Posts by P&S

How to Stay on Track with Long-Term Financial Commitments

Just as New Years resolution gym-goers start to give up their good habits in the first or second month of the year, people abandon all kinds of resolutions or goals within the first months of the New Year. By February, about 80% of all resolutions have been ditched

Good habits are necessary for health and overall wellness, and it’s no different with financial health. Just like with health-related resolutions, where it takes time to plan regular gym visits and healthy meals, it takes consistency and a plan in order to pursue the long-term financial results you’re looking for.

A couple months into the year, it’s easy to lose sight of those ambitious long-term financial commitments you might have thought about or even decided to make a reality this year and beyond. This is especially true if you haven’t taken the time to put the steps in place to ensure you stay on track.

Today, we’re going to dive into what constitutes a long-term financial commitment, why they’re important, and ways that you can work to stay on track if you decide to take one (or more) on. 


What qualifies as “long-term”? 

It’s important to first designate financial commitments as short- or long-term. While shorter-term commitments might be achieved in 0-2 years or even 2-10 years, long-term ones can generally be classified as those with a timeline of 10+ years.

Depending on your commitment level, ability to put money away, and unique desires for financial performance, your financial commitments might take varying amounts of time, compared with others. You may even find that one part of your financial plan will move more quickly than another, due to unique factors impacting each portion.

When you work with a financial advisor to establish and track your financial commitments, you can work to figure out feasible timelines for your financial commitments. Generally, retirement plans, 529 education plans, and other big ticket savings goals qualify fall into the long-term financial commitment category, but again, these can vary between individuals. 


Why think in the long term?

Going through the process to develop and create long-term financial commitments leads to a better understanding of your unique financial priorities and helps you to solidify a timeline for reaching future goals. Typically, long-term financial goals also lead to measurable short-term goals. This snowball effect is a good thing, since it can keep you focused on the big picture, even while you celebrate the little victories along the way.

Additionally, a combination of short- and long-term financial commitments and goal setting might even lead to a greater mutual understanding between you and your spouse on financial priorities and your overall desired financial future, whatever that may look like.

Lastly, we can’t forget the primary reason for financial benchmarking: to pursue financially a great desire, such as funding a grandchild’s education or having a comfortable retirement, that otherwise you would not be able to achieve. 


What makes a good long-term financial commitment?

Ideally, you should strive for your financial commitments to be specific, measurable, and attainable. This is true whether you are saving for retirement or for an investment property: specificity, measurability, and attainability are each important characteristics.

That being said, goals can change. What you want in retirement, what you want to do with a property you want to buy, what your granchildrens’ aspirations are for college and beyond… these might change over time.

What doesn’t change is a commitment to building the capital to make those goals, however they change, a reality. If a goal is centered around motivations that are relatively stable, like having a solid retirement plan and/or being able to spend time and money on your family, it will be important to you.

How can you stay accountable to long-term financial commitments?

Hand in hand with these considerations is a practical step: Record your thoughts on paper, or some place you can access them to review them. Consider taking a novel approach to naming accounts by calling them by the specific goal they are setting out to achieve. As your priorities shift or change, knowing the reasons you set out on this long-term goal in the first place will, at the very least, help you stay dedicated, motivated, and informed when making adjustments. 

A second practical step is breaking down your larger commitments and goals into bite-sized pieces. Setting yearly, quarterly, or even monthly and weekly, if that’s the type of progress that makes you feel in control, makes taking on long-term goals manageable. Part of what makes a goal specific, measurable, and attainable is the ability to break it down to these increments, should you need or want to. 

If you are working on specific savings goals, setting up automated payments can assist in meeting the smaller goals, taking the pressure off you to move money into certain accounts by certain dates. Automated payments or earmarking and immediately disbursing income to savings accounts can help you to prioritize the little steps that are working towards achieving the larger, long-term commitment.

You may also find it helpful to track your progress through apps or spreadsheets, or some other form of reporting. Your financial advisor can be an invaluable resource in helping you to keep track of investments, savings goals, and other factors that impact your progress as you work toward various financial commitments.

