Retirement can be a smooth transition or a jarring change. While money management is a necessity, planning for lifestyle changes and psychological adjustments is also very important. Today’s retirees can expect longer, healthier, and more active retirements than any other generation in history. But along with these advantages comes the responsibility to take care of the money you’ve accumulated. You’ll need to pay for that longer, healthier lifestyle and make your savings last much longer than your parents did.
Our job in this retirement planning arena is to help you match your needs and goals with the most suitable financial products and investments available. Given today’s dramatically longer life expectancies, combined with declining Social Security payouts and escalating health care costs, your planning is more complex than generations before you. Thus, as a beginning point to retirement planning, we help you make a realistic appraisal of your financial situation and then help you to balance your immediate financial needs with long-term plans to help ensure that you don’t run out of money during retirement, and can enjoy the lifestyle you want.
Once upon a time, retirees were expected to rebalance their investment portfolios in order to reduce their positions in stocks and increase their ownership of bonds. It was thought that retirees had to be more “conservative” because they needed the income from bonds and could not afford the risk of investing too heavily in often-volatile stocks. Today, bonds still play an important role in the portfolios of many retirees, but we also caution that it may be a mistake for you to be too heavily weighted in bonds. With the longer life expectancies referred to above and bond yields at historically low levels, you may need to consider equities*and other alternative investments**in order to potentially generate the kind of capital growth required to sustain you through a retirement that lasts 15, 20 or even 30 years or more.
Planning for retirement is like trying to hit a moving target. The further you are from retirement, the cloudier the picture will be. It is possible, however, to develop a viable plan based on reasonable projections of what you will need to retire and on the resources you can expect to have available.
Once you’ve determined your retirement income needs, you must come up with ways to meet those needs. Obviously, the earlier you start planning and saving for your retirement, the easier it will be. However, it is never too late to start saving for retirement. One way to boost returns on retirement savings is to take full advantage of opportunities to defer federal income tax on your retirement investments. On any investment, your real return is the return you earn after taxes are paid and inflation is accounted for. While you can’t stop inflation, you can use various planning strategies to stop annual income taxes on your retirement savings and investments until you retire and begin using your money.
One of the easiest ways to defer taxes on your retirement savings is to invest through a tax-advantaged or “qualified” retirement plan, such as an employer-sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) plan or some form of an individual retirement account (IRA). Annuities and life insurance programs can also act as very tax-efficient retirement plan supplements due to their tax-preferred features and benefits.
Just as important, are decisions involving retirement plan distributions. When you’re ready to retire, or if you leave your present job to take another, you’ll need to decide how to handle the retirement savings you’ve built over the years. Making the proper distribution decisions can be extremely complex. Laws require certain minimum distributions on some retirement plan assets, while others can be continually deferred. We help you determine which assets to draw from to comply with these complex laws as well as to maximize your retirement dollars in the most tax-efficient manner.
The age at which you choose to begin taking your Social Security check makes a big difference in the annual amount you receive. Deciding when to take your Social Security benefits is a big, and sometimes complicated, decision. We help you make an informed decision by reviewing with you several questions and scenarios. You can find out for yourself what your estimated monthly Social Security benefit would be by calling the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1.800.772.1213 to request a “Personal Earnings and Benefit Statement” based on your actual earnings history.
Once you have an estimate of your anticipated Social Security benefit, you will most likely realize, as most American’s do, that your Social Security benefit will not come close to supporting the retirement you’d like to achieve. In fact, the current average monthly Social Security benefit places a retiree just above the federal “poverty level.”*** At best, Social Security should be depended on strictly to provide a basic safety net. Many of our younger clients prefer not to include future Social Security benefits into their retirement projections at all.
Remember, you could spend a third of your life in retirement. Proper planning could make the difference between enjoying the golden times we all dream of, or facing a constant struggle just to pay the bills.
* Stock investing involves risk including possible loss of principal.
** Alternative investments may not be suitable for all investors and should be considered as an investment for the risk capital portion of the investor’s portfolio. The strategies employed in the management of alternative investments may accelerate the velocity of potential losses.
