Posts Taged financial-planning

3 Financial Planning Steps

Organization, efficiency and discipline can be considered as three primary steps of financial planning. Organization is knowing where your money comes and goes. An efficient portfolio means working towards a better chance of profits, and discipline can help keep you on the right track.

Statistics tell us that the average credit card debt per person – including all people who pay off their cards each month – is over $5,500. Many folks struggle to handle the big picture of their personal financial world.

If you are one of these folks, you can learn what the steps of financial planning are and even get started today, either on your own, using resources on the Internet, or by hiring a financial professional.

An important first step of financial planning is organization. You can work towards your financial goals in life by organizing your finances and understanding money flows, both inflows (like your paycheck) and outflows (bills).

If your financial life isn’t terribly complicated, an Excel spreadsheet may suit your needs perfectly. However, using something a little more sophisticated, such as Mint, Quicken or other online budgeting tools may become necessary, as you and your financial life continue to evolve.

There are a million ways to approach organization, but the “how?” may be nowhere near as important as “when?” In some cases, the answer to when you should start organizing is now.

Whatever method you choose, once you set up the system you can enter historic information as far back as 12 months (if you have it). This may require digging out the old bank, investment and credit card statements. It may not be as intimidating as it sounds. In today’s connected world, you might be able to simply download the transaction history from your bank, investment or credit card companies, and import it directly into your Mint or Quicken file. You still need to go through things, but much of the data entry may already be done for you.

If you don’t have the time, the facility or the patience to enter this historic information, don’t give up. Tracking your information from today forward can be valuable as well. Think about it: In a year, you’ll have 12 months’ worth of history in your system.

As you generate this history (or review the old history), patterns of your spending habits can emerge. Perhaps you spend much more on golfing than you realized, or maybe your home decorating expenses were greater than your mortgage payments over the last year. Each of these patterns can help you to understand where your money goes. Once you know that, you can begin to control it.

Quicken or also organizes your investments, which takes us to the next step: efficiency.

If you have a couple of old 401(k)s from former employers, you can look at all investment accounts from a top-down perspective, using these tools. For many folks, it may be the first time you see all your investments in one place.

This is when you can adjust your allocation for a more comprehensive portfolio. You might think your investments were diverse enough but find that you bought the same investments in multiple accounts. Possible future allocations may include spreading your money across many different broad asset classes.

Now we’re into the place where the rubber meets the road. After you organize everything in an efficient manner, you should work on maintaining this organization over time. This may require some level of discipline.

You may need to balance your checkbook at the end of the month and keep your information up-to-date when you receive the credit card and investment statements. The automated tools can help a lot, but you might not want to just let it go on autopilot. You may decide to sort through the information to understand what’s going on with your cash flow and investments. You might need to change your spending habits or rebalance your investments if they get out of line.

But what takes the most discipline may be maintaining your investment allocation as planned when the market is very volatile. You might be tempted to pull out of the market after a big loss or start buying in when the market has a huge run-up. Keeping you disciplined is quite often the major benefit of having a financial professional, who can help you maintain the proper long-term perspective of your investment allocation and not let emotions rule the actions.




Important Disclosures

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. No investment strategy or risk management technique can guarantee return or eliminate risk in all market environments.

This article was prepared by AdviceIQ.

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12 Estate Planning Must-Dos

Many of you already have estate documents, probably executed many years ago. You need an estate attorney to look over your documents every 10 years or so. Here are a dozen points to review.