As your priorities change, you might also adjust your long-term plans, which is reasonable and even necessary at times. Again, your advisor can also help with these adjustments and make recommendations when plans seem to veer too far off-course. 

Periodic meetings with your financial advisor should be an essential part of your planning as you work toward your long-term financial commitments. Not only can your advisor help you to monitor progress on your financial commitments, but they can help you to put the pieces together to establish goals and benchmarks that will help you to bring your ideal financial future into focus. They also provide a professional perspective that can objectively view your existing commitments to determine whether they align with your desires or whether they should be tweaked to make the most impact.

Set up an appointment today

Our advisors at Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group are the CFP® professionals who can help you take the steps necessary to develop and keep track of your long-term financial commitments. Set up an appointment today! 

    Savings Rates for Retirement

    As you plan for retirement, there are a few items that may get a larger amount of your attention as you try to fit everything into place. Things like your ideal retirement date, investment performance, and predicted retirement budget are likely some of the top considerations that come to mind when you think of your retirement plans.

    However, as you look toward your retirement, it’s important to remember an essential factor that sometimes gets pushed to the side: savings rates.


    What is a Savings Rate?

    According to Investopedia, a savings rate “is a measurement of the amount of money, expressed as a percentage or ratio, that a person deducts from his disposable personal income to set aside as a nest egg or for retirement”. The amount you save will generally goes directly into various savings vehicles such as your bank account, 401(k), IRA, and taxable investment accounts so that when you ultimately retire you have accumulated enough money to pay for your future living expenses.

    What Savings Rate Should I Aim For?

    There are lots of rules of thumb regarding savings rates. How much you need to save is often a reflection on the type of lifestyle you want to live, your current age, your current assets, and your remaining time to retirement. Unfortunately, these generic rules sometimes lead to generic recommendations that may or may not suit your needs.

    You may have seen figures of the “ideal” percentage that investors should aim for when saving for retirement, but these recommendations are certainly not ideal for everyone. Depending on your age and personal income, this percentage could vary. It’s important to find the figure that works for your lifestyle, this year and in years to come.

    Younger individuals with more time to work and save will often need to set less money aside, as a percentage, annually than older individuals who are coming up on their retirement years. For those close to retirement age and without significant existing savings, a more aggressive saving rate may be ideal.

    Additionally, individuals with particularly high annual income may find that they need to set aside yearly savings at a higher rate than those with lower incomes, if they desire to maintain a similar standard of living into their retirement years. Again, this can vary, depending on whether existing savings or outside payouts are at play.

    What Else Should I Consider?

    As with the other factors playing into retirement planning, it’s important not to view savings rates in isolation. Focusing too hard on this one part of the puzzle could leave you open to making poor decisions regarding other components of your retirement plan.

    Ultimately, you want to consider your personal savings rate as one of the tools that will help you to achieve the retirement lifestyle that you wish to live. Considerations of retirement age, location, standard of living, hobbies, healthcare needs, and more are important factors that make your individual retirement plan unique.

    If you plan to live a lifestyle fairly similar to the one you enjoy now, setting a dedicated portion of your annual income now can help you to fund your needs in the future. Savings rates are a helpful tool that can give you guidance in determining what amount of savings makes sense for your desired goals.

    If you’d like to learn more about planning for your retirement, contact Jake Sturgill today for a consultation!

      Expecting a Tax Return? Consider These 4 Ways to Use It

      Depending on your withholdings, you might be in for a solid tax return from the 2019 tax season. Last year, the IRS returned $324 billion to taxpayers with the average tax return at about $2,900. Before those funds arrive in your account, consider these options to help your tax return work for you.

      First: Revisit Your Financial Plan

      If you haven’t already, consider checking in with your financial advisor before you make any plans for your returned funds. Your check in should be a good reminder of your established financial goals and should also help you to ascertain that your existing plans are on track to meet those goals.

      Once you know where you stand with your financial planning, you can set your mind to other financial goals or even to a fun expenditure or two.

      Option 1: Add to existing savings accounts 

      Tax-smart investment accounts can include IRAs, HSAs, and 529 plans. You may find that the extra thousand or more that comes in the form of a tax return can provide a nice boost to one of your savings plans.

