name of the investment, not the actual investment; thus not truly understanding what they have in their portfolio. We make sure you have a diversified investment portfolio and coordinate your retirement accounts.

 

 

 

 

FAMILY INCOME PROTECTION

Income has become a major part of families’ financial success; without income, families would not be able to continue to have the same lifestyle which they have had prior. We help you to truly understand the options on how to protect your family in the event that we no longer have this income.

 

 

HELP YOU DECIDE WHEN TO TAKE SOCIAL SECURITY

For many, Social Security is a large part of retirement income; and it is a decision that one has to live with throughout retirement. We help determine the best time to begin Social Security for your specific situation.

 

 

 

ELDERLY CARE

Being in the medical field, many recognize that life changes quickly and we will all get to a point when we need additional help and care. For most of us, it is important to get to choose the level of care, as well as, where that care takes place when the need arises. We help you plan for that day by pointing out the best options to protect yourself and/or your family.

 

RETIREMENT PROJECTIONS

It is very important to understand if you are on track for retiring; this varies depending on your specific goal of desired retirement. With that in mind, we do a retirement analysis that takes into consideration: taxes, inflation, anticipated growth of retirement/investment accounts, social security income, and any other assets such as real estate or inheritance. In the examples below, the graph on the left represents a client’s retirement projection before the help of Finley Davis Financial Group; where as the graph on the right is what their retirement plan looks like after guidance and modifications from our advisory firm. What does your retirement projection look like?

 

If you are interested in learning more, please respond by emailing nichole@finleydavis.com or call us at 541-342-2224

All of the services mentioned above are complimentary financial planning tools that we offer exclusively to Samaritan Health Services. There are no out of pocket fees/costs.

PeaceHealth Retirement Benefits

PeaceHealth Retirement Benefits

Investment Analysis

We analyze your retirement account(s) to make sure your investments match your goals and time horizon. We often find that people make choices in their retirement accounts based on the name of the investment, not the actual investment; thus not truly understanding what they have in their portfolio. We make sure you have a diversified investment portfolio and coordinate your retirement accounts.

 

 

 

 

Helping You Decide When to Take Social Security

For many, Social Security is a large part of retirement income; and it is a decision that one has to live with throughout retirement. We help determine the best time to begin Social Security for your specific situation.

 

 

 

Family Income Protection

Income has become a major part of families’ financial success; without income, families would not be able to continue to have the same lifestyle which they have had prior. We help you to truly understand the options on how to protect your family in the event that we no longer have this income.

 

 

Elderly Care

Being in the medical field, many recognize that life changes quickly and we will all get to a point when we need additional help and care. For most of us, it is important to get to choose the level of care, as well as, where that care takes place when the need arises. We help you plan for that day by pointing out the best options to protect yourself and/or your family.

 

Retirement Projections 

It is very important to understand if you are on track for retiring; this varies depending on your specific goal of desired retirement. With that in mind, we do a retirement analysis that takes into consideration: taxes, inflation, anticipated growth of retirement/investment accounts, social security income, and any other assets such as real estate or inheritance. In the examples below, the graph on the left represents a client’s retirement projection before the help of Finley Davis Financial Group; where as the graph on the right is what their retirement plan looks like after guidance and modifications from our advisory firm. What does your retirement projection look like?

If you are interested in learning more, please respond by emailing nichole@finleydavis.com or call us at 541-342-2224 

All of the services mentioned above are complimentary financial planning tools that we offer exclusively to PeaceHealth Employees. There are no out of pocket fees/costs.

Caring for Your Aging Parents

Caring for Your Aging Parents

Caring for Your Aging Parents

Caring for your aging parents is something you hope you can handle when the time comes, but it's the last thing you want to think about. Whether the time is now or somewhere down the road, there are steps that you can take to make your life (and theirs) a little easier. Some people live their entire lives with little or no assistance from family and friends, but today Americans are living longer than ever before. It's always better to be prepared.

