On the 12 Days of Christmas

by Susan Hirshman

As I was driving the other day, the song … On the twelve days of Christmas my true love gave to me….came on the radio.  It made me think – who really is our true love and what is it really that we want.

Who really is our true love?  Well, I am not Dr. Phil but we must first start with ourselves. And what is it that we really want? From a financial perspective most people tell me it’s “ peace of mind.”

So I took a little literary license and came up with a new song for the holidays.

On the 12 days of Christmas I gave to me the best gift of all…peace of mind….

Here are twelve things you should think about and examine

Day 1 – Review your life insurance coverage.  Is it working as projected?  Is the pricing up to date? Is the coverage in line with your needs?

Day 2 – Examine (or create) your retirement goals.  Are the assumptions realistic?  Is it a priority?  Are you on track?

Day 3 – Look at your emergency savings.  Do you have any? Is it liquid? What do you want it to cover?

Day 4 – Review your disability coverage.  Do you have any?  Do you know what your policy covers, for example is it your own occupation or any occupation?

Day 5 – Go thru your estate plan (or lack thereof.) Are the guardians you named for your children still the right choice?  Is the executor the right choice?  Has your life circumstances changed and those changes are not reflected in your will?

Day 6 – Appraise your need for long-term care insurance.  What is your family’s health and longevity history?  Do you have family members that would be willing and able to take care of you in the manner that you choose?

Day 7  - Assess your diet. Studies have found that discrimination based on weight in the work place is more prevalent for women than men, especially white women in professional occupations.

Day 8:  Study your portfolio performance.  Are you an emotional investor? Do you end up buying high and selling low?  How long do you usually hold on to a mutual fund?

Day 9: Take a break from TV.  Reduce your TV watching by less than 8 hours a year and you can gain financial success. Snookie won’t be able to help you but by taking a few hours to get financially educated (read Does this Make My Assets Look Fat? A woman’s guide to finding financial empowerment and success), then take around 5 hours to get organized and develop a plan, and then take an hour 2x a year to review your plan.

Day 10 – Re-evaluate your umbrella policy.  Do you have one?  Is it sufficient? When was the last time you revisited it? Experts report that only 10%of people have the proper umbrella policy.

Day 11: Make sure you are familiar with all your finances. Do you know what would happen to you financially if you were to get divorced? 25% of couples married for twenty years get divorced.  Furthermore, the “grey divorce” (people over 65) is the fasting growing group of people to get divorced

Day 12:  Go over your credit cards.  Understand your interest rates, payment options.  Make sure you are not paying more than you have to.

Writing Your Will

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

I facilitated a workshop at a conference last week, on the topic of wills 200 men and women attended my session. Considering how many attendees the conference had, which was over 5,000, I was shocked to see how few took an interest in estate planning. Shocked and concerned, actually. Why? Because everyone needs a will – if not for their own peace of mind, then to make things easier for their heirs during a time that is tough enough as it is.

Put simply, just like a prenup details what should be done with a couple’s assets in case of a divorce, a will outlines how your assets should be distributed after you die. And just like state laws take over when divorced couples do not have a prenup, you get stuck with a universal will if you do not bother to write your own. This means the state will decide who in your family gets what, often putting your spouse in a less-than-pretty situation.

So what should your will cover? Basically, it needs to state what should be done with your property when you die. It also needs a statement at the end containing your explanation that it is indeed your will, your signature, date and place of the signing, along with witnesses’ signatures and statements from them that they really did sign your will, in your presence, and watched each other sign.

We highly recommend that you work with a estate lawyer to write a will. But you do need to be at least eighteen years old, and in a sane state of mind.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

What Are Living Trusts and How Do They Work?

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

During a charity dinner last night, one of the women mentioned that she and her husband are drafting a trust. The discussion then went from wills to trusts and back to wills again as the other people at the table tried to grasp the differences.

With this in mind, here’s the 411 on living trusts.

  1. The main difference between a will and a living trust is that trusts are confidential.
  2. There are two main types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Revocable trusts can be changed; irrevocable ones cannot – so you’d best be beyond sure of what you want to do before you commit to one.
  3. One may ask, then, why anyone would draft an irrevocable trust, when they could just write a revocable one? The answer is money. When you die, the assets in your irrevocable trust are not considered part of your estate, so they are not taxed.
  4. If your estate is under the estate tax exemption amount (currently $2 million, but it will be $3.5 million starting next year), you may not need a trust, but may be fine with just a will.
  5. Finally, a trust may be a good idea if you want to provide for children, disabled relatives, or others who may not be able to manage their own assets, as this duty will be transferred, seamlessly, to your elected trustee.

Everyone should have either a will or a trust. Which one is more beneficial for you will depend on your circumstances.

Comment

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.