      Or maybe this you’re ready to open a new savings account. Favorable annual percentage rates (APY) could be an opportunity to open a new account with your tax return.

      Your financial advisor can help you to understand rates and provide guidance on choosing an account that might work for your savings goals. Depending on the minimum balance requirements and accessibility and your own desires and needs, you might find that a new savings account with a high APY is a smart way to use that extra cash. 

      Option 2: Invest

      If you’re looking to make money with your money, investing your tax return may be an option to consider. Stocks, savings bonds, and interest bearing accounts are some ideas for investing your tax return, each with different benefits that will change depending on your specific financial situation.

      Whether you have a robust investment portfolio or are interested in diversifying your investments, you may find that investing your tax return is a viable idea for your financial planning. Your financial advisor can provide more information about investment options and whether or not they’re a good fit for your tax return spending.

      Option 3: Give

      The season of giving may be over, but giving to charity and family is always an option for those looking to be tax-smart and feel good about how they spend their money. This can potentially serve as an addition to the charitable donation deductions you claim on the next year’s taxes, but it also gives that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with helping a cause you care about. 

      Option 4: Invest in Personal Development

      Attending a class, whether for recreation or to become more qualified in your field, or starting a side business, could be a unique way to invest in your future. Though you’d be spending your tax return rather than saving it, personal development usually isn’t considered frivolous spending. If you’ve been waiting for a time to invest some cash in a personal project, this tax return season may be the time to do so.

      Choosing an Option

      Regardless of the amount of money you received in your tax return and your financial status, consider having a conversation with your advisor about your financial plan and how your tax return may or may not play into it. If you want to learn more about investing, our CFP® professionals at Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group would love to have a look at your unique situation and discuss the possible options for using your tax return this year.

        Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. 

        Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible in the contribution year, with current income tax due at withdrawal. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax in addition to current income tax. 

        Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such states’s qualified tuition program.  Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing. 

        There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio.  Diversification does not protect against market risk.

        Ask an Advisor: What Do I Do With My 401k?


        Paul Sorenson: 00:09

        Hi, welcome to the Puckett and Sturgill Ask An Advisor segment. We’re glad you joined us. I’m Paul Sorenson, financial planner with Puckett and Sturgill Financial Group. I’m here today with David Hemler, certified financial planner professional. David, we’re here to ask today, and discuss, I have a 401k plan. This is one of the questions we get almost every day. I have a 401k plan. What do I do with my 401k plan? Can you help me?

        David Hemler: 00:33

        That’s a great question, and yes, we can help you. The first thing is to define, are we talking about a former employer plan or a current employer plan? For the former employer plan, you have four options there. Those options are to leave it with the current custodian. To withdrawal it, which is called a distribution. To roll it into your current employer, if that current employer plan offers roll ins, and many do. Or, move it to an IRA. That’s the four options with a former employer plan. With your current plan, the key ingredients for you to understand are what is the matching program so that you can fully gain access to 100% of the match that’s available to you. If there’s a match available, not every 401k has to offer you a match, so that’s an important piece of the summary plan description, which governs that, that you want to understand. And we can help you to discern through that, to get those types of answers on behalf of your plan. Getting 100% of the match, and also understanding your allocation and how it aligns to your risk acceptance and your time horizon for the goals that you have for those retirement assets.

        Paul: 01:46

        Great, great. I think that answers a lot of it. For a former plan, we’re looking at keeping it where it’s at, rolling it into another 401k plan, potentially diversifying it into an IRA. Those are all great options. I think that’s …

        David: 02:02

        A lot of complexity there too, so our best advice would be to talk to a professional advisor. Get some guidance before you make a final decision on an old employer plan.

        Paul: 02:12

        Great. That’s really helpful, David. Thank you so much. We look forward to hearing from you, should you have any additional questions, and please feel free to submit additional questions to us online.

        It’s Your Turn to Ask

          Ask an Advisor: What does the future look like for Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group?


          Paul: 00:08

          Hi. Welcome to Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group Ask An Advisor segment. I’m Paul Sorenson, financial planner with Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group, and I’m here today with Aaron Puckett. Aaron, what’s the future for this firm look like? They’re, they’re creating a relationship with our firms, so what’s the future look like for Puckett & Sturgill?