Mom? Dad? We need to talk

The first step you need to take is talking to your parents. Find out what their needs and wishes are. In some cases, however, they may be unwilling or unable to talk about their future. This can happen for a number of reasons, including:

·       Incapacity

·       Fear of becoming dependent 

·       Resentment toward you for interfering 

·       Reluctance to burden you with their problems 

If such is the case with your parents, you may need to do as much planning as you can without them. If their safety or health is in danger, however, you may need to step in as caregiver. The bottom line is that you need to have a plan. If you're nervous about talking to your parents, make a list of topics that you need to discuss. That way, you'll be less likely to forget anything. Here are some things that you may need to talk about:

·       Long-term care insurance: Do they have it? If not, should they buy it? 

·       Living arrangements: Can they still live alone, or is it time to explore other options? 

·       Medical care decisions: What are their wishes, and who will carry them out? 

·       Financial planning: How can you protect their assets? 

·       Estate planning: Do they have all of the necessary documents (e.g., wills, trusts)? 

·       Expectations: What do you expect from your parents, and what do they expect from you? 

Preparing a personal data record

Once you've opened the lines of communication, your next step is to prepare a personal data record. This document lists information that you might need in case your parents become incapacitated or die. Here's some information that should be included:

·       Financial information: Bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate holdings 

·       Legal information: Wills, durable power of attorneys, health-care directives 

·       Funeral and burial plans: Prepayment information, final wishes 

·       Medical information: Health-care providers, medication, medical history 

·       Insurance information: Policy numbers, company names 

·       Advisor information: Names and phone numbers of any professional service providers 

·       Location of other important records: Keys to safe-deposit boxes, real estate deeds 

Be sure to write down the location of documents and any relevant account numbers. It's a good idea to make copies of all of the documents you've gathered and keep them in a safe place. This is especially important if you live far away, because you'll want the information readily available in the event of an emergency.

Where will your parents live?

If your parents are like many older folks, where they live will depend on how healthy they are. As your parents grow older, their health may deteriorate so much that they can no longer live on their own. At this point, you may need to find them in-home health care or health care within a retirement community or nursing home. Or, you may insist that they come to live with you. If money is an issue, moving in with you may be the best (or only) option, but you'll want to give this decision serious thought. This decision will impact your entire family, so talk about it as a family first. A lot of help is out there, including friends and extended family. Don't be afraid to ask.

Evaluating your parents' abilities

If you're concerned about your parents' mental or physical capabilities, ask their doctor(s) to recommend a facility for a geriatric assessment. These assessments can be done at hospitals or clinics. The evaluation determines your parents' capabilities for day-to-day activities (e.g., cooking, housework, personal hygiene, taking medications, making phone calls). The facility can then refer you and your parents to organizations that provide support.

If you can't be there to care for your parents, or if you just need some guidance to oversee your parents' care, a geriatric care manager (GCM) can also help. Typically, GCMs are nurses or social workers with experience in geriatric care. They can assess your parents' ability to live on their own, coordinate round-the-clock care if necessary, or recommend home health care and other agencies that can help your parents remain independent.

Get support and advice

Don't try to care for your parents alone. Many local and national caregiver support groups and community services are available to help you cope with caring for your aging parents. If you don't know where to find help, contact your state's department of eldercare services. Or, call (800) 677-1116 to reach the Eldercare Locator, an information and referral service sponsored by the federal government that can direct you to resources available nationally or in your area. Some of the services available in your community may include:

·       Caregiver support groups and training 

·       Adult day care 

·       Respite care 

·       Guidelines on how to choose a nursing home 

·       Free or low-cost legal advice

Once you've gathered all of the necessary information, you may find some gaps. Perhaps your mother doesn't have a health-care directive, or her will is outdated. You may wish to consult an attorney or other financial professional whose advice both you and your parents can trust.

Charitable Giving

Charitable Giving

Charitable Giving

When developing your estate plan, you can do well by doing good. Leaving money to charity rewards you in many ways. It gives you a sense of personal satisfaction, and it can save you money in estate taxes.

A few words about transfer taxes

The federal government taxes transfers of wealth you make to others, both during your life and at your death. In 2015, generally, the federal gift and estate tax is imposed on transfers in excess of $5,430,000 and at a top rate of 40 percent. There is also a separate generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax that is imposed on transfers made to grandchildren and lower generations. For 2015, there is a $5,430,000 exemption and the top rate is 40 percent.

You may also be subject to state transfer taxes.

