Teaching Your Heirs to Value Your Wealth

June 23, 2017
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Values can help determine goals & a clear purpose.

Some families are reluctant to talk to their kids about family wealth. Perhaps they are afraid what their heirs may do with it.  It can be awkward to talk about such matters, but these parents likely postponed discussing this topic for another reason: they wanted their kids to grow up with a strong work ethic instead of a “wealth ethic.”

If a child comes from money and grows up knowing he or she can expect a sizable inheritance, that child may look at family wealth like water from a free-flowing spigot with no drought in sight. It may be relied upon if nothing works out; it may be tapped to further whims born of boredom. The perception that family wealth is a fallback rather than a responsibility can contribute to the erosion of family assets. Factor in a parental reluctance to say “no” often enough, throw in an addiction or a penchant for racking up debt, and the stage is set for wealth to dissipate.

How might a family plan to prevent this? It starts with values. From those values, goals, and purpose may be defined.

Create a family mission statement. To truly share in the commitment to sustaining family wealth, you and your heirs can create a family mission statement, preferably with the input or guidance of a financial services professional or estate planning attorney. Introducing the idea of a mission statement to the next generation may seem pretentious, but it is actually a good way to encourage heirs to think about the value of the wealth their family has amassed, and their role in its destiny.

This mission statement can be as brief or as extensive as you wish. It should articulate certain shared viewpoints. What values matter most to your family? What is the purpose of your family’s wealth? How do you and your heirs envision the next decade or the next generation of the family business? What would you and your heirs like to accomplish, either together or individually? How do you want to be remembered? These questions (and others) may seem philosophical rather than financial, but they can actually drive the decisions made to sustain and enhance family wealth.

Feel no shame in exerting some control. A significant percentage of families seek to define a purpose for transferred wealth. Some parents may want to specify what their heirs could use their inheritances for.

You may want to distribute inherited wealth in phases. A trust provides a great mechanism to do so; a certain percentage of trust principal can be conveyed at age X and then the rest of it Y years later, as carefully stated in the trust language.  By involving your kids in the discussion of where the family wealth will go when you are gone, you encourage their intellectual and emotional investment in its future. Pair values, defined goals, and clear purpose with financial literacy and input from a financial or legal professional, and you will take a confident step toward making family wealth last longer.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

Are Your Children Financially Literate?


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New Approaches to a Changing Problem.

How bad is financial illiteracy today? So bad that your children may be at risk of making some serious financial mistakes. Some are finding that talking to children about finances has become less about the nuts and bolts of money and more about putting money’s importance to our daily lives in the correct context.

Women at particular risk.  It should be noted that more women work in part-time jobs, and are more likely to interrupt their careers to take care of family, whether that be raising children or looking after parents. Some of these patterns are just luck of the draw, but others may come from what parents teach children about money, and how they teach it.

Start at a young age. New York Times money columnist Ron Lieber’s book, The Opposite of Spoiled, discusses ways to prepare children for dealing with financial issues. The title refers to the author’s search for an antonym to the word “spoiled” in the context of an entitled and demanding personality. Lieber suggests focusing on values like graciousness in communication, which can lead to more openness in discussing money. Money can be frightening or mysterious to many, even well into adulthood, and Lieber encourages approaching the topic with fewer facts and figures and more as an emotional issue. The reasoning for this is that money is, for children and adults, an emotional topic.

The emotional toll of money issues. While most people have experienced money worries at one time or another, the science surrounding this phenomenon is compelling. Many mental health organizations have special literature dealing with the emotions that surround money troubles, while money is always an uncertain and fluid factor in our lives, how we deal with these stresses may be strengthened through early experiences and developing good emotional habits early on. Frank talk about these emotions may demystify money and, in the process, boost financial literacy.

Education is still needed. Of course, money is far more than an emotional issue; being comfortable with a topic doesn’t guarantee proficiency, it merely makes it easier to learn.

Prescriptions in progress. There are a number of online sources for financial education, helpful to both teens and young adults. The Ad Council and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants have a national campaign, Feed the Pig™, to try and correct this dilemma (learn more by visiting www.feedthepig.org). The National Council on Economic Education has also helped launch www.TheMint.org to acquaint young adults with vital financial principles.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

Gap year: What parents need to know

June 22, 2017
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High school graduation is nearly here, which means families with students entering their senior year need to start thinking about what their student will do after graduation.  One often overlooked option is having the student attend a gap year program before entering college.