          Aaron: 00:26

          Boy, I wish I could tell the future. I wish I had a crystal ball. I could just, but yeah, I think to understand my best guess anyway as to what the future of our firm will look like, is to really look at what are the core parts of our firm that have been there since the beginning. And there are some things that haven’t changed. Those are, I think three main things.

          Aaron: 00:50

          First of all, we really value advisers that have credentials and experience, and are very competent and qualified people.

          Paul: 00:57


          Aaron: 00:58

          And so as we think about our firm going forward and possibly continuing to grow, I think we’re only going to be looking for advisors that kind of fit that mold of what we’ve done.

          Paul: 01:11

          Educated folks.

          Aaron: 01:12

          Yeah. We want to see that they’re educated and that they are extremely competent.

          Paul: 01:17


          Aaron: 01:18

          The second thing is I think the team element of our firm is something that is very special. And so I think advisors that buy into that idea that they want to be part of a team, they don’t want to operate in a bubble, you know?

          Paul: 01:32

          Not sitting on an island by themselves trying to figure it out.

          Aaron: 01:34

          They value each other. I know you do, and I know I do. We value the advice and the camaraderie that we experience as part of that team.

          Paul: 01:43


          Aaron: 01:44

          I think it’s better for clients too when the advisor is operating as part of a team. So I could see that being something that’s a characteristic of our firm in the future.

          Aaron: 01:54

          And then the last thing, which I think is probably the most important, and that is that we all of us have a very strong ethical commitment to our clients. We really care about them. Our families have been in the community a long time. We want to do what’s right for people and we really care, and that’s the culture.

          Aaron: 02:15

          No matter how many people are working with our company or what lines of business have changed and how the industry has changed, I think those are the key components, the parts of our value proposition that will continue, be competent advisors working together as a team with their sole focus on taking care of their clients, doing what’s right for them that they can because they care.

          Paul: 02:39

          Excellent. Excellent. Well thanks, Aaron. That was really helpful and I think it really gives a look towards the future of what Puckett & Sturgill will be and currently is. Thanks for joining us today and watching the Ask An Advisor segment with Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group. We hope that if you have additional questions, you’ll reach out to us via the website or give us a buzz. So thanks a lot and we’ll see you next time on Ask An Advisor.

          It’s Your Turn to Ask

            How will rising healtcare costs impact my retirement planning?

            Your retirement planning is comprised of many factors that make up the amount of money you need to save for retirement and the income streams that can help you pursue that figure. As you’re building or reviewing your financial targets, you need to consider how individual expenses will contribute to the whole.

            For many retirees, one of these big numbers is the amount that they need to set aside for healthcare expenses. Let’s face it: healthcare is expensive and costs are only on the rise.

            You need to be proactive in meeting the challenge of rising healthcare costs in order to avoid costly mistakes in your retirement planning. Easier said than done? Maybe not.

            Today we’re going to look at the question: How will rising healthcare costs impact my retirement planning? If you’re ready to learn more about this essential component of your retirement planning, grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive in!

            Assess Your Needs

            As with all aspects of financial planning, you can’t adequately plan for what you need until you know what it is that you need. To plan for healthcare costs in retirement, you will work around a few factors. These include:

            • You and your spouse’s continuing health coverage,
            • Your intended length of retirement,
            • Your health (and your spouse’s health)
            • Family medical history

            Obviously these factors vary from investor to investor. Your financial advisor can provide some guidance in parsing out your healthcare situation and help you to get a better idea of what your savings should look like.

            Look at Your Health Coverage Options

            While you should expect your healthcare costs to rise during retirement, thanks to a combination of increasing healthcare expenses and your own aging, you will not need to shoulder the entire burden of your retirement healthcare expenses.

            In the United States, retirees have the option of receiving Medicare as part of their Social Security benefit. This federal health insurance is designed to help retirees offset some of their healthcare expenses, but still leaves premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses to your budget.

