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Financial Advice

What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Living Trust?

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A “Living Trust” is a trust you created that is active while you are alive versus a Testamentary Trust which becomes active at your death. When you create a Living Trust, you ensure that your assets will be disbursed efficiently to the people you choose after your death.

The big advantage to a Living Trust is that the trust doesn’t have to go through probate court like a will does. Probate can be expensive in attorney and court costs while also causing long and frustrating delays. A Living trust is an arrangement under which one person, called a trustee, holds legal title to property for another person, called a beneficiary. You can even act as your own Trustee if you’d like.

When you create a trust, the titling of assets is changed into the trust’s name, as if it was a living entity. Specific details of your wishes upon death can be provided for in the trust. But not everyone needs a trust. Transfer of assets at death may be handled through a beneficiary designation on some holdings and investments. If you’re using beneficiary designations, make sure all your paperwork is up to date. For instance, if you get divorced, be sure to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary.

For more information about how to plan well for your family’s future, give us a call today. (719) 597-2179

 

Retire Early, Tap Your 401k Early… Penalty?

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The way we work and save for retirement has changed and the old rules no longer apply to every individual’s situation. There are many professionals with the resources to retire early, but continue working until retirement age just to avoid paying penalties to the IRS. However, there are ways to retire early that you might want to consider.

You Can Pay the Penalty

The most obvious solution is to bite the bullet and pay the 10% penalty for early withdrawal. Most people are motivated to avoid paying the early withdrawal penalty and will wait until the legal retirement age of 59 ½, before accessing funds in their retirement accounts. This can be an attractive option, simply because the tax-deferred investments in your 401k may have outperformed other taxable investments. If this is the case, your tax benefits may actually pay for the penalty by the time you’re ready to retire. Of course, this all depends on how well your tax-deferred investments have performed.

The Substantially Equal Periodic Payments Option

The IRS allows early retirees to access their retirement funds without paying the penalty through their Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPP) program. An early retiree will have to consent to making substantial annual withdrawals each year until they reach traditional retirement age, as outlined by a calculation chart published by the IRS. However, failing to withdraw the correct amount each year can cause the IRS to charge you with the 10% penalty for each withdrawal you have already made. For this reason, it’s best to work with a tax professional to ensure you meet all of the requirements set out through the SEPP program.

Additionally, the program requires that you fulfill a minimum of five withdrawals, before your obligation is complete. If you retire at 40, you must adhere to the withdrawal requirements until you turn 59 ½ years old. However, if you retire at 57, you must continue the SEPP withdrawals until you reach 62 years of age. As long as you can adhere to the timetable, this may be a good option for accessing your retirement funds early and without paying the penalty.

Convert to a Roth IRA

Another option that will help you avoid the 10% penalty is to convert your 401k to a Roth IRA. Once you open the account, you will have to wait five years, before you can begin withdrawing your contributions. For that reason, it will be important to anticipate your early retirement and plan ahead. However, once you have met that requirement, you can begin withdrawing without facing a penalty.

An additional restriction is that the IRS requires that withdrawals be made in a particular order. You must withdraw direct contributions first, before withdrawing funds that were converted into the account. Lastly, you can withdraw earnings on those contributions. Depending on your situation, this may be a worthwhile alternative.

While these options do exist, waiting for retirement age may still be worthwhile. Where a 401k account is concerned, remaining on the job will keep those employer contributions coming. That “free money” will pad your retirement account, while your savings continue to earn on investments. Additionally, you’ll continue to benefit from tax breaks for a few more years. Ultimately, it will be your decision, which you can only base on your specific circumstances. If you do choose to retire early, you should consult a Financial Advisor and/or tax professional, before you act.

When Should I Seek Financial Advice?

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Here are some life milestones and events that mark when you should make the call to a financial advisor.

  1. When there’s a new baby in the family.

Parents, grandparents, siblings—everyone is affected when the new baby comes along. Now is the time to plan for what this tiny family member will grow to need in the future—especially college funds. And now is also the time to make sure that you have the right insurance and protections in place to see the child through to adulthood should something unexpectedly happen to you.

