Articles

And the Executor Is

In her will, American businesswoman Leona Helmsley left $12 million in a trust fund to her dog Trouble. Her four executors were responsible for seeing that her wishes were carried out. In the years after her death, they dealt with challenges from two disinherited grandchildren, oversaw scores of properties and hotels, negotiated settlements with disgruntled former employees, and managed a huge investment portfolio in a falling economy. What did they ask for in return? $100 million split between them.¹

The executor to your will may not be as busy or as well compensated as Ms. Helmsley’s. Still, you’ll want to give thoughtful consideration to this important choice. How do you choose an executor? Can anyone do it? What makes an individual a good choice?

Many people choose a spouse, sibling, child, or close friend as executor. In most cases, the job is fairly straightforward. Still, you might give special consideration to someone who is well organized and capable of handling financial matters. Someone who is respected by your heirs and a good communicator also may help make the process run smoothly.

Above all, an executor should be someone trustworthy, since this person will have legal responsibility to manage your money, pay your debts (including taxes), and distribute your assets to your beneficiaries as stated in your will.

Tip: Generally,
children under the age of 18 cannot be executors.
Source: Plea.org, May 20, 2016

If your estate is large or you anticipate a significant amount of court time for your executor, you might think of naming a bank, lawyer, or financial professional. These individuals will typically charge a fee, which would be paid by the estate. In some families, singling out one child or sibling as executor could be construed as favoritism, so naming an outside party may be a good alternative.

Fast Fact:
Michael Jackson chose executors from outside his family to manage his estate.
Source: Billboard.com, March 15, 2016

Whenever possible, choose an executor who lives near you. Court appearances, property issues, even checking mail can be simplified by proximity. Also, some states place additional restrictions on executors who live out of state, so check the laws where you live.

Whomever you choose, discuss your decision with that person. Make sure the individual understands and accepts the obligation—and knows where you keep important records. Because the person may pre-decease you—or have a change of heart about executing your wishes—it’s always a good idea to name one or two alternative executors.

The period following the death of a loved one is a stressful time, and can be confusing for family members. Choosing the right executor can help ensure that the distribution of your assets may be done efficiently and with as little upheaval as possible.

What Will?

Take a look at some famous people who left life without having a will in place.

Healthy Body, Healthy Pocketbook

  1. Prince
  2. Jimi Hendrix
  3. Bob Marley
  4. Sonny Bono
  5. Pablo Picasso
  6. Howard Hughes
  7. Steve McNair
  8. Abraham Lincoln
Source: Forbes, April 27, 2016
1.  January 24, 2016
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite

Your Emergency Fund: How Much Is Enough?

Have you ever had one of those months? The water heater stops heating, the dishwasher stops washing and your family ends up on a first-name basis with the nurse at urgent care. Then, as you’re driving to work, giving yourself your best, “You can make it!” pep talk, you see smoke seeping out from under your hood.

Bad things happen to the best of us, and instead of conveniently spacing themselves out, they almost always come in waves. The important thing is to have a financial life preserver, in the form of an emergency cash fund, at the ready.

Although many people agree that an emergency fund is an important resource, they’re not sure how much to save or where to keep the money. Others wonder how they can find any extra cash to sock away. One survey found that 28% of Americans don’t have any emergency savings at all.¹

How Much Money?

When starting an emergency fund, you’ll want to set a target amount. But how much is enough? Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The ideal amount for your emergency fund may depend on your financial situation and lifestyle. For example, if you own your home or provide for a number of dependents, you may be more likely to face financial emergencies. And if the crisis you face is a job loss or injury that affects your income, you may need to depend on your emergency fund for an extended period of time.

Coming Up with Cash

Fast Fact: Only 10% of people with a college degree say they have no emergency savings, compared to 42% of those with a high-school education or less.
Bankrate.com, June 21, 2016

If saving several months of income seems an unreasonable goal, don’t despair. Start with a more modest target, such as saving $1,000. Build your savings at regular intervals, a bit at a time. It may help to treat the transaction like a bill you pay each month. Consider setting up an automatic monthly transfer to make self-discipline a matter of course. You may want to consider paying off any credit card debt before you begin saving.

Once you see your savings begin to build, you may be tempted to use the account for something other than an emergency. Try to budget and prepare separately for bigger expenses you know are coming. Keep your emergency money separate from your checking account so that it’s harder to dip into.