            In addition to applying for Medicare, you’ll want to carefully consider which Plan fits your needs the best — and you’ll want to review this information during each open enrollment period. You may also want to consider supplemental insurance options, like MediGap or private insurance, to keep your healthcare budget on track.

            Understand the Balance

            Your healthcare costs in retirement will probably not be evenly spaced each month, from the moment that you retire onward. Instead, you will probably experience what most retirees do: an increase in healthcare expenses the older that you get.

            This makes it a little tricky to plan for retirement healthcare costs, since you won’t be feeling the pain of increased medical bills until later on. When planning your monthly income, you’ll want to find a strategy that allows you to set funds aside for a healthcare rainy day fund. Sure, you may not need it until you’re a decade or more into your retirement, but when the rainy day comes, you’ll be thanking yourself for setting the funds aside.

            While the retirement healthcare question is multifaceted and there are certain unknowns that can’t be entirely accounted for, you can create a game plan that allows you to save to the best of your ability and that provides a cushion for those unseen needs that may arise. Your financial advisor can provide a wealth of knowledge and advice to help you establish a financial strategy for meeting you healthcare needs in retirement.

            Want to learn more about retirement planning and the financial advising process? Check out our Ask an Advisor section to hear our CFPs answer questions from readers like you — or submit a question of your own for us to cover in a later segment!

              Vetting Charities for Holiday Giving

              The holiday season is the season of giving. You already know that there are many tax-smart ways to give, whether by giving directly to family members or establishing financial resources for future generations. Another way to give this season is to support charitable organizations you believe in.

              When you maximize your donation dollars, you are able to give by giving smartly. Plus, you can feel good about your decision to donate when you know where your money is going. Today we’re going to talk about what makes a charity qualified and legitimate, and how you may be able to use your IRA and required minimum distribution (RMD) to donate. 

              Ensure the Charity You’re Donating to is Qualified

              Generally speaking, charitable giving is tax deductible. But there are two important caveats to this statement

              1. The organization itself must be identifiable by IRS guidelines to be a qualified charitable organization. To determine whether charity is qualified, you can refer to the official IRS website, which outlines what qualifies an organization per section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Or use the charity look-up tool the IRS offers. The most common organizations people donate to are nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status or religious organizations, but there are many other kinds of charitable organizations that qualify for tax deductible giving. 

              2. The amount given will determine the deduction. You need to consider the amount of your donation when weighing tax benefits — the federal standard deduction has risen in recent years to $12,200 per individual ($24,400 for married filing jointly), thus changing your ability to itemize vs. take the standard deduction.

              Vet Charities for Legitimacy  

              The last thing you want is to be tricked or scammed when you are trying to give to charity. If the organization meets the IRS requirements for tax-deductible giving, you should also ensure their purpose is important to you — and that they actually deliver on their stated purpose.

              If they are a legitimate organization, a relatively simple investigation on the organization, their leadership, allocation of their funds, and the impact they have made on their area of purpose should yield verifiable information to better inform you. You also may find helpful online tools and forums that are designed to vet charities if you’re looking for even more information. 

              Another Option: Donating with IRA Funds

              It’s important to note that you may have the option to give through your IRA by making a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), which doubles as a way to meet your RMD if you are older than 70 ½. As of 2017, federal law states that up to $100,000 of your RMD can be given directly to charity without being taxed.

              If you want to make a QCD, you will have to make sure your IRA is either a Traditional IRA, Inherited IRA (including inherited Roth IRA), SEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA. There are other considerations, such as ensuring that you are no longer gathering contributions from employers and other limitations. You can learn more about charitable giving through IRAs here.

              Ready to move forward with your holiday giving plan? At Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group, we can assist you with your charitable giving questions and help you to make sense of how they fit into your financial strategy. Contact us today to learn more about our financial planning services!

                ‘Tis the Season of Giving! Consider These 3 Ways that Giving Makes a Difference for Your Finances

                As the holidays approach, you may find yourself feeling generous. And if you haven’t quite caught the spirit of giving, some reasons to consider financial gifing this season include:

                • It might help you to organize your finances
                • It’s a way to teach your children and others around you to live generously
                • It can make you feel good and increase your happiness
                • You can make a tangible difference in the life of your family member or friend who receives your gift — or those helped by a charity you support. 

