Image of Planner with text Estate Strategies The Basics

Estate Strategies: The Basics

Determining how you will create a legacy for your family starts with creating an estate plan. This type of financial plan is key to protecting your assets for the future. Estate plans are not limited to those that are extremely wealthy. In fact, everyone can and should implement an estate strategy into their financial plan in order to figure out who will manage your affairs should you no longer be able to and who will become beneficiaries of your assets when you pass away. If you would like to learn more about the basics of implementing an estate strategy, keep reading!

  1. Determine Your Goals

With an estate strategy, you begin to outline your goals in a manner that will benefit your family later on. Eventually, you will  be leaving your assets behind, so the best thing you can do is have a plan for them. You will want to determine exactly who will be responsible for what, if your beneficiaries have or will have specific needs that you would like to take care of.

  1. Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that helps you prepare for the future when planning what  to  do with your financial affairs. Should  you become unable to manage your assets, the power of attorney that you elect has the legal right to determine what to do with your finances and make decisions on your behalf. Typically, power of attorneys are family members or even close friends that you grant the power to early on just in case you end up being unable to make conscious decisions. We highly recommend having a power of attorney involved with your estate plan, as it can be essential in the case of an emergency.

  1. Name Beneficiaries

We have mentioned the word “beneficiaries” in this article above, however, it is important to  know exactly what a beneficiary is and how you can name them. Should you have assets that require beneficiaries to be named, it is essential to make sure your assets are in good hands. Beneficiaries are those that inherit assets on your behalf. As you have worked hard for your assets, you want to make sure they end up in good hands, which can be a daunting, yet very personal task that should be taken on early to prevent any delays in planning.

While we know that estate strategies can be quite complex, they are great to have in place. Once your estate strategy is established, you will feel better knowing that should any kind of emergency take place leaving you unable to make decisions regarding your assets by yourself, that your assets and belongings are in the hands of the people you chose and according to the plan you put in place.

If you would like to learn more about estate planning, visit our website here. Should you have any questions  regarding your current estate strategy, we would be happy to help guide you along the way. Give us a  call at (301) 907-9790

Sources:

https://www.finra.org/investors/learn-to-invest/key-investing-concepts/estate-planning-power-attorney

Trusted Contacts: What You Should Know

In 2018, FINRA released a new rule regarding trusted contacts. This blog will go over what a trusted contact is and why you should have one in order to protect you from being exploited financially as well as from fraud. If you want to know more regarding trusted contacts and how they can benefit you, keep reading!

What is a trusted contact?

A “trusted contact person” is a person that you authorize your brokerage firm to contact in limited circumstances, such as if your broker has trouble reaching you or has a reasonable belief that your account may be exposed to possible financial exploitation. (FINRA)

A trusted contact person is different from a Power of Attorney. A trusted contact serves only as a point of contact. A trusted contact:

  • Has no authority over your money.
  • Cannot make decisions on your behalf.
  • Cannot access your account balance, account activity, or other account information.
  • Cannot change your account information, contact details, or other account elections. This includes nominating, updating, or removing other trusted contacts.

Why do you need a trusted contact?

Adding a trusted contact person to your brokerage account may help your brokerage firm respond to possible financial exploitation and fraud in your account and protect your account’s assets. For example, your brokerage firm may reach out to a trusted contact when:

  • Addressing possible financial exploitation or fraud in your account.
  • Confirming your current contact information, if your brokerage firm cannot reach you.
  • Confirming your current health status, if your brokerage firm suspects you are sick or suffering from diminished capacity.
  • Confirming the identity of any legal guardian, executor, trustee or holder of a power of attorney on your account. (Investor)

How can you add a trusted contact to your account?

Adding a trusted contact to your financial accounts is optional, but is a step we recommend as part of your overall wealth planning. The forms to designate a trusted contact are short and simple. Please contact us at 301-907-9790 to discuss adding a trusted contact to your accounts today.

Sources: https://www.finra.org/investors/insights/consider-adding-trusted-contact-to-your-account

https://www.investor.gov/introduction-investing/general-resources/news-alerts/alertsbulletins/investor-bulletins-30

5 Things to Know Before Investing

When it comes to investing, there are several things you need to be aware of before diving in. While investing your money is one of the best ways to increase your wealth, knowing what you are doing is the only way to be successful in investing. Keep reading to learn five things to know before investing your hard-earned money.

  1. Investment Has Risk

Ever heard of investment risk? If not, investment risk is real. As the stock market tends to fluctuate and is volatile, it is imperative to decide whether or not you want to invest short-term or long-term. The reason for this is because due to the stock market’s uncertainty, especially right now in the midst of this pandemic, investing short term might result in a larger return on an investment. However, with investing short term or long term, investors need to be aware of the inevitable fluctuation of the stock market.

