Retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now." Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
(BPT) - You're 10 years or less away from retirement. You can clearly see the next phase of your life down the road and it's coming up fast. Are you ready for it? Do you have a comprehensive plan in place so you don't outlive your savings?
If you're not as prepared for retirement as you should be, you're not alone. The Federal Reserve did a study and found that one-fourth of Americans have no retirement savings or pension. And a Money article reports 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved.
Why aren't more people prepared? There are myriad reasons. Some people are stretched thin. Credit card debt, student loans, rising mortgage and interest rates all conspire to make it difficult for them to save. Others may lack information on the importance of retirement savings, or lack the financial savvy to be comfortable managing their own investments. And then there's the gap between men and women. The Federal Reserve’s study found that among women with any level of education, investment comfort is lower than among similarly educated men.
Yet, retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now."
That's why the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a national organization representing Fee-Only financial advisors, conducted a poll of its members to get their top tips and advice for people who are nearing retirement. They want to raise consumer awareness about the urgency of preparing for retirement and the importance of having a comprehensive plan in place.
Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
1. Make a list of retirement “needs” and “wants.” If you do not have enough savings for all of your “needs,” make a ten-year plan to increase your funds.
2. Take a hard look at any major debts you have and develop a plan to eliminate them.
3. Brainstorm any “big ticket” financial commitments (caretaking for a family member, etc.) for the next 10 years and consider how these items might affect your ability to save for retirement.
4. Continually monitor and analyze your asset allocation to make sure it is the right one for you. Understand whether you should move to a more conservative asset allocation or continue investing for growth.
5. Be tax efficient with your investments. For example, you should defer as much of your salary as you can to your defined contribution plans.
6. Save to an emergency fund and stay aware of your company’s financial situation. Companies are prone to reorganizations and layoffs, and older workers can be vulnerable.
7. Ask your HR department about the relationship between your current health insurance and Medicare, as well as what your options are when you reach age 65. Get information about any pension or defined contribution options and any other retiree benefits.
8. Research when stock-based compensation might expire and what stock awards you can retain after retirement.
9. Double check your reported Social Security earnings and resolve any discrepancies now. Explore your Social Security claiming options and make sure you understand the timing of applying for benefits.
10. Make sure that all of your estate documents are up-to-date. Verify that your named executors and proxies know your wishes and are willing to act on them if needed.
If you think you’ll need help creating and sticking to a financial plan, NAPFA recommends working with a Fee-Only financial advisor who adheres to a strict fiduciary standard. These advisors are required to put your best interest first and don’t accept commissions on the products they recommend, which reduces potential conflicts of interest. For more information and resources on retirement planning, check out NAPFA’s infographic about the poll. To find a Fee-Only financial advisor in your area, visit the NAPFA website at www.napfa.org and NAPFA’s “Find an Advisor” search engine.
(BPT) - Across the nation, thousands of seniors have used a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly called a reverse mortgage loan, as a savvy way to access the equity in their homes as part of their retirement strategy.
Those who are interested in a reverse mortgage loan should know that there are six main phases to the process: 1) educating and qualifying, 2) counseling, 3) approval, 4) funding, 5) using and 6) settling.
1. Educating and qualifying
The HECM process begins by contacting an FHA-approved lender who will review the borrower’s situation, educate them on the HECM program, and determine if they would likely qualify for a reverse mortgage loan.
“Once the lender has determined that the borrower is eligible, they work closely with them to shape the loan so it fits their needs,” says Paul Fiore, Chief Sales Officer for American Advisors Group, the leading reverse mortgage lender in the nation. “At AAG, this is a highly personalized process designed to give the borrower the best outcome for their financial situation.”
Once qualified, borrowers are referred to reverse mortgage counseling, an important consumer safeguard mandated by the government. During counseling, a HUD-approved HECM counselor reviews the borrower’s needs and circumstances. They consider how the funds might best be distributed, the financial and tax implications, and whether a HECM is right for them. If so, an application is submitted to the lender.
Next, the property will be appraised, and after that the approval process will begin. Before closing on the loan, borrowers will choose between several loan disbursement options, from taking it all out in a lump sum, receiving fixed monthly payments, opening a line of credit or any combination.
After the closing papers are signed, the homeowner has three business days to change their mind and cancel the loan (except if the loan is being used to purchase a new home). After the rescission period has passed, the funds are ready to be paid out through the payment option selected, subject to an initial disbursement limit that is determined by HUD.