  1. Do you have a will and powers of attorney for health care and property? These are part of every complete estate plan. With health-care power, you choose an agent to act on your behalf if you become unable to make your own decisions. With durable power for property, you select an agent to act if you are incapacitated and can’t sign a tax return, make investment decisions, make gifts or handle other financial matters. Make sure your health-care power addresses the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This governs what medical information doctors can release to someone other than the patient.
  1. Do you need to change any beneficiaries, executors, trustees, guardians or others named in your documents? Are all still living? Can someone you recently found fill a role better?
  2. Any updates needed to addendums to your will that specify who gets what of your personal property? Often I read wills that mention addendums for personal property and the addendums don’t even exist.
  3. Did you move to a different state since the execution of your estate documents? If so, seek out a local estate attorney to check any legal differences for planning between your old and new states.
  4. Do you still need your trust documents or can you decant, which allows you to change some provisions? Consider this technique of emptying the contents of an irrevocable trust into another newly created trust if you are unhappy with your irrevocable trust. Not all states allow decanting. You may also want to discuss possibly moving assets out of a living trust (where a trustee holds them, a technique sometimes used to avoid probate) and holding them in the name of an individual. This discussion will weigh the income tax benefits of a step-up in cost basis, the original cost of an asset, versus other reasons to keep the trust. (“Step up” means that the cost basis of an asset resets to the fair market value of the security as the date of the holder’s death – potentially a much higher value than when they bought the security.) The higher the cost basis, the less capital gains tax your heirs pay when they sell the asset. You may also want to see whether you need an irrevocable life insurance trust, a device once used to move assets, typically life insurance, out of a taxable estate. Now that thresholds are higher – individuals can leave $12.92 million in 2023 ($12.06 million for 2022) and married couples $25.84 million ($24.12 million for 2022) tax-free – you may not need to move assets. Also check when your life insurance expires. Consider how long to keep it if you think you might outlive the policy.
  1. Have your children passed the ages specified in a children’s trust (in which you designate money for such specific purposes as education, home down payments or weddings once the kids reach stipulated ages)? If your estate documents call for a trust to give children access to money at certain ages after you die, you may be able to delete that language if the kids are older than the specified ages.
  2. What happens if one of your kids gets divorced? A trust can help you protect assets for your child or grandchild.
  3. Do you have heirs with special needs? Don’t assume typical estate documents help such an heir. Seek out a financial advisor and attorney who specialize in this planning.
  4. Check beneficiary designations on brokerage accounts, insurance policies and retirement accounts. Anybody you don’t want there?
  5. If you filled out a brokerage account application (or any beneficiary designation), understand the firm’s policy when one beneficiary dies before the others. If you want the share of the assets to pass by blood line – to the deceased’s children, for example – you may need to put in language specifying per stirpes (distribution of property when a beneficiary with children dies before the maker of the will). Otherwise, the remaining listed beneficiaries may simply divide the assets.
  1. Often a parent names a child on a bank account so the child can access or use the money if the parent can’t act. Understand that if you name your child as a joint owner on an account, the money passes to your child no matter what your will dictates. The child splitting the money with someone else constitutes a gift, though one probably not subject to gift tax now that gifts of less than $5.34 million aren’t taxed. Still, think carefully so you keep the family peace.
  1. Do your heirs know where to find all your important information? Let someone know the password to the app where you keep all your passwords – you must remember digital assets now, too.





Important Disclosures:

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

This article was prepared by AdviceIQ.

LPL Tracking #1-05350101

A Fall Financial Checklist

For many, autumn is the best time of year. The return of cool breezes, comforting foods, and pumpkins can be invigorating. It’s also a bookmark of sorts, especially for your finances—a perfect time to take stock of your spending after the summer’s over to see what lies ahead. These tips can help you make simple, sensible choices and take action to make the most of your money, from your food choices to your financial options to protecting your most valuable assets.

Bask in the Bounty

Autumn is all about fresh food, and you can get more bang for your buck with these tips.

Fall Fruits & Veggies:

This one’s all about supply and demand: you can usually get good prices on in-season fruits and veggies because they’re so plentiful. So stock up on autumn produce like apples, beets, pomegranates, squashes, and sweet potatoes, to name a few. They’ll be bursting with flavor and health benefits—especially at the local farmers market—without busting your budget.

Store Up Soup:

Speaking of fresh vegetables, they go really well in soup, another fall favorite—making it easier for you to maximize the produce you buy. A bonus for your bottom line: soup also freezes quite well. It can last up to three months frozen, so you can make one large pot of it and feed your family for weeks.

Focus on Financials

It’s been said that planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now, and that’s especially true when it comes to your end-of-year finances.