  1. What Type of Account Do You Want to Open?

When investing, you have several types of accounts to choose from and eventually open. For starters, there are standard brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, education accounts, and even accounts for kids. These types of investment accounts rely on the status of the stock market, as most accounts do. It is crucial to do your research on each type of account and which you want to invest in. We would be happy to help you research and explore your options for investing.

  1. Options for Your Accounts

Do you know where you want to begin opening an account? Most investors opt for opening an investment account via a brokerage. However, you can also open investment accounts through banks. How you want to invest and where you want to invest will help guide you in finding the best place to open an account and begin investing.

  1. Research Taxes on Stocks

Taxes tend to give most people worry, but when it comes to stocks, they are not too big of a deal. In fact, the type of account you are wanting to open determines the taxes you’ll owe. If taxes are a concern for you when making the decision of whether or not to invest, your best bet is to talk to a financial professional to see how taxes will look for you should you open an investment account.

  1. Times Have Changed

Nowadays, your ability to research investment account types and stocks can be done at the palm of your hand. Using apps such as Acorn or Robinhood is a great way to begin investing. However, prior to signing up, you still need to properly research and be educated on this process.

 

Investing in general does not have to be hard, as long as you are in the correct mindset. The internet is a wonderful resource for information; however, we highly recommend you speak with a financial professional to go over what’s best for YOU personally. Ready to get started? Give us a call: 301-907-9790

Should I Withdraw Social Security Early Because of COVID-19?

For those approaching their retirement years, you are probably wondering whether or not right now is the appropriate time to start withdrawing Social Security benefits due to all that has happened as a result of COVID-19. While we know that this is an available option, we want you to know that there are other options besides claiming benefits early. Keep reading to learn why it may be best to refrain from claiming Social Security benefits early.

  1. Your Checks Will Be Smaller

Yes, you read that right. Claiming your benefits early might benefit you now, but your checks will end up being smaller each month the earlier you chose to claim them. In addition, if you are married, you may want to consider how this reduced benefit may also impact a survivor benefit for your spouse if you have a higher benefit (if you predecease him or her).

  1. 30% Cut

Right now, we know that you might be in a financially tough spot. However, it is important that you continue to delay taking out Social Security as long as you can. Your benefits can and will drop as much as 30% if you choose to withdraw early before full retirement age. If you continue to delay your benefits, your benefits will actually increase by 8% each year that you delay from full retirement age to the age of 70.  Furthermore, if you are still working and claim your benefit before full retirement age, you will be subject to an earnings test which may further reduce your monthly benefit.

  1. Social Security Will Not Run Out

A lot of people believe that eventually, Social Security will “run out.” This is false, as Social Security will not be going bankrupt. Social Security is funded almost completely by taxes that come from payroll. As it is frightening that so many jobs have been lost as a result of the coronavirus, it is key to remember that this will pass. The markets will stabilize eventually, but do not let its current status frighten you. As states continue to reopen, many people that were furloughed as a result of the coronavirus will be returning to work. Therefore, Social Security will continue to be funded.

In the middle of a global pandemic and health crisis, it can be easy to read into headlines and believe what you see. However, it is imperative that you stay informed and knowledgeable about the future of your finances. For advice on planning for you and your family’s financial future, we would be happy to schedule a time to talk with you. We are aware that this time has placed a lot of financial anxiety and burdens on individuals and their families, and we are here to help in any way we can. Contact us here or give us a call at (301) 907-9790.

Beneficiaries: What You Need to Know

Naming beneficiaries in your will and on your life insurance policy is an incredibly important decision, not only to ensure that the money and assets go where you want them to but also to ensure that the people you care about will be taken care of in the event of your death. While this might seem like a simple and straightforward process there are a few things you need to be aware of before making this decision:

Decide on Who
When picking your beneficiary (or beneficiaries) think about who most would be financially affected by your death. If you have a spouse or kids then the answer might seem obvious, but if you don’t, you will want to first consider anyone who might currently depend on you financially or who might incur the costs associated with your death. If you want to have multiple beneficiaries consider how you want the money to be split, and if you would want their estate to receive it instead in the event that they die before you. Try to be as specific as you can in your instructions. Additionally, you might want to consider naming a contingent beneficiary should your primary die or not want to accept the money.

Know the Difference between Revocable and Irrevocable
When putting your plan into place think about if you want each beneficiary to be revocable or irrevocable. An irrevocable beneficiary cannot be changed without their consent nor can they be denied pay-out from the plan. A revocable beneficiary gives you much more freedom to change it whenever you wish as you can do so without having to consult your current beneficiaries.

