Managing Change

While on your journey you may come to a split in the road or choose a new path. Below are some examples of life changes that Placer Summit could help guide you though.

Marriage

 Healthier marriages tend to have couples that are capable of getting on the same page when it comes to money matters.  First, it is important to communicate.  We can’t stress this enough and have seen too many instances where non-communication especially about finances/money can destroy a marriage.  Share your values with your partner and talk with each other about how you would like to approach building your assets and managing your debt.  Second, put a plan in place early.  Pay bills together so you can both see where your money is going.  Try to have a budget that shows your income and expenses, including your savings plan.  Work with each other to set up a savings and investment strategy consistent with your risk tolerance, time frame and goals.  Third, keep your consumer debt under control; allowing your credit card balance to grow so much so that you are finding it difficult to pay it down is one way couples get off track with each other.  Fourth, put a plan in place that protects your loved ones; life insurance to replace your income or pay off your mortgage may be worth considering.  It is also a good idea to get estate planning documents in place early.  Finally, be sure to enjoy yourselves by making room for fun money; have a place in your budget for entertainment and travel.  All work and no play is not a good idea for a healthy marriage. 

If you are getting married for a second time (or multiple times) it may be a good idea to seek legal counsel for prenuptial planning to address both spouses’ assets and debts, and determine how families may otherwise get blended together when it comes to estate planning. 

New Child

Congratulations if you are a new parent or have been a parent for some time and want to put together a financial plan for your child’s future.  If you have a newborn, be sure to get your child on your healthcare plan as soon as possible.  You may also want to check with your employer to see if they offer any benefits providing payroll deductions to savings accounts that can be used for your child’s care.  Depending on your family’s income you may also qualify for certain tax deductions, so be sure to check with your tax advisor.  Insuring your life is a good idea so your spouse and little one has funds to replace your income in the event you pass away;  look into life insurance as soon as possible after your child is born because the younger you are the more likely you are to qualify for a smaller insurance premium.  If you do not have an estate plan in place, look into getting a will and a trust that identifies who you want to have custody of your child and who you want to manage your child’s assets in the event you pass on.  Take a look at the beneficiaries you have named on your existing savings and investment accounts or insurance policies; you may need to add your child. Your income may change if you need to adjust the number of hours you work, and your expenses will surely change with the new one in your life so updating your budget is a good idea.  You will want to account for new products in your household such as diapers, baby clothing, baby food, car seats, strollers and all of the other things you will need.  You may also need to budget for childcare while you are at work.  Don’t forget to also budget for a night out once in a while, just you and your significant other so you have some time to keep up with your relationship.  A long weekend or family vacation is also a good thing to prepare for.  If your home is not big enough you may need to look into whether you can afford a larger home, and may need to put together a savings plan so you can make a move.  Getting a plan in place for your child’s education early is also a good idea, but do so in the larger context of your family’s financial plan.  At some point you will want to be retired or semi-retired, for example; keep yourself on track to work towards that goal as well. 

Changing Jobs

If you have lost your job, start out by looking into whether you are eligible for any government unemployment benefits.  Ideally you would want to do that relatively soon after you learn you are losing your job so that you can get an income as soon as possible.  Then put together a budget:  what is your unemployment income, what are your expenses, how much savings do you have and where should you draw from first if you need to access funds to complement your income?  The last thing you should do is draw from a retirement plan account that has penalties or income taxes that apply to distributions; look at your other sources of funds first.  Take a look at what healthcare coverage you are eligible for either through your former employer (COBRA) or through other programs that may be available to you; it may be possible that your State has adopted a program that offers healthcare coverage assistance to those that meet income criteria.  Revise your resume, and look into training and educational opportunities available to you; it may be the case that you need to move in a new direction with your career.  Networking is also a good idea; talk with people that may be able to help you do what you want to do or that can introduce you to the people you need to talk to.  Sometimes finding a place for you to land takes time, be prepared to be patient and look at this event in your life as an opportunity to learn and grow.  Whether you have been laid off ur voluntarily left your job, you will need to decide what to do with your retirement plan account; maybe your former employer will let you keep it in the plan they sponsor, but you may also have the option of rolling it out into your new employer’s plan or an individual retirement account.  Taking the money out and paying the penalties and taxes involved may be financially devastating.  Before you take a distribution, consult with us at Placer Summit Financial Group so you can be informed of the benefits and drawbacks of the various alternatives available to you.