5. Using your loan
The loan servicer will generally disburse funds via direct deposit or mail on the first business day of the month, following the funding of the loan. The borrower can live in the home as long as they like without making monthly mortgage payments, as long as they continue to pay property taxes and insurance on the home, maintain it in good condition and comply with any other loan terms.
6. Settling your loan
If the last surviving borrower sells or transfers the property, passes away, or does not use the property as a principal residence for more than 12 months, the loan has reached a “maturity event,” meaning that the loan comes due and no further funds can be disbursed. Borrowers also have the option of paying off their loan in full at any time without penalty.
Following a maturity event, an appraisal will be ordered by the loan servicer to determine the property’s current market value. The heirs can sell the property to repay the loan, or purchase the property for 95 percent of its appraised value. Since HECMs are non-recourse loans, the proceeds from the sale of the home are the only asset that can be taken to pay the loan’s balance, even if the loan amount exceeds the value of the home.
A home equity conversion mortgage can be shaped to fit an individual’s needs. With new consumer safeguards in place, many seniors are discovering that it is an important part of their retirement strategy.
(BPT) - What's the state of your estate? Robert Fishbein, a vice president and corporate counsel in Prudential Financial's Tax Department, says now's a good time to find out.
Changes in federal estate tax law have significantly increased the amount at which federal estate tax is triggered, says Fishbein. The individual exemption is $5.49 million (2017 amount, indexed for inflation) so a couple can accumulate almost $11 million dollars of assets without federal estate tax depleting the value.
The $5.49 million will increase over time. As a result, most individuals no longer need an estate plan to minimize federal estate tax.
That said, Fishbein adds, there are compelling reasons for having an estate plan, and three core documents you'll need to create one: a power of attorney, a living will or health care proxy, and a will. In this article, Fishbein describes these core documents and how you can use them.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney is the document designating someone to make financial decisions for you, whether you're out of the country for a long period, have a physical injury preventing you from conducting business in person, or are mentally incapacitated.
A power of attorney can be "springing" - going into effect upon your incapacity - or "durable," meaning it goes into effect immediately. The challenge with a springing power of attorney is it can be subject to disagreement and dispute between the holder of the power and another family member. One solution is to require the incapacity be certified by a physician, although even those findings can be disputed.
With the durable power of attorney, there's no basis for contesting whether the holder of the power can act. The risk is the holder has the immediate right and ability to access and take action with respect to the financial assets subject to the power. One possible strategy? Limit the power to specific assets. This won't help if the grantor if the power is totally incapacitated and the holder may need access to all of the grantor's assets.
A durable power of attorney is arguably less problematic, provided you are comfortable with the person you're choosing. The holder of the power has a legal obligation, as a fiduciary of the grantor, to act in the best interests of the grantor and not in his or her interests.
It makes sense to have a power of attorney so you know your financial affairs will be attended to. The alternative could be a costly judicial process and court appointment of someone to manage your assets while you are living and unable to do so yourself.
Living will and health care proxy
A "living will" ensures your health care wishes are acted upon if you are unable to make such decisions. It lets you describe the types of treatment you do or don't want under specific circumstances. For example, if you have a terminal illness, you may not want extraordinary measures taken to save your life. The challenge is it's almost impossible to anticipate all possible scenarios to indicate what health care treatment you'll want.
An alternative to a pure living will is a "living will and health care proxy," wherein you designate an individual to make health care choices for you. The living will portion describes in general terms your health care philosophy, and the health care proxy allows you to name an individual to make health care choices for you consistent with that philosophy. The choice of such an individual is important, and you should make sure you are comfortable he or she understands and will act consistent with your wishes.
You should have a living will drawn up as part of your basic estate planning. Again, the alternative is a costly legal process for someone - maybe not of your choice - to get appointed as your proxy to make health care decisions on your behalf.
Last will and testament
A "last will and testament" serves several important purposes, including determining how your assets are distributed, who'll care for your minor children and who'll invest and distribute property held in trust for your children, grandchildren or other beneficiaries. The basic function of a last will and testament is to ensure your assets are distributed as you'd want. Absent a will, your assets will be distributed in accordance with applicable state law.