Keep Up to Date
Throughout your life your circumstances are likely to change many times, and it’ll be important to you to make sure your policies are kept up to date in order to reflect those changes. When you update your will make sure you also remember to update your life insurance policy as what’s written in that policy will override any different wishes you might have made in your will. To avoid any confusion, it’ll be much easier for you to update everything at the same time.

Know the Laws Where You Live
Knowing the laws of where you live, both state and federal, is important as it can affect who you will name and what will be paid out. Some states require you to name your spouse as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, so you would need their written consent in order to name someone else. If you plan on naming a minor as your beneficiary from your life insurance there might be laws in your state explicitly stating what a minor is allowed to receive. Additionally, consider if the beneficiaries you wish to name rely on some government benefits. If they do, naming them might affect them negatively financially as it could decrease or eliminate what benefits they are eligible for due to the added income from your estate.

Should You Cut the Cable Cord?

With the multitude of streaming platforms and places to watch shows and movies, is cable really necessary these days? As more and more people continue to cut the cord and get rid of standard cable, it may be time to jump on the bandwagon! Keep reading to learn why.

The cost of traditional pay-tv services is much more expensive than that of a streaming subscription service. In fact, instead of paying over $100 per month for your traditional cable package, today’s streaming services allow you to cut that cost in half (and sometimes even more). However, while the cost may seem low, you need to make sure you are not sacrificing quality for a price that seems cheaper than your current plan.

Now, typically, the newer subscription streaming services have less channels than what you might be used to. But were you really watching all of those channels? The answer is most likely not. With the recent streaming platforms, the available channels were curated based off what people watch the most, such as basic news channels, reality TV channels, HBO, etc. However, even after feedback of unhappy customers, these platforms still lack certain channels that could be an issue for some families and users.

One important detail to contemplate when deciding if cutting the cable cord is right for you is your internet. You need to make sure you are aware of how much your current pay-tv package is and if that includes internet. When cutting the cord, you might end up paying more for your internet service. If you are going to be streaming, you are going to need to pay for high-speed internet. With your current TV package, this is most likely already included in your price per month, so it is important to take note of if you will actually be paying less per month should you decide to cut the cable cord.

Another detail to take note of is that with a subscription streaming service comes a limitation of users. If you have a larger family, this could be an issue. Not only do these services have a cap on the number of people that can watch at a time and the number of TVs it can be set up on, but sometimes streaming TV can be unreliable. If your internet connection is slow, yet still expensive, cutting the cord may not be the best decision for you unless you prefer frozen and pixelated shows and movies.

As the world of streaming can be a bit deceiving, cutting the cable cord has been a game-changer for some, and it has been a bust for others. The decision of cutting the cable cord depends entirely on your family and financial situation. If you do not watch much TV, this could be a great option for you. If you are avid TV watchers, this may not be the best option for you. The best thing you can do is research each platform and compare the pricing and quality to what you currently have.

when is the right time to collect social security

When is the Right Time to Claim Social Security Benefits?

When is the right time to claim Social Security benefits? There is no clear-cut answer. The truth is, the answer can be different for everyone. Not everyone has the same needs for Social Security. While one family may rely heavily on their Social Security benefits, another may only need them for supplemental income during retirement. Regardless, money is money, and you want to make sure you are getting as much out of your benefits as you can. A whopping 96% of retirees don’t choose the right time to claim their benefits, and you want to be part of the smart 4% (United Income). Keep reading for our tips to consider when designing the perfect Social Security plan for your family.

 

How Early Can I Claim My Benefits?

You can claim your benefits as early as age 62. However, claiming your benefits this early results in receiving a benefit amount that is significantly lower than the amount you would receive if you waited until full retirement age to claim your benefits – 30 percent lower, to be exact (Forbes). For individuals turning 62 today, the full retirement age is 66 ½. So, if you can wait until after your 66th birthday, we recommend you do. Claiming your benefits early while you are still working can also create more taxes for you. With a proactive tax plan, you can minimize the taxes owed on your benefits. We can help you create a plan!

 

What If I Wait to Claim My Benefits?

If you wait until your full retirement age to claim your benefits, you will receive the full amount you’re entitled to. However, if you choose to wait even longer, you can increase your benefit amount by 8 percent with every year after your full retirement age, up to age 70. If you are in good health and expect to live a long, healthy retirement, then waiting until age 70 to claim your benefits might be the best option for you. However, if you have health issues, it might be more beneficial for you to claim your benefits at retirement age or even earlier. Social Security maximization is even more valuable for couples that are married, considering there is a 50% chance one will live to age 92, and a 25% chance that one will live to age 97 (Financial Planner LA). If you’re married, waiting is the better option.