                If these reasons aren’t enough to spark your desire to give this season, you may be interested to know that that financial gifting is a possible way to reduce your taxable income and thereby pay less in taxes next year. 

                When you’re considering financial gifting, it’s important to note some potential implications about the different kinds of gifts you give this holiday season. Read on to learn about a few ways you might decide to give:

                1. Giving Financially to Individual Family Members 

                Giving to family members is a great way to be generous this holiday season, especially as your children start families of their own, or your grandchildren head to college and start new jobs. According to the IRS, a gift is considered “any transfer to an individual, either directly or indirectly, where full consideration is not received in return.”

                For gift giving to family members or to any other individual, gifts that do not exceed $15,000 per person, per year are not taxable as they do not exceed the annual exclusion for the calendar year. If your gift to a family member is going to exceed the annual exclusion, you will need to fill out some forms and have handy the documents that will help you complete it, like copies of appraisals or documents regarding the transfer.

                Of course, these are just some of the tax implications for giving to family members or other individuals to be aware of, but there are other considerations like your own needs and desires for your ideal financial future. Perhaps for your particular financial situation, individual gift giving makes less sense than investments for grandchildren or even gifts to charitable organizations.

                To keep track of large financial gifts or how money gifted today impacts tomorrow’s retirement goals, you may want to enlist the help of a professional. Your financial advisor can help you break down your financial goals, navigate any necessary paperwork, and help you to prioritize spending in the short- and long-term.

                2. Investing in Your Family’s Future

                When it comes to individual financial gifts, you might also consider long-term savings for children and grandchildren. Some options include:

                • Establishing a trust
                • A 529 educational account
                • Gifting IRA earnings or savings bonds. 

                Establishing a Trust

                Trusts can be an ideal option for individuals who have a considerable amount of money to give or invest and want to generally maintain how the money is managed even posthumously. Establishing and putting money into a trust is relatively easy, but you have to make many decisions regarding trust management. These include:

                • Whether you will set up a single trust for multiple grandchildren or family members or separate trusts for individual beneficiaries
                • What type of trust to set up
                • When the funds will be released
                • How funds may be spent
                • Whether funds will be prevented from being released under certain circumstances
                • A trustee who will manage the assets and approve the release of funds

                Taxes on trusts are another important consideration, given that things can get a little complicated when there are multiple parties involved. Your financial advisor is an ideal partner in sorting out these details and making an educated decision about gifting a trust.

                Educational Savings (529 Accounts)

                If education is important to you and your family and you like the idea of paying minimal taxes on your gift, a 529 account may be an option for financial gifting to a child or grandchild. Putting money aside in a 529 account ensures your beneficiary will use the money for education and allows your money to grow tax-free.

                There are different kinds of plans to take advantage of, and different states mandate differently on these types of accounts, so consult your financial advisor for guidance on what kind of 529 options are ideal for your circumstances. 


                Some people prefer to give the gift of an investment. Savings bonds are a popular vehicle for this type of financial gifting.

                If you decide to purchase a savings bond or give one as a gift, the interest earned on it will be taxable. The listed sole owner of the bond will be responsible for paying the taxes on the interest, so if you gift a bond to a child or grandchild, you can either retain sole ownership, add them as a co-owner, or make them the sole owner.

                There are some options regarding when you pay the taxes on this interest. Your financial advisor can provide you with options, as well as guidance on choosing an ideal payment option.

                The Bottom Line

                These are a couple options and tax implications for long-term savings for grandchildren. Conversations with your financial advisor, CPA, and the parents of your grandchildren are important ones to have. Ideally, you want to do what’s best for your own finances as well as make a positive impact on your family members’ financial futures.

                3. Giving to Charitable Organizations

                Another option for giving over the holiday season is charitable giving. After all, this is an important season for the non-profits and other 501(c)(3) organizations in your life. Why not give them a financial boost to put them ahead in the new year?