Where Do I Put It?

An emergency fund should be easily accessible, which is why many people choose traditional bank savings accounts. Savings accounts typically offer modest rates of return. Certificates of Deposit may provide slightly higher returns than savings accounts, but your money will be locked away until the CD matures, which could be several months to several years.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures bank accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution in principal and interest. CDs are time deposits offered by banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions. CDs offer a slightly higher return than a traditional bank savings account, but they also may require a higher amount of deposit. If you sell before the CD reaches maturity, you may be subject to penalties.

Some individuals turn to money market accounts for their emergency savings. Money market funds are considered low-risk securities, but they’re not backed by any government institution so it is possible to lose money. Depending on your particular goals and the amount you have saved, some combination of lower-risk investments may be your best choice.

Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

The only thing you can know about unexpected expenses is that they’re coming — for everyone. But having an emergency fund may help alleviate the stress and worry associated with a financial crisis. If your emergency savings are not where they should be, consider taking steps today to create a cushion for the future.

Where Do You Fit In?

Here’s a look at how Americans are doing when it comes to emergency savings:

Your Emergency Fund

Bankrate.com, June 21, 2016
  1. Bankrate.com, June 21, 2016
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Social Security: The Elephant in the Room

For most Americans, Social Security has represented nothing more than some unavoidable payroll deduction with the positively cryptic initials of “FICA” and “OASDI” (Federal Insurance Contributions Act and Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance). It hinted at a future that seemed both intangible and faraway.

Yet, a new generation has begun drawing on the promise that was made with those payments.

As the wave of Baby Boomers enters retirement, questions and concerns abound. Is Social Security financially healthy? How much will my income benefit be? How do I maximize benefits for me and my spouse? When should I begin taking Social Security?

Questions & Elephants

Answering these questions may help you derive the most from your Social Security benefit, and potentially enhance your financial security in retirement. Before you can answer these questions, you have to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

The Social Security system has undergone periodic scares over the years that have inevitably led many people to wonder if Social Security will remain financially sound enough to pay the benefits they are owed.

Reasonable Concern

Social Security was created in 1935 during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term.¹ It was designed to provide income to older Americans who had little to no means of support. The country was mired in an economic downturn and the need for such support was acute.

Since its creation, there have been three basic developments that have led to the financial challenges Social Security faces today.

  1. The number of workers paying into the system (which supports current benefit payments) has fallen from over 8 workers for every retiree in 1955, to 2.8 workers in 2016. That ratio is expected to fall to 2.2 by 2035.²
  2. A program that began as a dedicated retirement benefit later morphed into an income support for disabled workers and surviving family members. These added obligations were not always matched with the necessary payroll deduction levels to financially support them.
  3. Retirees are living longer. As might be expected, the march of medical technology and our understanding of healthy behaviors have led to a longer retirement span, potentially placing a greater strain on resources.

Beginning in 2010, Social Security tax and other non-interest income no longer fully covered the program’s cost. According to the Social Security Trustees 2017 annual report, this pattern is expected to continue for the next 75 years; the report projects that the trust fund may be exhausted by 2034, absent any changes. Should that happen, it is estimated that current deductions may only be able to pay about 75% of promised income benefits.³

Social Security’s financial crisis is real, but the prospect of its failure seems remote. There are a number of ways to stabilize the Social Security system, including, but not limited to:

Increase Payroll Taxes: An increase in payroll taxes, depending on the size, could add years of life to the trust fund.

Raise the Retirement Age: This has already been done in past reforms and would save money by paying benefits to future recipients at a later age.

Tax Benefits of Higher Earners: By taxing Social Security income for retirees in higher tax brackets, the tax revenue could be used to lengthen the life of the trust fund.

Modify Inflation Adjustments: Rather than raise benefits in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), policymakers might elect to tie future benefit increases to the “chained CPI,” which assumes that individuals move to cheaper alternatives in the face of rising costs. Using the “chained CPI” may make cost of living adjustments less expensive.

Reform is expected to be difficult since it may involve tough choices—something from which many policymakers often retreat. However, history has shown that political leaders tend to act when the consequences of inaction exceed those that would come from taking action.

  1. Social Security Administration, 2017
  2. Social Security Administration, 2017 Annual Report
  3. Social Security Administration, 2017 Annual Report
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.