Financial Planning

Why Are We Yelling?

“I don’t know what we’re yelling about!” I always think back to Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) in Anchorman, but in many cases people are shouting at the top of their lungs the famous Dave Ramsey phrase “I’m debt freeeee.”

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A new article in Money magazine talks about how long-time money guru Dave Ramsey is building an almost cult-like following among millennials. For decades, Ramsey has used his platform as radio show host, author and speaker to help countless people eliminate debt. At the core of his advice are his seven baby steps and the “debt snowball.”

There’s been recent discussion surrounding the stardom of Ramsey, Suze Orman and others, who have become financial celebrities by offering hard-nosed, unapologetic advice. Many people have come forward with their success stories, attributed to following the strict rules (sell so much stuff the kids think they’re next) and seemingly silly tips (skip the Starbucks or else sacrifice $1 million).

But is this type of one-size-fits-all advice good for you?

It is undeniable that the financial scripture Ramsey preaches has had a tremendous impact on many of his loyal listeners. However, not everyone should blindly follow such broad-based advice like only have $1,000 in an emergency fund, don’t contribute to your 401(k) until your debts are paid, or expect 12% return on investments. (Each of these could elicit a separate article as a rebuttal.) Quite frankly, some of this stuff is more of the click-bait or entertainment variety.

The thing about financial planning is that it is not a one-size-fits-all arena. More often than not, things aren’t black and white. Sound advice can come in many forms, and recommendations can and often do vary depending on one’s particular situation. This includes the tangible things like account balance and income as well as the intangible such as risk appetite and feelings toward debt.

I wholeheartedly agree that one is better off without debt than with debt, because it is true that debt does limit you and can come to define you. But I can’t say that you should sacrifice saving for your retirement and give up years of investment compounding potential just to eliminate a loan sooner. Maybe, maybe not…there’s more to it than that.

Be that as it may, where Ramsey, Orman and others do deserve much praise is in their insistence on pushing people to make decisions that will give themselves a better chance at financial success. Decisions that can be as tough as they are zany, they force people out of their comfort zone and force change.

It all gets back to having a plan. It’s just that: a road map that allows for updates along the way. Because along your journey from financial distress to financial success, there are many obstacles and challenges. There are numerous factors that come in to play like income, expenses, life events, debts, behavior, and so much more.

The important thing is to first identify your goals, then set specific and measurable actions you will take to achieve those goals, then monitor your progress and make changes along the way.

It is hard work, but if you do that then one day you will be screaming, “Now I know what we’re yelling about….financial freedom!”

Elite Wealth Planning

What it is and why it matters

Elite wealth planning often plays a key role in the lives of today’s highly successful individuals and families—as well as those who are on the path toward great financial success.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at just what elite wealth planning is—how it works and how it can potentially have a powerful impact on your life as you seek to build, preserve and protect your wealth.

The key elements of elite wealth planning

Before we can see what makes elite wealth planning so special, it’s important to understand the various planning strategies that make up the core of most elite wealth planning efforts.

Typically, elite wealth planning consists of seven main types of planning:

1. Income tax planning focuses on mitigating taxes on money earned by working—potentially enabling you to keep more of the money you make.

2. Estate planning involves using legal strategies and financial products to determine the future disposition of current and projected assets. Critically, it is important to determine who will own the assets and how they will be owned.

3. Marital (and related relations) planning entails planning for disruptions in the relationships between spouses and other partners. The intent is to take actions that will protect your family’s wealth.

4. Asset protection planning entails employing legally accepted and transparent concepts, strategies and financial products that are designed to help ensure your wealth is not unjustly taken.

5. Charitable tax planning addresses ways to be philanthropic in the most tax-efficient manner. The tax code fosters philanthropy, and charitable planning can help maximize the impact of your giving.

6. Business succession planning principally deals with helping entrepreneurs tax-efficiently transition their businesses to others, whether they are family members or not.