HFG Wealth Management Director of Client Services and Financial Planning, Donnie Carpenter, answers the top three questions about gap year programs.

What is a gap year program?
Gap year programs have been growing in popularity for some time, but the concept has almost always been around. The idea is that most students have no idea what career they want to enter on the other side of school, and thus what they should study. Instead of going from high school straight into college, they can get some experience that will help them understand more about themselves and what careers may be a good fit.

Some students do this by getting a job and staying at home, building up their savings and learning if a retail or service job is where they want to land. Other students attend a local community college to explore different fields at a fraction of the cost of a four-year college, but most community colleges have far fewer fields of study than traditional universities. Still other students may want to join the army, Greenpeace, a mission agency, or take some other opportunity to travel and gain life experience.

A relatively new option is to attend a gap year program. There are generally three types: traveling, volunteering, and working.

Why should we consider a gap year program?
Many 18-year-olds are not ready to decide what they want to do with the rest of their life. A gap year program gives them time and space to consider their options, as well as obtain experiences that may help shape their future career.

For example, a client’s son was interested in doing something involving the ocean, so his parents sent him on a gap year program that had him spending a semester at sea. He is now an oceanographer, having found a career he is passionate about, while his wife, whom he met on the ship, became a school teacher after learning she wasn’t as interested in the sea as she thought.

Is there a cost to gap year programs, and if so, how do we pay for it?
Gap year programs are businesses that sell education and experiences, so there is a cost involved. It can run from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. One program involves traveling to multiple countries over 9 months and costs $55,000, while another has the student live 20 days at sea for 3 credit hours and costs $6,000. Depending on the type of program, you may be able to use financial aid, or even your 529 account to pay for the gap year. To be eligible for financial aid or to get tax-free withdrawals from your 529, a program must be affiliated with a university.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage.

For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

Beware of Emotions Affecting Your Money Decisions


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Today’s impulsive moves could breed tomorrow’s regrets.

When emotions and money intersect, the effects can be financially injurious. Emotions can cause us to overreact – or not act at all when we should.

Think of the investors who always respond to sudden Wall Street volatility.
That emotional response may not be warranted, and they may come to regret it.  In a typical market year, Wall Street can see big waves of volatility. This year, it has been easy to forget that truth. During the first third of 2017, we saw only a minor swing.  Daily retreats of this magnitude have been seen before, will be seen again, and should be taken in stride.

Fear and anxiety can also cause stubbornness.
Some people have looked at money one way all their lives. Others have always seen investing from one perspective. Then, something happens that does not mesh with their outlook or perspective. In the face of such an event, they refuse to change or admit that their opinion may be wrong. To lose faith in their entrenched point of view would make them feel uneasy or lost. So, they doggedly cling to that point of view and do things the same way as they always have, even though it no longer makes any sense for their financial present or future. In this case, emotion is simply overriding logic.

What about those who treat revolving debt nonchalantly?
Some people treat a credit card purchase like a cash purchase – or worse yet, they adopt a psychology in which buying something with a credit card feels like they are “getting it for free.” A kind of euphoria can set in: they have that dining room set or that ATV in their possession now; they can deal with paying it off tomorrow. This blissful ignorance (or dismissal) of the real cost of borrowing can dig a household deeper and deeper into debt, to the point where drawing down savings may be the only way to wipe it out.

How about those who put off important financial decisions?
Postponing a retirement or estate planning decision does not always reflect caution or contemplation. Sometimes, it reflects a lack of knowledge or confidence. Worry and fear are the emotions clouding the picture. What clears things up? What makes these decisions easier? Communication with professionals. When the investor or saver recognizes a lack of understanding, shares his or her need to know with a financial professional, and asks for assistance, certainty can replace ambiguity.

Emotions can keep people from doing the right things with their money – or lead them to keep doing the wrong things. As you save, invest, and plan for your future, try to let logic rule. Years from now, you may be thankful you did.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage.

For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

Gauging Your Financial Well-Being


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Six signs that you are in good shape.