You'll also designate the legal guardian, and possible successors, for any minor children who survive you and your spouse. This is one of the most important and difficult decisions for parents - so difficult that it sometimes can hold up the entire estate plan. But agreement by the parents is important and avoids the possibility of someone else being court-appointed who may or may not share your child-rearing views.
With the increase of the federal estate tax exemption and an individual's ability to use the exemption of a deceased spouse, trusts for federal estate tax planning have been made largely irrelevant for most individuals. However, if you have minor children who could take property if both you and your spouse die, or grandchildren who could take property if a child of yours dies and leaves children, you'll probably need trusts to hold property for those beneficiaries. Such trusts will enable you to determine who'll invest the trust property, how it'll be used for the child's benefit and at what age the beneficiary will receive the remaining property.
Think you don't have a large enough estate to warrant setting up trusts for your beneficiaries? Consider even the most basic estate when you own a house, have retirement assets and maybe additional investments or property. Given the total value of these assets, you'd probably want to hold them in trust for minor heirs. If there's life insurance, a trust for younger beneficiaries will almost certainly make sense.
Although federal estate tax is no longer a significant consideration for most individuals, you may want to consider the cost of state estate tax. The state exemption is sometimes less than the federal exemption, and state estate tax can take a meaningful bite out of what you expect to leave to your beneficiaries.
Prudential Financial, its affiliates, and its financial professionals do not render tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax and legal advisors for advice concerning your particular circumstances.
The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ and its affiliates.
If you’re in the throes of settling an estate, whether by yourself or with the assistance of your siblings, consider these tips for getting organized; seeking help; selling property, such as a parents’ home; planning for the unexpected; and taking time to grieve to help chart a smoother course following the loss of a parent.
5 Smart Strategies to Settle an Estate
(Family Features) When a parent passes away, it’s usually left to their offspring to manage and disperse the remaining estate. In the wake of such a loss, emotions can run high, and the sheer amount of paperwork can quickly become overwhelming.
If you’re in the throes of settling an estate, whether by yourself or with the assistance of your siblings, consider these tips to help chart a smoother course.
Get organized. Keep a seemingly endless to-do list manageable by writing everything down. Create a system for prioritizing each task and if there are others who are willing to help, delegate what you can. Establish categories such as bills to pay and other outstanding debts, accounts to close, agencies and organizations that need to be notified of the death and so on.
Know your limits. Some estates are simple and straightforward: There’s a basic will, few assets, known heirs, and it’s easy to grasp what happens next. Others are far more complicated. If you find yourself in over your head, seek help from an expert such as an estate attorney who can guide you through the legalities and paperwork.
Focus on solutions. Remember that even the most seemingly hopeless situations can turn out well if you remain open to exploring solutions. When Karen Jones’ mother passed away, she and her four siblings were left with a house that needed a lot of repairs none of them could afford before it could be sold. Jones learned about HomeVestors from a sister and the two scheduled a free consultation with a local independently owned and operated franchise.
Within 24 hours, Aaron Katz with WinWin Properties presented an offer not only to Jones, but individually to all of her siblings who were not able to meet at the same time. Jones credits Katz’s professionalism, kindness and sensitivity during a difficult time for her family.
An option such as HomeVestors, the largest professional house buying franchise in the nation, offers cash payments and quick closing, which can be helpful in settling an estate. In many cases, homes can also be sold as-is with no repairs and with unwanted contents still inside.
Expect the unexpected. It may come in the form of a change in the will or old letters stashed in a closet, but it’s a safe bet that in settling the estate, you’ll come across something you weren’t expecting. Add this to the emotional simmer you’ve been holding steady and this may be the tipping point to boil you over. Simply put the new information on the back burner for now and return to it later, when you can deal with it more rationally and avoid letting a surprise stain your memories.
Take a break. In the aftermath of a loss, many survivors switch to autopilot, not only to distract their minds from the loss but to regain some sense of control in a situation that can feel helpless. While this coping mechanism may answer a short-term need, be sure to allow yourself time to properly grieve and avoid taking on so much that you neglect your own physical needs, such as food and sleep.
Settling a loved one’s estate isn’t likely to be easy, but taking it all one step at a time will help you take care of business while you make sure you’re still taking care of yourself.
For more information, visit homevestors.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Interested in Publishing on The Money Idea?
Send your query to the Publisher today!
Get this money content for your website with our RSS Feed below!