 

How Can I Fully Maximize My Social Security Benefits?

If you don’t necessarily need your benefits for income, then you’re probably thinking about waiting until age 70 to claim your benefits. However, there is a way to maximize your benefits even further. That is, by investing them. For the average American, claiming benefits early and investing them is too risky. However, if you are near the top 1% of the richest Americans, you have the luxury of having a little fun with your benefits. If you claim benefits early and invest them, you could potentially accrue more assets for your retirement. However, you are playing with fire and you should be careful so as not to ruin your retirement security.

 

Whether you’re thinking about claiming your benefits early or waiting until you’re 70, we can help you make a decision! If you are interested in scheduling a complimentary personal review of your social security scenario including a free Social Security optimization report Contact Plotkin Financial Advisors today!

Is Retiring Abroad Right for You?

Have you ever thought about ditching the states and spending your retirement years abroad? If you haven’t, you may want to consider it—especially if you’re worried about having enough savings accumulated for the length of your retirement. You may even be able to retire sooner if you choose to relocate to a foreign destination.

Why is retiring abroad a great option for retirement? Well, simply because there are numerous cities around the world that offer a much cheaper cost of living than anywhere in the United States. There are more factors to consider, as well. Nearly 700,000 retirees today receive their Social Security benefits abroad, and they’re not sacrificing any comfort to do so. Keep reading to figure out if retiring abroad is right for you!

 

Going Digital

If you’re someone that prefers paper over the internet, then retiring abroad might not be the best choice for you. If you move overseas, you will need to embrace the internet in order to continue easy communication with the states. A big aspect of your life that would transfer to the web is your finances. Instead of corresponding with your bank via letters and physical statements, you will need to convert to online communication and digital statements. Before deciding to retire abroad, make sure you are comfortable with going digital.

Healthcare

Even if you’ve managed to stay out of the doctor’s office the majority of your life, that likely won’t continue as you grow older. It’s simply natural as we age to find ourselves visiting the doctor more often. Therefore, healthcare is a very important factor to consider when choosing to retire abroad. If you have a chronic condition and visit the doctor often, then retiring abroad may not be the smartest option for you. Medicare doesn’t extend outside of the U.S., so if you rely heavily on these benefits, you may want to stay in the states. However, there are foreign countries that offer suitable healthcare options for seniors. Do your research before choosing your destination.

Embracing Change

Are you someone that likes to experience new things, or are you set in your ways? If you lean towards the latter, then retiring abroad may prove difficult for you. Enjoying life in a foreign country requires an open mind that will allow you to embrace change. Depending on where you go, the majority of people may not speak English, which can be a huge adjustment for Americans, of course. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, then living abroad may be miserable for you. No amount of money saved is worth sacrificing your happiness!

These are just a few things to consider when deicing whether or not to retire abroad. Another huge aspect to consider is leaving your family. Bottom line is, there’s a lot to consider when making such a big move. However, many seniors thoroughly enjoy retiring abroad, and you could, too!

 

Do you have more questions about your retirement? We’ve for the answers! Contact Plotkin Financial Advisors today to see how we can make a difference for your financial life!

New Year? Get Your Taxes Ready

With the arrival of the New Year it’s time to start thinking about tax filing.  The federal government estimates that about 60% of taxpayers use paid preparers to calculate and file their returns.  It is never too early to start organizing your receipts, forms and other tax documents.  You and your tax preparer will benefit from having all the pertinent information in one place.  Remember, last year’s tax return can be a good tool for making sure you aren’t missing anything.   Even if you have an accountant that does most of the leg work for you, it is important that you know what is happening with your own tax planning.

Standard or Itemized

It is a good idea to understand the difference between taking the standard deduction and itemizing your deductions.  After the big changes in 2018 which increased the standard deduction, you and your accountant should consider whether you will be better off itemizing your deductions or sticking with the standard.  In 2019, the standard deduction for a single filer was $12,200 and if you’re married and filing jointly it increased to $24,400. You should discuss with your tax preparer all the possible deductible items you qualify for as well as any tax credits you might be eligible for.

Retirement and Estate Planning

Your tax planning should also take a look at the bigger picture to plan for your retirement and estate planning needs.  You want to make sure you are doing the most you can for your retirement funds by contributing as much as you can towards them.  Discussing your retirement funding with your investment advisor during your annual portfolio review is a great way to keep on track.  If your estate value is less than $11.4 million, you will benefit from the increased exclusion amount for federal estate taxes and your heirs will not need to worry about federal estate taxes after your passing.  However, if your estate is close to or more than $11.4 million you may want to consider gifting possibilities to avoid or lessen federal estate taxes.