How well off do you think you are financially? If your career or life takes an unexpected turn, would your finances hold up? What do you think will become of the money you’ve made and saved when you are gone?

These are major questions, and most people can’t answer them as quickly as they would like. It might help to think about six factors in your financial life. Here is a six-point test you can take to gauge your financial well-being.

Are you saving about 15% of your salary for retirement? That’s a nice target and will probably amount to $10-20,000 per year. You are probably already saving that much annually without any strain to your lifestyle. Annual IRA contributions and incremental salary deferrals into a workplace retirement plan will likely put you in that ballpark. As those dollars are being invested as well as saved, they have the potential to grow with tax deferral – and if your employer is making matching contributions to your retirement account along the way, you have another reason to smile.

Do you have an emergency fund? Sadly, most Americans don’t.  A strong emergency fund contains enough money to cover six months of expenses for the individual who maintains it. If you head up a family, the fund should ideally be larger – large enough to address a year of expenses. At first thought, building a cash reserve that big may seem daunting, or even impossible – but households have done it, especially households that have jettisoned or whittled down debt. If you have done it, give yourself a hand with the knowledge that you have prepared well for uncertainty.

Are you insured? Some households don’t have life insurance. Why? They can’t afford it. That’s the perception.

In reality, life insurance is much less expensive now than it was decades ago. How much do you need? A quick rule of thumb is ten times your income. Hopefully, you have decent or better insurance coverage in place.

Do you have a will or an estate plan? Dying intestate (without a will) can leave your heirs with financial headaches at an already depressing time. Having a will is basic, yet many Americans don’t create one.  Why don’t more of us have wills? A lack of will, apparently. A living will, a healthcare power of attorney and a double-check on the beneficiary designations on your investment accounts is also wise.  Not everyone needs an estate plan, but if you’re reading this article, chances are you might. If you have significant wealth, a complex financial life, or some long-range financial directives you would like your heirs to carry out or abide by, it is a good idea. Congratulate yourself if you have a will, as many people don’t; if you have taken further estate planning steps, bravo.

Is your credit score 700 or better? Today, 685 is considered an average FICO score. If you go below 650, life can get more expensive for you. Hopefully you pay your bills consistently and unfailingly and your score is in the 700s. You can request your FICO score while signing up for a trial period with a service such as TransUnion.

Are you worth much more than you owe? This is the #1 objective. You want your major debts gone, and you want enough money for a lifetime. You will probably always carry some debt, and you can’t rule out risks to your net worth tomorrow – but if you are getting further and further ahead financially and your bottom line shows it, you are making progress in your pursuit of financial independence.

Are You Underfunding Your Retirement?

June 14, 2017
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Many retirees and pre-retirees are drawn to fixed annuities and CD’s because they do not want to assume much risk. After all, there is no stock market risk involved with these fixed-return investments. Some people use them as their only vehicles for retirement planning.

But stepping out of the stock market altogether may not be such a good idea. In fact, for some it could be a serious retirement planning mistake. Here’s why.

Risk-averse investing has risks of its own. Every investment has advantages and disadvantages. Fixed-rate investments are no exception. While you eliminate market risk with a fixed annuity or CD, in a sense you are trading one kind of risk for another. You now contend with opportunity risk (or opportunity cost) and inflation risk. The fixed return you get might be far less than the return that stock market investing could bring you (in the short term and the long term). That fixed return might also fail to match the rate of inflation, leaving you with less purchasing power.  Volatility is something many of us endure in order to try for the kind of returns that may help us reach our financial goals. In the last year, the stock market has been quite volatile. But through the years, some investors have built considerable wealth through long-term stock market investment.

Do you really want to ignore the potential of the stock market? While short-term market movements may make stocks and funds seem too risky, the big risk could be the possibility of severely underfunding your retirement by clinging to fixed-rate investments. The stock market offers opportunities for considerable financial gain – and the chance of returns exceeding those of most fixed-rate investments. While there is risk involved, there also exists a potential for considerable benefit.

If you say “no” to the market’s potential, you may regret your choice later in your retirement. In fact, you may find that you need long-term stock market investment to work toward certain retirement goals.