7. Life management planning addresses an array of concerns from a wealth management perspective—for example, structuring wealth to deal with longevity- and health-related concerns and actions.

In practice, there can be great overlap between these areas of planning, as well as opportunities for them to work together to accomplish more than they could alone. Some examples:

·         By placing assets into an irrevocable trust for the primary purpose of transferring them to heirs—an estate planning strategy—elite wealth planning might pinpoint related strategies for protecting your assets.

·         Business succession planning can be entwined with estate planning and potentially other planning specialties to support your goals in multiple areas.

Clearly, elite wealth planning is designed to help address your needs, wants and preferences across a full spectrum of planning specialties—potentially enabling you to optimally structure all the areas of your financial life.

PUTTING THE ELITE IN ELITE WEALTH MANAGEMENT

These various types of wealth planning are not new, nor are they in any way restricted to the very wealthiest among us. Lots of people can seek help with their charitable giving, marital planning or income tax planning.

Additionally, the level of technical expertise possessed by a professional wealth manager offering wealth planning isn’t a major differentiator. Wealth managers who are “just” technically adept and elite wealth planners both can be considered state-of-the-art in terms of their expertise (see the table below). All technically skilled wealth planners should be able to deliver essentially the same menu of solutions to their clients.

But there is one key characteristic that tends to make elite wealth management so—well, elite: the focus of the particular wealth manager.

Specifically, elite wealth planners focus intently on the human element of the wealth planning process—understanding their clients on deep, personal levels that go beyond the numbers that appear on their tax returns or balance sheets.

In contrast, technically adept wealth planners are generally more focused on the legal strategies and financial products such planners can offer. This doesn’t mean that technically adept wealth planners are not concerned with interpersonal relationships with their clients and the psychology of the affluent. But from an objective standpoint, interpersonal relationships with clients are of much less concern to technically adept wealth planners than they are to elite wealth planners.

While elite wealth planning can include some highly sophisticated thinking and solutions, we strongly believe the human element is much more important. In elite wealth planning, the client—be it an individual, a business owner or a family—takes center stage in all discussions and decisions. The elite wealth planner’s technical capabilities and solutions exist only to serve the client and provide what he or she wants most as a person.

That’s why we define elite wealth management this way:

Elite wealth planning is a comprehensive planning process that incorporates state-of-the-art technical expertise in legal strategies and financial products with the human element.

Unfortunately, the human dynamic is too often overshadowed by legal and financial expertise. To get truly meaningful results, a wealth planner must be acutely attuned to both the rational side and the emotional side of a person—the logical and the illogical. It’s this awareness of and sensitivity and responsiveness to the human element that we firmly believe makes wealth planning elite.

Bonus: The comprehensive process at the core of elite wealth planning enables both the wealth planner and the client to reveal more about themselves (including the way they like to work, their aspirations and even their limitations). Along the way, elite wealth planning creates a level of security and comfort that is the foundation of a rewarding relationship.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This article was published by the BSW Inner Circle, a global financial concierge group working with affluent individuals and families and is distributed with its permission. Copyright 2018 by AES Nation, LLC. This report is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute a solicitation to purchase any security or advisory services.

New Year, Same You

Did you do it? What is on the list?

Surely, over the past few days, you’ve taken the time to jot down some new year’s resolutions for 2019. Exercise more. Eat better. Spend less time on the phone. Delete social media. Read more books. I’m guessing at least one of those made the cut.  

The start of the new year is where we make the time to reflect on the year gone by and set our focus for what we want in the year ahead.

New Year, New You. Psychologically, that is such a euphoric feeling knowing that we all have this great opportunity ahead of us. We are choosing to set goals for things that push us to become better; things that are ultimately in your control.

With investing, there are certain things out of your control. The performance of the market to end 2018 was one of those things. (Spoiler alert: the performance of the market is always outside of your control.)