Work Benefits:

Company benefits often begin on January 1, so pay close attention to your company’s open enrollment period to determine the best insurance option for you and your family. Consider benefits like a flexible savings account (FSA), a health savings account (HSA), and a 401(k) (especially if there’s company matching) to determine what would best suit your family. Two important things to keep in mind: just because your benefit choices worked for you this year, it doesn’t mean they will next year, and for an existing FSA, make sure to use your money if there’s an end-of-year deadline! Finally, any company-sponsored discounts (such as a weight-loss program or gym membership) need to be submitted by the end of the year, so make sure to submit the paperwork to cash in.


If you have kids in college, look ahead to the spring semester. Granted, you may think “They just went back to school,” but now’s the time to focus on financial education planning. Keep an eye out for federal financial aid (FAFSA) application deadlines (which usually open in early fall). Spring tuition for many colleges can be due as early as November and as late as January, so mark it on your calendar and plan accordingly—especially with holiday bills also on the horizon—to avoid getting docked with late fees.


Things change all the time in the finance world, especially taxes and laws, and these tend to go into effect in the new year. If you’re looking ahead with your other investments, such as your stock portfolio or loans, be well educated about your options and about what’s happening—and expected to happen—going forward. The best course of action? Touch base with your financial advisor, who can steer you on the path that’s right for you.

Holiday Shopping:

Many times, I’ve paid the price (literally and figuratively) for waiting until December to take care of my holiday shopping—when you’re desperate, stock is depleted, and the calendar is dwindling down, you’ll tend to pay full price. But if you’re smart about it, you can plan ahead and enjoy the holiday rush.

During the next several weeks between now and Black Friday be intentional as you prepare for what you want to buy—and what you want to pay for it. Scour the internet, and keep a spreadsheet of prices; that way, you’ll get a sense of what you can expect to spend and what’s a good deal. Also, be sure to set aside a little money out of every paycheck for the holidays—or do what I do: know your calendar. If you get paid biweekly, two months out of the year have an extra payday; October is one such month this year. See if you can dedicate part or all of your extra check to your holiday shopping, which will really help when the January credit card bills arrive.

Don’t Wait for Winter

Take advantage of the lovely autumn weather to cut down your bills—and prevent costly ones.


Fall is a great time to get your home ready inside and out for winter, which can offer big cost savings. Cleaning out your gutters in late autumn, when all the leaves have fallen, can help you avoid drainage trouble in winter, when it might also be difficult to remedy the situation. If your driveway or sidewalk needs repair, do it now before rain and ice seep into the cracks and holes, potentially causing costly underlying damage. And speaking of ice, if you live in a cooler climate, make sure that you remove outdoor hoses, turn off your water supply to outdoor spigots, and drain the spigots; otherwise, when the nighttime temperatures creep toward freezing later in the season, you may find yourself in a world of financial hurt when your pipes freeze.

Inside, you can cut down on future bills by ensuring your home is warm during the coming months. Have your furnace (and fireplace, if you have one) serviced and change its filter so it’s at peak capacity, and check your windows and doors for drafts and cracks, sealing where needed.


Much like you can with your home, taking necessary steps to winterize your car now can save you financial headaches down the (icy) road. Check your antifreeze level and temperature, tread life and balance of your tires (which should also be rotated), and the status of your wipers and windshield fluid. Have your heater and defrosters checked to make sure they are functioning well, and make sure you have an emergency kit.


LPL Tracking #1-05175159

Get to Know the Rich Relationship Between Your Financial and Social Life

When you think of your financial wellness, you are likely not considering how it may affect your social life or vice versa. While many factors may influence your financial situation, social influence is the component that is given the least attention. Both those who struggle with their finances and those with a more comfortable financial standing may experience changes to their financial wellness based on their social life, so it is crucial to understand the correlation.