Explore the possibilities. If you’d like to learn more about investments positioned to take advantage of the market’s potential, be sure to speak with a qualified financial advisor. He or she may be able to help you determine how much risk you’re willing to tolerate, and which investment opportunities are the closest fit with your tolerance level. What you learn might be very illuminating, and it might change your whole investment outlook.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

The Real Consequences of Not Saving for Retirement


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Do you really want to risk facing these potential outcomes?

Saving for retirement may seem an unappreciated task. But you may be thanking yourself later. Putting away a percentage of one’s income, money that could be used for any number of bills or luxuries, is a sacrifice made in the present in order to avoid a larger trouble down the road.

More than a quarter of seniors have no retirement savings. To be more specific, the Government Accountability Office says some households headed by people 55 or older have no savings in a retirement account and no possibility of receiving an employer pension.

What kind of future awaits boomers who have saved less than $50,000 for retirement? It is hard to say exactly what may happen to them financially, but it is possible to make some educated guesses.

  • They will likely try to work into their seventies. If their health permits, they will attempt to stay employed at least part time. Their earnings will presumably drop as they age.
  • They will probably rely heavily on Social Security & home equity. Social Security income by itself will prove insufficient to retire on, so they will look at selling their homes or arranging reverse mortgages to help fund their retirement (if they own homes to begin with).
  • A fortunate few may have a third option: augmenting their inadequate retirement savings with proceeds from a business sale. Some small business owners save relatively little, believing that the money they get from selling their company will fund their future. That is not a given. It may take years for their business to sell, and it may sell for far less than they assume.

Within a few years, they will need to accept a significantly lower quality of life. They may be forced to scale back creature comforts, live in smaller quarters, or relocate to a cheaper, less desirable area (assuming they can handle relocation costs). They may end up doing all of this.

At some point, they may start spending down their assets. If they do enough of that, they will be eligible for Medicaid – a grim consolation in a sad process. Debts may impel them to whittle away their net worth even faster. Then, they may need help from their children. Having little or no income besides Social Security, they will struggle mightily to keep up with the bills. If they own their homes free and clear, at least they will be able to stay in them; if not, they may choose the apartment of last resort and move in with one of their adult children.

Will this be your future? If you want to plan to avoid this financial nightmare, then you must save and invest for retirement. Save and invest as if your entire future depends on it, for it may. Saving and investing now could help you save your quality of life someday.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

What Is Retirement Really Like?


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When most people think of retirement, they imagine leaving a job they’re tired of, getting out of the rat race, and leaving the pressures of employment behind. Often retirement is viewed as a reward for time in the workforce and a benefit of successful financial planning. But retirement is so much more than giving up a job and relaxing. Retirees are entering one of the most exciting and challenging stages of their life. It can be a time to draw on personal and professional experiences to open new doors of opportunity and education and a time to realize potential and accomplish goals previously delayed by careers and raising a family.

Although the opportunities are endless, a successful retirement doesn’t come without its hurdles. There are many things to consider in order to get it right, such as living on a reduced income, creating a health and wellness strategy and evaluating relationships. Also important is the allocation of personal time, determining living arrangements, and recognizing change in social roles. There is also the unfortunate but necessary adjustment to the eventual death of loved ones.

During the first days, weeks, or maybe even months of retirement, people often experience a blissful honeymoon-like feeling. No boss, no job, no worries! Just time to sit around and do whatever crosses your mind. During this period, people generally have little motivation to plan for the future.  But as the honeymoon period winds down, a number of newly minted retirees report a feeling of disenchantment. Retirement no longer feels like an extended holiday. Time begins to weigh heavily on their shoulders. Playing golf five times a week begins to feel like a chore. Projects around the house lose their appeal, and there can be a feeling that causes retirees to ask the question, “Is this all there is?” Frustration and disappointment can mount as some retirees get caught in this vortex and are unable to get out.

The life we lead is a result of the choices we make. That means in pre-retirement and retirement years, it’s important to make the right choices—ones that build a fulfilling and energized retirement. The majority of successful retirees recognize the power of creating a realistic retirement vision and an action plan to achieve it. Armed with this mental model, they are able to make sound choices and progress toward their desired results. You can work in a systematic way towards formulating a clear and focused retirement vision. In a way, your experience in early and mid-life makes you more aware and articulate than ever before concerning your own priorities; a better executive for the next phase of life. Remember, it is equally important to consider how you will spend your time as it to know how you will spend your money.