But there are things that you can choose and that you can control when it comes to investing. You can control your asset allocation and your risk. You can control how much you are saving and how much you are spending. You can control your expectations and your knowledge of investing and how markets work. Most importantly, you can control how you react to events that cause emotional turmoil.

Hopefully you have a true financial plan in place and the recent market volatility has not duped you into making short-sighted or irrational decisions. If that’s the case, then New Year, Same You.

The Value of Multigenerational Family Meetings

If you’ve amassed sizable wealth, or are on the right path and getting there, it may be time to consider how to pass on some of that money to children and grandchildren—without creating big problems that could harm their futures and destroy family harmony.

The fact is, family wealth—how it’s managed, transferred and used—can generate major drama among family members. As wealth grows, so does the potential for that money to foment conflicts and bad financial decisions that can reduce a family’s financial position and even ruin intra-family relationships forever.

The good news: We can look to the strategies used by today’s ultra-wealthy families to avoid or mitigate such negative outcomes—and find ways to adopt similar strategies in our own families.

One of the most effective tools harnessed by the ultra-affluent is the family meeting—which is used to educate heirs and potential heirs about sound financial decision-making, to identify shared family financial values and to maintain (and grow) family wealth in a unified manner.

Family meeting benefits and advantages

Family meetings can help avoid the thorny problems that can arise when inheritors who receive substantial assets lack the proper preparation and education to manage the money prudently.

Regular family meetings can also help families keep their wealth together and intertwined, which can have major advantages such as:

·         Being able to access certain types of high-minimum investments

·         Leveraging a larger fortune to lower the cost of financial advice and services

The underlying objectives are family cohesiveness, superior management of the family’s future across the generations, and the preservation and growth of the family wealth.

The family meeting principally provides a venue for multiple generations to discuss financial matters. Common topics covered at well-run family meetings include:

·         Promoting financial literacy in future inheritors

·         The family investment philosophy

·         Family philanthropic values and activities, and how they are financially supported

·         New business ventures and how to fund them

Family meetings are where a family’s values and mission are discussed, debated and honed. Governance structures are often addressed and refined. In many cases, family meetings are great settings to plan the action steps needed to prepare the next generation for family leadership roles. Often, the end result is greater feelings of cohesiveness, trust and support among family members of various generations.

 

Four Steps To A Successful Family Meeting

Step #1: Planning the meeting

The starting point is specifying the goals for the family meeting. The more specific and refined the goals, the better. An agenda based on those goals should be created, delineating what is to be discussed and what decisions can hopefully be made. Based on the nature of the topics on the agenda, supporting material might be required (such as the financials of the family business or the performance of the family’s investment portfolio).

Often, the planning part will be shared and rotated among various members from meeting to meeting. When it’s your turn, be sure to get input from all family members who will be involved. By taking suggestions from everyone into account, the family is more likely to achieve the desired group results.

Add some fun: Many families also include fun activities as part of their family meetings—such as golfing, a family softball game or a wine-tasting event. These bonding moments are nice on their own, and also help promote a better meeting.

Step #2: Conducting the meeting

The focus of the family meeting should be the goals and agenda. Therefore, it is usually wise to mitigate day-to-day distractions—for example, by holding the meeting at a resort or a tucked-away family property.

The most effective meetings we’ve seen tend to have an outside professional—a neutral third party—involved as a facilitator. This individual will help address the more complicated and difficult issues and keep the discussions on track and focused on the end goals and action steps. The facilitator also helps ensure that all family members are involved and contributing, and can help mitigate conflicts that may arise.

The types of third-party professionals commonly serving in this role include:

·         Attorneys and accountants

·         Wealth managers and multifamily office senior executives

·         Family business consultants and life coaches

Step #3: Follow-up actions

Typically, a set of action-based to-do steps results from a family meeting. These actions often need to be turned into formal projects, with milestones and clear expectations about who will be accountable for specific steps. The third-party facilitator or family members can be responsible for mapping out how to follow up after the family meeting. It is also worthwhile to specify how the subsequent actions will be tracked and reported back to the family.