Loneliness May Affect Your Financial Health Along With Your Physical Health

The American Psychological Association has made correlations between loneliness and increased levels of inflammation in the body and stress hormones. This may lead to adverse effects, such as an increased risk of cardiac disease and arthritis. Poor health may lead to more costly medical expenses and more time off of work. This expense increase and a loss of work time may eventually lead to problems with your finances.1

Your Social Circle May Lead to Increased Spending

Sometimes an active social life may lead to increased spending, sometimes even more than you can comfortably afford. If your social circle is comprised of friends that constantly spend outside of their means, you may find yourself mimicking their behavior. This may include making large purchases on impulse that may affect your future financial goals.2

Social Pressure May Lead to Poor Financial Decisions

No matter your social circle, fitting in may seem like the most important thing. Unfortunately, trying to impress friends by spending more than you have or making an investment you know may not be ideal may lead to poor financial choices and consequences. Instead of putting yourself under financial strain to fit in with a specific group, it may be better to reevaluate the relationship.1

Having a Strong, Supportive, Social Circle May Help Improve Your Finances

While some aspects of your social life may lead to possible negative consequences, there are some instances where your social life may improve your financial outlook. Being part of a supportive social circle and having friends that you depend on will improve your quality of life and may also improve your financial health. Supportive friends will likely provide you with time and other resources that may help you spend less. This could include lending you money at a lower interest rate or letting you borrow tools, or helping you complete a project instead of paying to have it done.1

Your social life may affect your financial goals in a way that you may not have considered. Take a good look at your social circle and lifestyle to see if it benefits your financial future or if maybe now is a good time to make some changes to prevent it from negatively affecting your financial goals.

Important Disclosures:
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
This article was prepared by WriterAccess.
LPL Tracking #1-05370165
1 Financial Well-Being and Social Relationships Closely Linked, Gallup,
2 Americans unhappy with family, social or financial life are more likely to say they feel lonely, Pew Research Center,

Finances and Fireworks: 5 Strategies to Help Preserve and Celebrate Your Financial Freedom

Your finances are probably one of the last places you want to experience fireworks—unless they are celebratory. With new year’s resolutions firmly in the rearview mirror, the summer months allow you to revisit your financial goals and evaluate your progress. This Independence Day may be a good time to take stock of your path toward financial independence with the help of these five tips.

Set Goals

If you do not already have a plan for where you would like to be in five years or more, now is the time to create one. If you are renting, do you want to own a home? Are you hoping to advance in your career or have more children? Having broad goals may give you something to work toward—and working backward from these goals may give you options for the direction you prefer.

Pay Off “Bad” Debt

Not all debt is created equal—and abiding by a strict debt-free lifestyle could leave you unable to purchase a home, go to college, or make other major expenses.

However, some debt—including most credit card debt and paycheck advance loans—comes with high-interest rates and strict repayment terms. The more you waste on interest, the less you have to pay the principal. Decreasing your interest payments may help you get ahead of this “bad” debt for good. For example, you may accelerate the payoff or transfer a balance from a high-interest card to a lower-interest card.

Automate Your Savings

One of the most solid pieces of financial advice is to “pay yourself first.” By having 401(k) or Health Savings Account funds automatically withdrawn from your paycheck before it even hits your bank account—or setting up an auto-transfer from checking to savings—you may adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to your savings. Over time, you may be surprised at how quickly these funds accumulate when they are unavailable to spend in your checking account.

Balance Your Investment Portfolio

If it has been a while since you looked at your investments in detail, now may be a good time to evaluate them. As some investments increase in price while others may remain stable or even fall, your overall asset allocation may shift to favor those higher-priced assets.

Consider a sample portfolio of 50% U.S. large-cap stocks, 30% international, and 20% bonds. If international stocks have a particularly good year, they may make up 40 or 45% of your portfolio, allocating lower percentages to the other two components. For this example, selling some international stocks and buying more bonds or large-cap stocks may help rebalance your portfolio.

Educate Yourself

Financial practices, rules, and regulations are always changing—from individual retirement accounts (IRA) and 401(k) limits to your ability to deduct certain expenses. No one knows everything there is to know about personal finance. However, keeping abreast of major changes may give you the necessary insights.

Being informed may help you decide when to change your savings rate, rebalance your investments, take a risk on a rental property, or invest in your small business.