Careful planning is needed to minimize transfer taxes, and charitable giving can play an important role in your estate plan. By leaving money to charity the full amount of your charitable gift may be deducted from the value of your gift or taxable estate.

Make an outright bequest in your will

The easiest and most direct way to make a charitable gift is by an outright bequest of cash in your will. Making an outright bequest requires only a short paragraph in your will that names the charitable beneficiary and states the amount of your gift. The outright bequest is especially appropriate when the amount of your gift is relatively small, or when you want the funds to go to the charity without strings attached.

Make a charity the beneficiary of an IRA or retirement plan

If you have funds in an IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan, you can name your favorite charity as a beneficiary. Naming a charity as beneficiary can provide double tax savings. First, the charitable gift will be deductible for estate tax purposes. Second, the charity will not have to pay any income tax on the funds it receives. This double benefit can save combined taxes that otherwise could eat up a substantial portion of your retirement account.

Use a charitable trust

Another way for you to make charitable gifts is to create a charitable trust. There are many types of charitable trusts, the most common of which include the charitable lead trust and the charitable remainder trust.

A charitable lead trust pays income to your chosen charity for a certain period of years after your death. Once that period is up, the trust principal passes to your family members or other heirs. The trust is known as a charitable lead trust because the charity gets the first, or lead, interest.

A charitable remainder trust is the mirror image of the charitable lead trust. Trust income is payable to your family members or other heirs for a period of years after your death or for the lifetime of one or more beneficiaries. Then, the principal goes to your favorite charity. The trust is known as a charitable remainder trust because the charity gets the remainder interest. Depending on which type of trust you use, the dollar value of the lead (income) interest or the remainder interest produces the estate tax charitable deduction.

Why use a charitable lead trust?

The charitable lead trust is an excellent estate planning vehicle if you are optimistic about the future performance of the investments in the trust. If created properly, a charitable lead trust allows you to keep an asset in the family while being an effective tax-minimization device.

For example, you create a $1 million charitable lead trust. The trust provides for fixed annual payments of $80,000 (or 8 percent of the initial $1 million value of the trust) to ABC Charity for 25 years. At the end of the 25-year period, the entire trust principal goes outright to your beneficiaries. To figure the amount of the charitable deduction, you have to value the 25-year income interest going to ABC Charity. To do this, you use IRS tables. Based on these tables, the value of the income interest can be high--for example, $900,000. This means that your estate gets a $900,000 charitable deduction when you die, and only $100,000 of the $1 million gift is subject to estate tax.

Why use a charitable remainder trust?

A charitable remainder trust takes advantage of the fact that lifetime charitable giving generally results in tax savings when compared to testamentary charitable giving. A donation to a charitable remainder trust has the same estate tax effect as a bequest because, at your death, the donated asset has been removed from your estate. Be aware, however, that a portion of the donation is brought back into your estate through the charitable income tax deduction.

Also, a charitable remainder trust can be beneficial because it provides your family members with a stream of current income--a desirable feature if your family members won't have enough income from other sources.

For example, you create a $1 million charitable remainder trust. The trust provides that a fixed annual payment be paid to your beneficiaries for a period not to exceed 20 years. At the end of that period, the entire trust principal goes outright to ABC Charity. To figure the amount of the charitable deduction, you have to value the remainder interest going to ABC Charity, using IRS tables. This is a complicated numbers game. Trial computations are needed to see what combination of the annual payment amount and the duration of annual payments will produce the desired charitable deduction and income stream to the family.

Sticker Shock: Creative Ways to Lower the Cost of College

Sticker Shock: Creative Ways to Lower the Cost of College

Sticker Shock: Creative Ways to Lower the Cost of College

Even with all of your savvy college shopping and research about financial aid, college costs may still be prohibitive. At these prices, you expect you'll need to make substantial financial sacrifices to send your child to college. Or maybe your child won't be able to attend the college of his or her choice at all. Before you throw in the towel, though, you and your child should consider steps that can actually lower college costs. Although some of these ideas deviate from the typical four-year college experience, they just might be your child's ticket to college--and your ticket to financial sanity.