                There are a few important details regarding how you write off charitable giving for tax purposes, which your financial advisor or CPA can help you to understand. One important thing to remember is that 2017 tax reform has increased the standard deduction, which has changed the way people are able to deduct from their taxes for their charitable giving.

                You have some options for planning your charitable giving in order to make a difference to the organizations you support and your own tax bottom line. It’s important to discuss this with your financial professionals in order to get the clearest picture of how you can proceed with charitable giving this holiday season and beyond.

                Make the Most of Your Financial Gifts

                If you are looking for ways to give a little and improve your personal tax strategy at the same time, you have quite a few options. The choices listed here are certainly not exhaustive! 

                If you desire to pursue financial gifting this holiday season and aren’t quite sure where to start, our team of CFP® professionals at Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group are ready to help you find the smartest way to give. Contact us for a consultation or assessment today! 

                  Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program.  Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.

                  Ask David: What Steps can I Take Today to Impact My Retirement Plan?

                  It seems like there’s a day or a week or even a month that’s dedicated for some well-intentioned cause or another. Sometimes, these dedications are helpful reminders to check up on important issues. For example, did you know that October was National Financial Planning Month?

                  Even if you missed checking in on your retirement plans during the month of October, it’s never too late to get to work on your retirement planning! Today, we’re talking to our own David Hemler about some steps that you can take today to make a positive impact on your retirement plans for tomorrow. So grab a cup of coffee and read on to learn David’s three steps to take today!

                  Step One: Take Charge Today

                  Are you preparing for your financial future? If you’re not, then who is? It’s time to take charge of your financial life goals.

                  It’s not just a cliché when you hear the words, “the sooner, the better”. But some things may be too overwhelming to tackle all at once, procrastination sets in and time flies past our best intentions.

                  As a professional advisor, I spend a good portion of my work hours guiding folks in their journeys to define a path that will help them strive to get to a day when they will no longer have to work for money. Ahh yes, that day when we get to choose what pleasures we want to enjoy!

                  Can you see it? How are you going to get there?Start. Saving. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme. Start with taking just a share off the top — enough to make it hurt a wee bit. This is a good beginning. As time moves along, investors who make this choice and commit to their savings plans find the pain of discipline far outweighs the pain of regret. 

                  Step Two: Educate Yourself on Financial Planning for Retirement

                  Next, consider reading a book or two written by a successful author on the subject of financial success planning. I can recommend a couple: if you email me, I’ll be happy to share a few titles with you!

                  The point is to get educated and get some help. Maybe you’re the DIY type and the help you need is self-help because you enjoy working toward this important effort. Or perhaps that’s not your cup of tea. In this case, find a guide to help you.

                  There are many well educated financial professionals all around you — probably way more than you realize. Find a trusted advisor to help you navigate the retirement planning process. There’s no shame in getting help! In fact, even professional athletes at the top of their games have coaches and guides to strengthen their efforts. 

                  Step Three: Establish a Long-Term Plan

                  If you start with these simple beginning steps, you will be on your way to creating a solid retirement plan. And remember, your plan doesn’t have to be over-the-top complicated to get you where you want to go.

                  I’m fond of reminding myself that I don’t have to eat the whole elephant at once, but rather, one bite at a time. When it comes to retirement planning, this mentality is key. You don’t need a complete financial solution for your entire life circumstance right out the gate; although for most investors, having that long-term plan should eventually be an end-game goal.

                  For now though, ask yourself, “do I know how much money I’ll need saved when I choose to no longer work for my money?” Get the answers unique to you and your financial situation. A skilled financial professional can help you discern that basic financial planning answer in about fifteen minutes or so, simply by guiding you through a conversation about your views and life goals.

                  Want to learn and know more about retirement planning? Have another burning financial question that you’d love to see answered here? Reach out to David at 410-871-4040 or fill out a contact form today!

                    Estate Planning 101

                    Estate planning is an important cornerstone of your financial plan. While it may not be the most pleasant topic to think about, at some point or another you need to consider what will happen to your assets after you’re gone.

                    For some, estate planning can seem like a mysterious part of the financial planning puzzle, but when you break estate planning into its individual parts, it’s not all that difficult to navigate. Read on to learn more about estate planning basics and how you can ensure that your legacy is carried out as you intend it.