*** Source: Soc.Sec.Online 2012; Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
It’s no stretch to suggest that most of us are unhappy when it comes to paying taxes. We know that is certainly true of our clients who are working hard to accumulate wealth. You may feel that you’re paying too much or that you simply don’t understand the process well enough.
Managing your taxes absolutely requires planning for the year ahead (or even two or three years), so you have plenty of time to implement tax-reducing strategies. All of our services take into consideration the tax implications surrounding the specific financial planning recommendations we make. Specific fee-based tax planning will include a thorough review of your tax situation for planning ideas to reduce and defer taxes, provide an explanation of current changes in the tax law that affect you, and review your investments from a tax perspective. This analysis should be coordinated with estimated income tax requirements by your CPA.
We believe that there are five fundamental strategies for tax reduction:
- Timing income and expenses, so that you pay the lowest total amount over several years
- Converting taxable income to non-taxable income
- Deferring taxes to a subsequent year
- Shifting taxable income to someone in a lower tax bracket
- Deducting expenses
Managing your taxes will help you reach your financial goals. The tax savings you realize by planning ahead will work in tandem with the other financial planning steps you take to secure your future. And, as your goals change and your personal financial situation changes, we will help you adjust your tax planning, too.
Estate planning is one of those topics that most people would rather not talk about. After all, it involves at least two subjects – death and taxes – that are not too pleasant to ponder. Yet, estate planning is actually one of the most important and fulfilling steps anyone can take on behalf of his or her family. Because many of our clients have accumulated significant wealth, and even for those in the early accumulation phases of financial planning, we include various levels of estate planning with almost all of our clients.
Estate Planning, in its simplest form, means planning for the disposition or distribution of your assets upon your death. A good estate plan has three goals:
- To make sure your wealth reaches the individuals or organizations you select in the manner that you choose.
- To minimize the effect of federal or state taxes on your estate.
- To allow you to select who will handle various functions on your behalf.
Estate planning, in a broader sense, however, is an ongoing process. For a young, single person, an estate plan may simply consist of a Will. A couple just starting out might have Wills and own a modest home and bank accounts in their joint names. When children arrive, whom to name as the children’s guardian and how to provide for them and your spouse in the event of unexpected death or incapacity become estate planning concerns. And, once an individual starts to realize his or her financial goals, asset preservation and how to avoid estate taxes become important factors in estate planning.
If you are like most people, you will work an entire lifetime to accumulate assets: a home, cars, savings, property, etc. The small amount of time and money required to create an estate plan will ensure that your assets are passed on to the people you want with the best possible tax consequences. The more you understand the estate planning and probate process, the better the chance that your estate plan will accomplish your desires.
Our professional advisors are well trained and educated in the areas of estate planning. We can help you design an estate plan that accomplishes all of your goals within the context of your own personal financial planning needs. We also work with other professionals, such as estate planning attorneys and CPAs, to make certain all of the legal documents necessary to complete your estate plan are in order.
Calculating your potential estate tax is complex, especially under current tax law where the tax factors are continually adjusting. However, to effectively plan your estate, you need at least a basic understanding of how the tax works. Estate taxes can take a large part of your estate. Currently, federal estate-tax rates range from 18% to 45%, but are set to go back up to 37% to 55% in 2013. We can help walk you through the process so that you fully comprehend the magnitude of estate taxes in your specific situation, and more readily recognize the value of advanced planning.
A Will is the cornerstone of estate planning, but in most cases that is only the beginning. Included among the many additional planning strategies and tools used for estate planning are: “Will substitutes” such as “living” trusts; joint ownership; community property; beneficiary designations; credit shelter or by-pass trusts; QTIP trusts; life insurance trusts; gifts; “Crummey” trusts; charitable trusts; minority ownership discounting; family limited partnerships and more. Given the extremely high tax rates, and with all of these complex tools at your discretion, it doesn’t take long to discover how valuable professional advice and counsel can be in the area of estate planning.
Many people would like to make larger charitable gifts to support the organizations and institutions they care most about. But concerns about personal and family financial security may make these gifts seem impossible. Fortunately, with creative planning it is often possible to accomplish both your charitable desires and still complete your retirement goals and actually enhance the security of your loved ones.