Ask about tuition discounts and flexible repayment programs

Before you rule out a college completely, ask whether it offers any tuition discounts or flexible repayment programs. For example, the school may offer a discount if you pay the entire semester's bill up front, or if you allow the money to be directly debited from your bank account. The college may also allow you to spread your payments over 12 months or extend them for a period after your child graduates. And if it's your alma mater, don't forget to inquire about any discounts for the children of alumni. Finally, ask if some charges are optional (e.g., full meal plan versus limited meal plan).

Graduate in three years instead of four

Some colleges offer accelerated programs that allow your child to graduate in three years instead of four. This can save you a whole year's worth of tuition and related expenses. Some colleges offer a similar program that combines an undergraduate/graduate degree in five years. The main drawback is that your child will have to take a heavier course load each semester and may have to forgo summer breaks to meet his or her academic obligations. Also, some educators believe that students need four years of college to develop to their fullest potential--intellectually, emotionally, and occupationally.

Earn college credit while still in high school

By taking advanced placement courses or special academic exams, your child may be able to earn college credits while still in high school. This means that your child may be able to take fewer classes in college, saving you money.

Think about cooperative education

Cooperative (co-op) education is a type of education where semesters of course work alternate with semesters of paid work at internships that your child helps select. Although a co-op degree usually takes five years to obtain, your child will be earning money during these years that can be used for tuition costs. In addition, your child gains valuable job experience.

Enroll in a community college, then transfer to a four-year college

One surefire way to cut college costs is to have your child enroll in a local community college for a couple of years, where costs are often substantially less than four-year institutions. Then, after two years, your child can transfer to a four-year institution. Your child's diploma will be from the four-year institution, but your expenses won't. Before choosing this route, though, make sure that any credits your child earns at the community college will be transferable to another institution.

Defer enrollment for a year

Your child might be aching to get to college, but taking a year off, commonly referred to as a "gap year," can give you both some financial breathing room and allow your child to work and save money for a full year before starting college. Your child will apply under the college's normal application deadline with the rest of his or her classmates and, once accepted, can ask for a one-year deferment. But make sure the college offers deferred enrollment before your child goes through the time and expense of applying.

Live at home

It's not every child's dream, but attending a nearby college and living at home, even for a year or two, can substantially reduce costs by eliminating room-and-board expenses (though your child will incur commuting costs). This arrangement may work out best at a college that has a student commuter population, because the college is likely to try to meet these students' needs. If your child does live at home, you'll both need to sit down beforehand and discuss mutual expectations. For example, now that your child's in college, it's not realistic to expect him or her to adhere to a rigid weekend curfew.

Research online learning options

Taking courses online is a trend that's here to stay, and many colleges are in the process of creating or expanding their opportunities for online learning. Your child might be able to take a year's worth of classes from home and then attend the same school in person for the remaining years.

Work part-time throughout the college years

Part-time work during college can help your child defray some costs, though working during school can be both a physical and emotional strain. To make sure that your child's academic work doesn't suffer, one option might be for your child to focus on school for the first two years and then obtain a part-time job in the remaining years.

Join the military

There are several options here. Under the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship program, your child can receive a free college education in exchange for a required period of active duty following graduation. Your child can apply for an ROTC scholarship at a military recruiting office during his or her junior or senior year of high school. Or, your child can serve in the military and then attend college under the GI Bill. Your child can also attend a service academy, like the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, for free. Be aware, though, that these schools are among the most competitive in the country, and your child must serve a minimum number of years of active duty upon graduation. For more information, visit your local military recruiting office, or speak to your child's high school guidance counselor.

Go to school in Canada

Canadian schools generally offer an excellent education at a price comparable to that of an average four-year public college in the United States. And in the global economy, many employers tend to look favorably on studying abroad. Your child will even be eligible for need-based federal student loans (but not grants), as well as the two federal education tax credits--the American Opportunity credit (Hope credit) and the Lifetime Learning credit.

Look for employer educational assistance

Does your employer offer any educational benefits for the children of its employees, like partial tuition reimbursement or company scholarships? Check with your human resources manager.

Have grandparents pay tuition directly to the college

 Payments that grandparents (or others) make directly to a college aren't considered gifts for purposes of the federal gift tax rules. So, grandparents can be as generous as they want without having to worry about the tax implications for themselves. Keep in mind, though, that any payments must go directly to the college. They can't be delivered to your child with instructions to apply them to the college bills.