Step #4: Assessment of outcomes

After starting with particular goals and then identifying what actions need to be taken to achieve those goals, the final step entails determining the degree of success attained.

Based on the assessment of the outcomes, new actions to help reach the stated goals are identified. These can be a refinement of current actions or a different approach entirely. Moreover, the results achieved always factor into the goals and agenda for the next family meeting.

Keep in mind: Every family has its own special dynamics and traits. Thus, the process described here can be modified depending on the aims of the family.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This article was published by the BSW Inner Circle, a global financial concierge group working with affluent individuals and families and is distributed with its permission. Copyright 2018 by AES Nation, LLC. This report is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute a solicitation to purchase any security or advisory services.

Cobb experts: Average resident will see lower taxes

Kenny Baer was featured in an article in the Marietta Daily Journal, providing insights about the recently signed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Marietta Daily Journal

www.mdjonline.com

Ricky Leroux

December 21, 2017

Experts around Cobb say most residents will see a reduction in their taxes under the new tax law passed by Congress this week.

The tax law, expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump early next year, reduces the tax rates for most of the seven federal tax brackets and nearly doubles the standard deduction, among other provisions.

“The average taxpayer is most likely going to save a little bit of money because their rate is going to be reduced by whatever bracket they fall into, and raising the standard deduction will probably make it easier for the average Joe to more simply file their tax return,” said Kenneth Baer, owner and managing partner of the east Cobb financial planning firm Baer Wealth Management.

Taxpayers have the option of taking a standard deduction or itemizing individual deductions when they file their tax returns. By increasing the standard deduction and limiting other deductions, such as a deduction for state and local taxes, the number of taxpayers who itemize is likely to decrease, Baer said.

The balance between the reduction in tax rates and elimination or capping deductions will likely result in a lower tax bill for most people, but every case is different, explained Roger Tutterow, economics professor at Kennesaw State University and director of its Econometric Center.

“It’s going to depend on what their household looks like,” Tutterow said. “I think most individuals will see their taxes come down, and clearly, it’s not just the tax rates that changed, it’s, for example, there’s a higher child tax credit, there’s a higher standard deduction. Some exemptions or deductions are going away. For example, the ability to take off for paying state and local taxes has been capped now. … So you may make out better in terms of having a lower marginal tax rates, but some of your deductions may be eliminated or capped. So it’ll be interesting to see.”

The amount of the reduction in taxes for middle-income taxpayers is unlikely to be life-changing, Baer said.

“Your average Joe, in my opinion, and this is just my opinion, it’s not going to make much difference in their lives,” Baer said. “They’re going to pay less, which is good, but it’s not a big difference maker.”

The balance between lower rates and limited deductions may not swing in favor of some higher-income individuals, according to Dan DiLuzio, CPA at Henssler Financial, which has an office in Kennesaw.

“I’ve got a lot of clients in the upper brackets,” DiLuzio said. “They may not see as much as they hoped they would see because their itemized deductions are going to be limited, particularly when they’ve had high real estate taxes or high state income taxes, that’s going to go away. And then their tax brackets haven’t really decreased as much as some of the other brackets have.”

Jean Hawkins, managing partner at Hawking, Moore and Cubbedge, a tax planning and business accounting firm in Marietta, went further, saying most of her high-income clients will see higher taxes as a result of the bill.

“Even though the standard deduction has been doubled, the personal exemption is gone and the state and local tax deduction has been capped,” Hawkins said. “I think those things are not going to make up for the fact that the brackets have been lowered slightly. I think that’s not going to net out for most of our clients.”

An analysis by The Tax Policy Center estimates that all income groups will see a reduction in taxes in the short term, however.

“Compared to current law, taxes would fall for all income groups on average in 2018, increasing overall average after-tax income by 2.2 percent,” the analysis reads. “In general, tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income would be larger for higher-income groups, with the largest cuts as a share of income going to taxpayers in the 95th to 99th percentiles of the income distribution.”