Important Disclosures:
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial professional prior to investing.
Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. No investment strategy or risk management technique can guarantee return or eliminate risk in all market environments.
Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.
Rebalancing a portfolio may cause investors to incur tax liabilities and/or transaction costs and does not assure a profit or protect against a loss.
This article was prepared by WriterAccess.
LPL Tracking #1-05370157

4 Sandwich Generation Survival Tips

Members of the “sandwich generation”—those taking on the care of their aging parents while also raising children or financially supporting adult children—may feel stressed and overextended. Most current sandwich generation members are Gen X or millennials. Some are still dealing with their student loan debt as they try to help their children navigate college selection and research assisted-living facilities for their parents.

Fortunately, there are steps you may take to mitigate these stresses and develop a strong action plan. Here are four tips to help sandwich generation members survive and thrive during this season of life.


No one handles it all alone. One way to manage stress involves focusing on the most important tasks and letting others slide. For example, if you are deciding whether to spend the next two hours mopping your kitchen floor or working on a time-sensitive task for your job, the highest priority is likely to be your job.

Other decisions might be more complex. Having a broad idea of what value to place on various categories such as work, marriage, parenting, social obligations, volunteering, and household tasks may help you make prioritized choices.

Delegate and Put Others to Work

As more tasks demand attention, some may need to be dropped, and others delegated. This situation is where prioritization comes in. Being in the sandwich generation means having others—including those you care for—available to help. You may want to delegate certain household chores to your teenagers, ask your spouse to take on responsibilities you have previously handled, or lean on siblings to help with your parents.

Consider an In-Law Suite

Not every adult child wants to share a home with their parents, even in a healthy relationship. However, an in-law suite may be worth considering for many families when minor children and aging parents require care and oversight. With this strategy, you have your entire family under one roof instead of being spread too thin.

Having an in-law suite as a separate living space for your parents might lower friction. They may provide extra help when needed—supervising homework, shuttling teens to practice, helping with meals, and taking on other household tasks. You are also close enough to assist your parents when they need help and have the opportunity to be the first to notice when they begin to need a higher level of care.

Hire Help When Necessary

If you struggle to finish your to-do list each day, evaluate what tasks are good for hired help to perform. You may benefit from dog walkers, lawn care workers, and house cleaners. There are meal preparation services, nannies, and drivers. A wide range of workers may take on duties that would otherwise fall to you.

The expansion of the app-based gig economy has made it even easier to find reliable workers. Perhaps you want a seasonal deep-cleaning of your home or are looking for a long-term childcare, pickup arrangement. If the budget allows, you might be able to find the help you need.



Important Disclosures:
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This article was prepared by WriterAccess.
LPL Tracking #1-05370157

Small Business Owners: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Financial Independence

Being a small business owner can be rewarding but also may bring a lot of stress. You may be experiencing the pressures of trying to grow your company while providing a solid future for your employees. On top of all that, you will also need to focus on building financial independence for yourself and for your business. There are many paths to financial independence; below are a few directions to get you started.

Optimize Your Current Assets

One of the first steps toward financial independence is optimizing your current assets. This could take the form of increasing the profitability of your business by increasing your marketing, reducing your current costs and expenses, finding ways to reduce your tax burden, or continuing your education. You will need to take an inventory of your current assets and expenses and develop a strategic plan to optimize these factors and help your company reach its potential.1

Pay Down Debt

There are two primary types of debt: productive and reductive. Productive debt is debt that helps nurture your financial growth and puts you on the path toward financial freedom. Reductive debt, on the other hand, is debt spent on items that will depreciate in value and not provide boosts to revenue or income. It is similar to credit card debt, and eliminating or at least reducing it can put you and your business on a path toward overall independence. Assess all of your debt and develop a plan to pay it down aggressively until it is eliminated.1


Beef Up Your Savings

Savings are vital for yourself and your business since they will help you build wealth and financially prepare you for unexpected expenses. One way to increase savings as a business owner is to take advantage of your company’s savings plans. This can include IRAs, 401ks, and health savings accounts. You may also want to look at the various investment options for your personal and company funds that can create long-term returns.2


Give Your Insurance the Once Over

While growing company assets is crucial to achieving solid financing, so is insuring them. Without proper insurance, you risk losing what you’ve gained through your hard work. Review your insurance policies to make sure that you not only have all of your assets covered but that you have proper coverage limits. Policies you should consider reviewing include life insurance, disability, business, long-term care, health, and property and liability coverage.2

Follow the above tips to put yourself on the path to financial independence. Assistance from a financial professional can assist you in your wealth management efforts and overall financial goals.



