Make an Impact on Your Financial Life in 2018 with 5 Steps
New Year’s Resolutions come and go- we prefer encouraging our clients to make improvements in their financial lives a little at a time. These are the 5 things we’d like all of our clients to focus on in 2018:
First, if you haven’t done so lately, review your credit report. Right now, you should be looking at this regularly for monitoring. If you didn’t do it in 2018, consider locking down all of your credit. We can provide you with the links to the three credit bureaus again if you need them, just let us know. It will literally take you fifteen minutes or less. This may not seem pressing, but your credit is critical for your financial future and you should protect it.
The Equifax breach also makes everyone more susceptible to identity theft when filing tax returns. One way we have identified to stay ahead of this is to file your tax return as early in the season as you possibly can to prevent someone from filing fraudulently before you do. Get your information together and to your tax preparer as soon as possible. Many people end up waiting for K-1s that may delay filing. Talk to your CPA about using an estimate and filing an early return that could be amended with the correct K-1. This is not always possible, but in some cases, it may be.
Another great step you can take that will make a big impact on your financial future is to set up a cash flow tracking system. This is the step of planning that people are typically the most reluctant to start, but the ones who do find it one of the most rewarding parts of the process. If you are a client, you can use our wealth management software. If not, Mint.com provides an excellent tool. We’ve also had some people have tremendous luck with a system as simple as a spreadsheet.
Make 2018 the year you review and update all of your legal work, beneficiaries and titling of your assets. If you are a business owner, review all your corporate documents and make sure they tie in with your personal documents. If you don’t own a business, review and make sure you have updated Powers of Attorney, Wills and Trusts where appropriate. A living will is also important. Let the people you will rely on with these documents know your wishes. Complete the detail work and make sure all of your titles and beneficiaries on all of your assets are updated to match the legal plan.
Finally, communicate, communicate, communicate in 2018. Whether you have aging parents or adult children, you have a responsibility to talk to your family about financial planning. If you have aging parents, talk to them proactively about their wishes, make sure their legal work is updated, and know where all their information is. In addition, find out who their doctors are and what medications they are taking. Get to know their medical history.
On the flip side, if you have adult children, talk to them as well. Share as much information with them as is appropriate for your age and their age about your situation. Encourage them to have their legal work completed. As soon as they are 18, they need Powers of Attorney. If they have children, it is time for a will, and possibly a trust. Talk to them about having an adequate emergency fund and insurance. We find many parents want to teach their adult kids about investing or their 401ks- but it’s far more important for them to have basic risk management and legal tools. Those conversations are often completely overlooked.
Get minor children involved in the conversations, too! Kids as early as age 5 or 6 can start with an allowance. Pre-teens should have savings accounts and should be adding to them regularly. Teens should have an opportunity to earn money in a job and pay for some of their routine expenses. Teens also need to start talking about college and plans post high-school. All of this takes time, but the earlier you help them build a financial foundation, the more natural good money management will come to them later.
You may already have started doing all of these things in your life. If so, continue to do them and do them better each year. The more they become habits, the more influence you’ll have over your future life.
The average adult child contributes $7,000 to $14,000 to caring for an aging parent. (Journal for Financial Planning/AARP)
Speaking of Adult Children…
By Stephanie Guerin, CFP®
Talking to your adult children about money is about as easy as talking to them about sex for most people. It’s wildly uncomfortable! But it doesn’t have to be this way. It usually gets better over time, however, it doesn’t become easy in just one conversation. We routinely offer to have these conversations with the children of our clients when they are teenagers. We chat about college planning, cash flow management, and student loans and begin to take some of the barriers down between parents and kids. Later, when the kids are starting careers, we will help them again with budgeting, but also their benefits and risk management needs. Later, as the children are adults, and the clients are older, we can facilitate a family meeting with the parents to educate the kids about what they need to know about their parent’s financial situation.
If you don’t have, or aren’t ready to ask to bring in professionals, know what your adult children need to have in place at each stage of the game. If they are new adults, help them get the basics in place – bank accounts, powers of attorney, and cash management software. As they get their first professional jobs, help them with their benefits and salary negotiations. When they get married and start families, consider a gift to help them pay for legal work to protect their family. Finally, find ways to ask them if they would like to compare notes and share information instead of just nagging them or telling them what to do. Start early now with them, knowing it can take years to build the bridges of communication.
“The character of a man is known from his conversations.” ~ Menander
Market Update: You Never Know Where the Growth Will Be
12-31-17 YTD Dow: 28.7%
12-31-17 YTD S&P 500: 21.8%
12-31-17 YTD World EX US All Cap: 25.4%
12-31-17 YTD US Agg Bond: 3.5%
The S&P 500 has been the index to beat since the Great Recession. It’s looked like nothing would keep up, until this year when the international market finally beat it. Who would have guessed that would have happened back on January 1? Better yet, who can guess, year after year, without mistakes which index will be the number one performer for the year on January 1? Because of this, we think a diversified portfolio is the best way to go for long term investments. Further, the market has been on a roll for a relatively long time. It’s tempting to forget the asset we all need to have enough of is cash. Just like in 2005 and 2006, we’re starting to get the question, “Shouldn’t we put more of our savings in the market so it earns more?” The answer is the same as it almost always is, “What happens if the money that was in savings goes down, then what would you do?” People forget the returns come with volatility risk. Because of that, don’t consider risking what you can’t afford to have go down in value.