Our role in charitable gift planning is to help you carefully design your estate plan and to help you facilitate meaningful gifts in a way that also allows you to satisfy your other important financial concerns. Obviously, coordination with qualified estate and charitable gift planning attorneys is critical to assure the outcome is as intended.
Unfortunately, charitable planning is not considered often enough as a “building block” for an effective financial and estate plan. Through the use of various charitable giving plans, you may be able to increase the income from your property and/or arrange for management of specific assets. At the same time, income, estate, and gift taxes may be minimized or avoided- all while completing the charitable gift you would like to make. Among the many plans that can be considered are; gift annuities, pooled income funds, life estate agreements, revocable trusts, charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder annuity trusts, or charitable remainder unitrusts.
While most charitable gifts are made in the form of cash, important advantages can be possible when gifts are made using non-cash property that has increased in value. Through careful planning of your charitable gifts, it can be possible to meet multiple goals. By choosing the best asset(s) to fund your gifts, their timing, and the methods used to make them, you may find you can give more while minimizing or eliminating federal estate and gift taxes, potentially reducing income taxes, and preserving or actually enhancing your own financial well-being.
Once you determine to sell your business, it is important to recognize that it may be the most important financial transaction you’ll ever make. Selling a business – in the right way and on terms beneficial to you – should involve the kind of planning and hard work you put into building the business. We can help you structure a succession plan that is consistent with your overall financial goals and needs and that provides both short-term and long-term security for your wishes of ownership control and financial well-being.
Valuing your business is one of the most important and difficult aspects of the entire transaction. Tax returns, audited financial statements, and other documents are essential in demonstrating business performance and helping a prospective buyer understand the company. In some cases, audits and even formal appraisals may become necessary. However, valuing your business is only one of many general steps in the sale of a business, whether your selling it outright to an unrelated third party or transferring the ownership down to family members already involved in the business operations.
Other steps in this process include; developing a business plan to determine whether it’s in your best interest to sell and to set out a targeted strategy with a clear end in mind; searching for potential buyers; designing a comprehensive marketing tool to give to potential buyers; evaluating offers and negotiating the sale; and structuring the actual transaction. All of these steps are critical to the successful transition and sale of your business. Without doubt, one major aspect to analyze prior to the sale of a business is the tax ramifications. The owner should consult with a specialized tax accountant during the final negotiations.
We understand that many small business owners don’t want to consider the idea of selling either to a stranger or to a family member. However, because of this, they may lack a clear succession plan, so that, if they were to die suddenly, their business may be forced to be sold by family members for a fraction of its value just to pay the taxes due. Thus, we seek to help our clients by creating effective succession plans to allow a gradual and agreeable method for shifting control of the business for an appropriate value.
Key to this planning is the Buy-Sell Agreement. This is a funded agreement and binding contract that spells out exactly what is to happen if one of the business owners dies, becomes disabled, or decides to sell his or her interest in the business. It generally calls for the remaining owners to buy the departing owner’s interest in the business, spells out the purchase price, and guarantees that the purchasers of the business interest will have the necessary cash to complete the purchase from the departing owner or their estate. Typically, Buy-Sell Agreements are funded with life insurance policies (and sometimes disability buy-out policies). It is important that an attorney knowledgeable in this area, as well as in tax and estate matters, draft this document.
As your wealth manager, we take the time to understand what you want out of life and how you feel about your wealth. We will help guide you along your financial journey. By talking with you about your life and your goals, we can assess any changes that need to occur in your financial strategy. For qualifying clients, we can organize all of your personal and family financial information in one place. Through WealthVision, our years of experience are coupled with a comprehensive approach and sophisticated technology. We consolidate your information and present it in a way that is easy to understand and available to you any time, day or night, even from a mobile device. If this comprehensive process seems perfect for you, or even if you feel your circumstances warrant a simpler approach, call one of our advisors to discover for yourself how our wealth management process starts and ends with your dreams, allowing you to live your life and give life to your dreams.