                    Take Stock of Your Assets

                    Before you start planning where to allocate your assets, you need to know what you have. Gather information about your tangible assets — things like property and valuable — and intangible ones — such as bank accounts and investments — that will be passed down.

                    This may take some time and careful research to ensure that you account for each and every asset that your family will need to work through later on. However, your diligence in tracking down these details now will save your family members big headaches later on.

                    After you’ve gathered details regarding your inheritable assets, you need to value them. Some assets, like your home, can be professionally valued through an appraisal. Other assets may need to be valued in terms of how valuable they’ll be to those who inherit them. A financial advisor can help you to determine how to value your assets and give you some guidelines for making a realistic valuation of your assets.

                    Build Your Team

                    You probably don’t relish the idea of working through your estate plan alone. Even though it’s not the most complex task, there are plenty of places where you’ll have questions or want some guidance in choosing between alternatives.

                    For this reason, it’s important to build an estate planning team that can give you the professional guidance you need to create a workable estate plan. Ideally, you’ll want to work with a lawyer to handle legal documents, such as your will and trust paperwork.

                    You will also want to work closely with your financial advisor throughout the estate planning process. Your advisor can help you to determine your best course of action regarding asset allocation, valuation, and beneficiaries. They can also work with your family members to help them understand your plan and carry it out when the time comes.

                    While your financial advisor and lawyer may never actually meet in the same room, you’ll want to keep lines of communication open with both parties, in case there are questions or concerns about some matter of your estate plan.

                    You will also want to keep your family members looped into your estate planning activities. After all, they are the ones who will be responsible for enacting your plan later on. When your loved ones feel included in the estate planning process and know the key players in helping you to establish it, they will feel some level of peace when they work with your team in the future.

                    Get Your Documents in Order

                    There are a number of legal documents you need in place as you establish your estate plan. You may already have some of these, while others will need to be created during your estate planning process.

                    You will want to gather information about your assets — things like bank account numbers, titles and deeds, investment information, and so forth — as you work through the asset and valuation process. You will also need documents like your will, life insurance information, and guardianship papers for you children (if applicable).

                    Finally, you’ll work on items like trust paperwork, medical care directives, and financial power of attorney as you go through the financial planning process. You will want to carefully consider the individual(s) who you’ll use as your agent(s) in financial affairs, since they will have the authority to make important decisions, should you become medically unable to do so.

                    Keep Track of Beneficiaries

                    As you work through your estate planning, you will need to designate beneficiaries for all of your assets. Many items, like your life insurance and retirement accounts, will already have space for this information included in your paperwork when you create an account or make updates.

                    It’s important to carefully consider your beneficiaries and to review them from time to time. There could be family changes that require you to assign new beneficiaries to some or all of your assets and you need to keep this in mind if you go through a major family event, like a remarriage. If you fail to update your beneficiaries, your assets could end up never going to the person(s) you intend.

                    Additionally, it’s important to always provide beneficiary information for your accounts. You never want to leave this section of paperwork blank. In the event of your untimely passing, an account without a beneficiary is subject to state laws to determine its allocation. This may or may not work in favor of your loved ones’ best interests, so it’s best to make the designation yourself.

                    Prepare to Make Adjustments

                    Just as with your retirement planning, you need to go into estate planning with the understanding that your first plan will not be your only one. Times change. Family relationships go through ups and downs. Markets fluctuate. There’s simply no way to draw up a totally future-proofed estate plan.

                    Your financial advisor can give you the guidance you need to establish your estate plan today and the foresight you need to stay on track for the future. Perhaps you’ll forget about some details, like updating beneficiaries as your family grows and you gain new grandchildren, but your advisor can provide timely reminders.

                    Estate planning isn’t the most exciting activity, but it’s a necessary step for protecting your loved ones and your assets after you pass away. That’s why it’s a good idea to choose a trusted advisor who knows you personally and has your best interests at heart.

                    Here at Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group, our team of experienced CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals can handle your estate planning needs with compassion. If you are curious about the estate planning process or need to make updates to an existing plan, contact us today to learn more about our estate planning services!