Many of the benefits in the tax bill for individuals will expire by 2027. Republicans in Congress had those provisions sunset in order to pass the bill with only 51 votes in the Senate through a process called reconciliation, Tutterow explained.

“One of the dynamics that’s playing out though is that a lot of the rhetoric is saying, ‘Well, individual income taxes may come down, but there’s a window on how long those lower rates apply. And in the future those rates will go back up.’ And of course, that was done as a way to get the bill through the Senate,” Tutterow said. “By sunsetting the lower individual rates, it allowed them to pass the bill and still come in under the rules of reconciliation.”

Tutterow said the decision to put an end date on the individual portions of the tax bill while making the corporate tax benefits permanent was a calculated move by Congressional Republicans.

“I think there’s a calculated bet being made that Congress will extend lower tax rates for individuals in the future,” he said. “I think the sense was if they’re going to cut the corporate rate, now’s the time to do it permanently because they have the votes. Several years down the road, Republicans may not be in the majority, and then a lower corporate rate might not survive if it were sunset. So I think that’s why the corporate rate was made permanent, while the individual tax rates remained with a sunset provision.”

BUSINESSES

The largest cuts in the tax bill are for corporations, and Congressional Republicans are betting that putting more money in the pockets of business owners will lead to higher wages, more jobs and increased investment. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, Tutterow said.

“One thing we have to remember: it’s easy to say the business owner is better off,” Tutterow said. “We need to remember that for large businesses, we’re talking about stockholders. We’re talking about people who own stock in the company. They’re the beneficiaries. Now, whether the additional after tax income will be used to hire more people or be used to invest in capital equipment to grow the enterprise or whether it will be returned to shareholders is somewhat an open question. Therein lies the real question mark about how stimulative the plan is for employment and investment.”

Wage growth depends on several factors, including the availability of labor and productivity, he said.

“It may be unpopular to say this, but businesses hire people and businesses give people raises because they need to,” Tutterow said. “The reason we see wages rising is it’s necessary to attract and retain the workers you need. So I think that’s an important consideration. I don’t think that just because businesses find themselves with additional after-tax profit, they necessarily go hire more individuals. They’re going to find themselves with more after-tax profit and they’re going to decide to move into new markets or launch new products to grow the enterprise, and that’s why they hire new people.”

Baer agreed, saying business owners will do well under the new tax regulations, and more money in their pockets could lead to hiring more people, new technology being developed and higher wages.

“I think that’s the idea behind it. Whether that turns into reality or not, we don’t really know. … The overall theme is if you’re a business owner, you have the potential to seriously negate your tax liability. It depends on the kind of business, it depends on how you receive your income, but there is a lot of potential there to lower your taxable income or what you’re paying in taxes as a wealthy — a business owner who’s doing very well.”

Manufacturing is one industry that could see growth as a result of the tax changes, Tutterow said.

“That is one of the sectors that there’s some hope that the lower tax rates will improve profitability for domestic production. We have seen an outward migration of production moving to Mexico, Central America and to Asia. And there’s a lot of trends now that are allowing us to be more competitive at bringing production home. And certainly lower tax rates on profits could contribute to that,” Tutterow said.

Does Borrow Lead to Sorrow?

Courtesy of David Hultstrom:

As the children get ready to go back to school, I thought I would take the opportunity to go back to basics in this newsletter.  While focusing on highly technical (and sometimes complicated) areas of financial planning is important, some of the basic items are arguably even more important.  Here are a few simple rules (in the interest of brevity I am leaving out a few exceptions that rarely apply, please see us or your financial professional for custom advice):

  1. Never borrow money for a depreciating item. In other words, the expected value of the purchase in the future must be higher than the current purchase price plus interest and any other expenses. The only items I think pass this test are prudent outlays for a primary residence, an education, or a business (including real estate investing). In the “close but no cigar” category is borrowing for second homes for personal use (the appreciation will almost certainly not be high enough to overcome interest, taxes, insurance, maintenance expenses, etc.) and borrowing for majors at expensive colleges that are unlikely to have much-earning power. If you have cash for the second home or the low-earning, expensive major, you have my blessing, though – assuming you have the rest of this list covered as well.