  1. When you get married.

Two people joined together in holy matrimony are also going to need to bring their finances together, for better or worse. And if there are any children from a previous marriage involved, it’s doubly important to find and hire a financial advisor that you both like and respect.

A comprehensive financial plan—which includes your mutual goals, time horizon to retirement, and desires for wealth transfer to family members—is a very important way to get started on your life journey together.

  1. When you win the lottery, or inherit.

We all dream of receiving a big financial windfall someday, but when you actually land a large amount of money at one time, studies show that many people squander it away. In fact, nearly a third of lottery winners actually end up declaring bankruptcy, becoming worse off than before they won.

If you receive money, call a financial advisor first, because no matter what the amount, it is actually less than it seems. You need qualified financial advice to ensure you don’t lose 30-90% to the IRS by not understanding tax laws. Financial advisors work as a team with your tax professionals to help you navigate inheritance, winnings, and gift taxes, as well as qualified money (like an inherited IRA account) tax rules so that you can actually end up ahead of the game.

  1. When you start working.

Your first job is an exciting time in your life. Even if you’re trying to pay off student loan debt, don’t miss the chance to achieve your life goals by harnessing the power of compound interest. Putting away even a very small amount each month can snowball through the years. A financial advisor can help you lay a plan to get ahead and reach your goals over the long term.

  1. When you start a new business, or want to sell one.

Small businesses offer many different options for retirement plans for their owners depending on the company structure. Call a financial advisor to help you set up a financial and retirement plan for your business in order to have the best chance of achieving your goals. And don’t forget about an exit strategy. Whether you want to leave your business to a family member or sell it, planning for your own departure from the company is essential to your ultimate financial success.

  1. When you’re starting to get close to retirement.

You should start to save for retirement as early as possible, but as you get closer to your actual retirement day, having a written plan in place to guide you becomes critical. How will you transform that nest egg you’ve saved into monthly income after you’re no longer getting a paycheck—without running out of money? How much money will you need? How will you take money out? Which accounts should you withdraw from first? What kind of taxes will you have to pay? How does Social Security work? How will you live, what will you do? Should you pay off your house first?

There are so many issues and retirement risks to address that retirement planning is absolutely essential. Ideally, you should have a plan in place by age 50—55. If you don’t, call your advisor as soon as possible.

  1. When you’re creating estate planning documents or establishing a trust.

Estate attorneys can create the documents you need, but they may not know about all the ins and outs of investments and insurance that can reduce taxation while helping ensure your final wishes are carried out. Call your financial advisor to get that important piece of the estate and tax planning equation.

  1. If you lose your job midlife, or are getting divorced with a lot of assets.

An adverse life event can hit anyone. If you’ve lost a job or are getting divorced, your financial advisor can help determine your best options for putting an immediate action plan in place.

For instance, if you’ve lost your job, your financial advisor may be able help you position assets in order to be able retire early, or help you draw from certain accounts to get you through until you land your next job.

If you are getting divorced, be sure to get advice from a financial advisor as well as your divorce attorney. They can help you analyze the assets that will most benefit you based on your future goals in order to reach the best settlement split. They can help you see things you might not be able to see clearly, and that divorce attorneys may not know. Like what kind of burden versus advantage keeping the family home might be.

  1. In the final quarter of every year.

Once you do have a financial or retirement plan in place, you should absolutely review it every year. (Most likely you’ll just need to answer the call, since most advisors will reach out to conduct annual reviews with you.) The annual review will allow your advisor adjust the plan as well as make changes to account beneficiaries as your family changes through time.

 

There are three different advisory disciplines you should seek out—tax professionals, legal professionals (like estate attorneys), and financial advisors. We can help you with the financial advice part of the equation. We can help you get set up with a tax professional and estate attorney from our network of contacts, or work as a team with yours.

Call SF Financial in Colorado Springs at (719) 597-2179.