Divorce

If you are getting a divorce or just went through a divorce, you will have to work with your spouse or will have had to work with your former spouse to divide your marital estate, determine alimony or family support payments, decide who is going to pay for what debts, resolve child custody issues, make sure everyone is on a healthcare plan, and choose where everyone is going to reside.  Suffice it to say this is a tough time for everyone.  Divorce takes compromise, and there is a lot of negotiation, and going back and forth between the soon to be ex-spouses.  Be prepared for the divorce process to take months, if not over a year.  First determine whether you need legal counsel, and if so get an idea of what it will cost and how an attorney will get paid if your ex-spouse is the sole income earner.  Mediation may be less expensive for everybody if it is possible that you and your soon to be ex-spouse are amicable enough to work together with someone’s help.  Utilize professionals such an accountant and financial advisor, to help you identify all of the financial issues that are involved in your divorce; experts that can value a business may be necessary if your spouse is a business owner.  Second, organize all of the documents that have anything to do with your finances and prepare a report that shows all of your separate property and joint assets and liabilities.  Develop a budget that shows your income and expenses, but realize you may need to revise it as you work through issues that may arise.  You may also want to set up bank accounts and credit in your own name as soon as possible to be able to maintain control of your finances.  Finally, when your assets are divided, realize that financial institutions follow court orders before they do anything with retirement plan accounts.  In most if not all states a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or “QDRO” is the name of that court order.  It is part of the court’s judgment for divorce and typically does not get issued until a divorce is final.  Like most processes in life, divorce requires a lot of planning and patience.  Placer Summit Financial Group can work with you (and your attorney if you have one) to navigate through this difficult time.

Loss of a Loved One

Losing a loved one is devastating.  It is important to take the time you need to start to heal before you do anything; as emotional as you are likely to be, take action only after you are able to think clearly and are prepared to plan for the next steps in your life.  It is better to postpone for at least 6 months important decisions such as selling your house, giving money away to kids, grandkids or charities, or to do anything with your investments or insurance benefits.  If you receive a lump sum life insurance benefit, put it in the bank and take time to put together a long term financial plan with someone you know and can trust; this will help keep you from falling prey to a salesperson that takes your loss and emotional state as an opportunity to take advantage of you.  When you are ready, start off by organizing your financial documents such as bank and investment account statements, bills, credit card statements, life insurance policies, wills and trusts, and retirement plan beneficiary forms.  You may need to call Social Security to give them the information you need to receive your spouses’ benefits if their benefit was larger than yours; you may also receive a death benefit from Social Security.  Be prepared to order a number of certificates of death from your county so that you have them when they are required by an institution to change title to an account or asset.  If you are not used to paying the family’s bills, it may be a good idea to look into the availability of a bill pay system through your bank that automatically makes a payment for you or reminds you when a payment is due for a credit card, utility, mortgage, car loan or tax bill.  Consider your need for professional help from an accountant, financial advisor and trusted family and friends to get you on the right track with your finances.  Putting a budget together showing your sources of income and monthly expenses is a good idea; don’t forget about estimated income tax payments and property taxes.  Your attorney should help you through the administration of your loved one’s estate, and help you prepare any new estate planning documents that you may need such as powers of attorney for your finances and healthcare.  If your loved one had an employer sponsored retirement plan or a pension benefit through their employer, you will need to contact the employer to determine what paperwork they require you to complete to receive those benefits.  It usually makes sense for you to transfer your spouse’s retirement plan to an individual retirement plan account for your benefit; it may or may not make sense for you to receive the pension from the employer in the form of periodic income payments.  Placer Summit Financial Group’s professionals are able to help you assess your alternatives and assist you through this difficult time.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations to any individual.  This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice.  We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

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