Important Disclosures:
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) or insurance product(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial professional prior to investing or purchasing.
Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.
All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
This article was prepared by WriterAccess.
LPL Tracking #1-05370165
1 “The 4 x 4 Financial Independence Plan for Entrepreneurs,”,
2 “How Entrepreneurs Can Safeguard Their Financial Futures—And Work Toward Financial Freedom,” Forbes,

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! 

    Ask an Advisor – Nonqualified deferred compensation

    Different parts of the retirement planning equation have different benefits and are better suited to some individuals than others. To understand which parts are more ideal for your planning, it’s important to understand how different plans work.

    Today, we’re going to talk to advisor Paul Sorenson about nonqualified deferred compensation (NQDC) plans. He’ll tell us some of the important items to consider when looking at NQDC plans and how they might fit into an existing retirement plan.

    What are NQDC plans?

    Nonqualified deferred compensation plans (NQDC) are offered by employers to employees to set aside tax-deferred compensation to be paid out at a later date. For employees who maximize contributions to their current employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401(k) or 403(b) an NQDC represents an opportunity to save more for a future goal or retirement in a tax-deferred manner. Not all employees have the chance to participate in an NQDC plan but if you have the opportunity, it may be worth looking into this benefit a look to see if it might have a place as a part of your financial plan.

    Unlike other qualified employer-sponsored plans, such as a 401(k) or 403 (b), NQDC plans usually allow you to defer receiving a portion of your compensation over and above what is allowed into a qualified plan. When you elect to participate, you choose how much to defer to the plan and your employer then segregates the chosen potion of your salary into a trust which is invested on your behalf. Since the compensation is not paid to the employee currently it is not taxed until some future date when it is actually paid out to the employee. 

    There are many reasons employers offer NQDC plans but among the most common are their ability to help retain and attract talented employees as well as helping high-earning employees save enough of their current compensation to meet future needs. Typically high-earning employees are unable to save enough in a pre-tax 401k or 403b account to meet their retirement goals in full.

    NQDC participation: Some important items to consider

    NQDC plans can vary widely depending on what your employer offers but here are general items to think about:

    1. Do I currently contribute the maximum to my current employer-sponsored qualified plan such as a 403(b) or 401k? If you do not maximize contributions to your qualified accounts, you may want to consider this option first, since these plans are tax-deferred and protected under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
    2. Do I believe my employer is financially secure? Should your employer fall into bankruptcy, the funds in NQDC plans might be accessible to the organization’s creditors which could mean your deferred compensation might not be paid.
    3. Can I afford to set aside a portion of my compensation knowing that I won’t be able to access it until a date in the future? NQDC plans do not have loan provisions like other employer-sponsored plans, so accessing the compensation which has been set aside is not an option prior to the distribution date that has been set.
    4. How does participation in an NQDC plan fit with the rest of my financial plan? Every NQDC plan is different so it is important to understand the distribution options, investment options, vesting options and service requirements available to you and along with the risks. Once you understand these risks these details the NQDC should become a part of your full financial plan. 

    Every NQDC plan is different and it is important to understand the details and risks of your employer’s plan before choosing to participate. For many, NQDC plans present a possible option to ramp up their savings for the future, but for others investing in accounts outside of their place of employment or combining multiple savings vehicles might be a better option.

    No matter what you decide, working with a financial professional, like a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, who can help you understand the options and set a strategy to pursue your needs, wants and wishes for today and well into the future is a good place to start.

    If you are trying to understand how an NQDC plan might fit into your financial picture or are just ready to get started with a well thought out financial plan, contact Paul Sorenson at Puckett & Sturgill Financial group today!

      This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal or investment advice. If you are seeking investment advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material. 

      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!