  1. Maximize tax-advantaged savings vehicles. Save the maximum allowed in your 401(k), IRA, Roth IRA, etc. Most people dramatically undersave – a range of 10% minimum to 25% maximum (if starting early) is prudent. (Lower earners can be on the low end of the range because Social Security will replace more of their income, higher earners and those that are starting late should be on the higher end of the range.) Not only is this prudent from a tax perspective, but the creditor protection these types of savings provide is important as well. If you are retired your annual percentage spending from your portfolio should be (roughly) no more than your age minus 25 then divided by ten (so 4.0% at 65, 4.5% at 70, 5.0% at 75, etc.) of your initial portfolio value.

  1. Don’t change your investment strategy. All too often when returns have been high investors want to increase the risk they are taking and when returns have been abysmal they want to reduce their risk. Unless a life change (not market movement) has occurred that has materially changed your financial situation, leave your investment strategy intact.

  1. Have the right property and casualty insurance coverage. For liability coverage, determine how much you could potentially lose in a lawsuit if you were found liable (retirement plans, and in some jurisdictions, a homestead, are exempt for example) and round up to the next million dollars (or two) to determine the amount of umbrella coverage you should carry. Also, depending on your occupation or volunteer work, purchase D&O (Directors and Officers – if you serve on a board), Malpractice (if you can hurt someone’s body), or E&O (Errors and Omissions – if you can hurt someone’s money) insurance.

  1. Have the right type and amount of life insurance. If you are still working my general recommendation would be term insurance starting at twenty times your gross income and declining to zero at your expected retirement age (you do this by tiering several policies).

  1. Carry adequate health insurance and disability insurance. Group plans are better if available, but if not individual plans should be purchased. Stay away from narrow plans (disease specific for example) and, of course, if you are retired, disability insurance is unnecessary.

  1. Get your estate plans in order. Make sure you have an up-to-date will, durable powers of attorney (appointing someone to make decision – one for healthcare and one for everything else), living will (end of life care instructions), and letter(s) of instruction (documentation telling your heirs things they need to know). Also, make sure the property is titled correctly and that beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement plans are as you wish (and check this if it has been a few years – people frequently misremember what they did).

If You Got a Flat Tire Today, Would You Sell Your Car Tomorrow?

You’ve been driving around that dream car you’ve always wanted. At work, you’ll volunteer to drive to lunch so your co-workers can admire your new ride. Every weekend, like clockwork, you spend time cleaning the car and making sure it is shined. After all, you have worked hard and saved your money to make your goal a reality.

If you suddenly got a flat tire one day, would you be tempted to sell your car?

Let’s face it – the month of August has been a tough one for most people who are invested in the stock market. The Dow just suffered two historic days of losses. On Monday, the Dow plunged about 5% shortly after US markets opened. The index clawed back many of these losses intra-day but still ended the day down almost 600 points. That was on the heels of Friday, when the index lost about 3%.

In fact, the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 each dropped by roughly 6% last week. These losses are tough to stomach. Fear and uncertainty in the global markets have caused them to get run through the gauntlet as well.

Markets adjust to minute-to-minute changes based on new information. That’s part of the reason why, in spite of yesterday’s losses, US markets initially opened Tuesday up about 2.5%.

But none of this really matters assuming you have long-term investment goals. You don’t need to react. You can’t control what happened in the market last week, or what will happen this week. But you can control your long-term goals and investment strategy. You can control how diversified you are so that the type of volatility we have experienced recently doesn’t tempt you to abandon your plans.

Are you ready to start a real conversation? Visit our website or call (770) 984-2312 and allow us to help you navigate through these uncertain times.