You can make the difficult transition into retirement easier by exploring your expectations and desires. With some careful prioritizing—and collaborating with your advisor—you can design a working plan for retirement that may surpass all your expectations.

First, imagine yourself in your first six months of retirement, then, at one and two years out. You can then ask yourself to visualize the end of your retirement, when you are 90, 95, or 100+. What are you most proud of? What have you done that has brought happiness to you and to others? What legacy will you leave behind? It’s important to communicate personal desires and goals to your advisor. That way, he or she will be better equipped to help you develop a plan that strikes as close as possible to what will truly make you happiest.

Most people know someone who has made a successful retirement. What is it about those people that you admire? Is it their family relationships, their energy and enthusiasm, or perhaps their overall sense of wellbeing? Think then of those challenged by retirement. In your opinion, what are those individuals doing or not doing that makes them less successful? Is it the exorbitant amount of time they spend watching television, their lack of adventure, or possibly a sense of helplessness toward this ever-changing world? Once you’ve recorded a retirement vision, share it with a partner or spouse, close friends—and of course with your advisor. This process of sharing will provide different perspectives and help shape your final vision.

Optimism is key throughout the retirement visioning process. It’s important to focus on the rewards of a balanced retirement; meditate on the feeling of being complete, enriched, and financially secure. Retirement visions should be reviewed and rewritten as often as necessary, until the vision feels right and is in line with your wants, needs, and beliefs. Meet with your advisor regularly to review your retirement vision. Interrogate and revise your plan to determine what’s working and what is not. You can then identify what changes are required and work on developing targeted ideas and solutions.  As you enter the second-longest phase in your life, take an informed, active role in getting it right. With appropriate guidance and thoughtful planning, you will be able to enjoy life after work, even relish it.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

Getting It All Together for Retirement

May 31, 2017
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Where is everything? Time to organize and centralize your documents.

Before retirement begins, gather what you need. Put as much documentation as you can in one place, for you and those you love. It could be a password-protected online vault; it could be a file cabinet; it could be a file folder. Regardless of what it is, by centralizing the location of important papers you are saving yourself from disorganization and headaches in the future.

  • What should go in the vault, cabinet or folder(s)? Crucial financial information and more. You will want to include…
  • Those quarterly/annual statements. Recent performance paperwork for IRAs, 401(k)s, funds, brokerage accounts and so forth. Include the statements from the latest quarter and the statements from the end of the previous calendar year (that is, the last Q4 statement you received). You no longer get paper statements? Print out the equivalent, or if you really want to minimize clutter, just print out the links to the online statements. (Someone is going to need your passwords, of course.) These documents can also become handy in figuring out a retirement income distribution strategy.
  • Healthcare benefit info. Are you enrolled in Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan? Are you in a group health plan? Do you pay for your own health coverage? Own a long term care policy? Gather the policies together in your new retirement command center, and include related literature so you can study their benefit summaries, coverage options, and rules and regulations. Contact info for insurers, HMOs, your doctor(s) and the insurance agent who sold you a particular policy should also go in here.
  • Life insurance info. Do you have a straight term insurance policy, no potential for cash value whatsoever? Keep a record of when the level premiums end. If you have a whole life policy, you need paperwork communicating the death benefit, the present cash value in the policy and the required monthly premiums.
  • Beneficiary designation forms. Few pre-retirees realize that beneficiary designations often take priority over requests made in a will when it comes to 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs. Hopefully, you have retained copies of these forms. If not, you can request them from the account custodians and review the choices you have made. Are they choices you would still make today? By reviewing them in the company of a retirement planner or an attorney, you can gauge the tax efficiency of the eventual transfer of assets.
  • Social Security basics. If you have not claimed benefits yet, put your Social Security card, your W-2 form from last year, certified copies of your birth certificate, marriage license or divorce papers in one place, and military discharge paperwork and a copy of your W-2 form for last year (or Schedule SE and Schedule C plus 1040 form, if you work for yourself), and military discharge papers or proof of citizenship, if applicable. Take a look at your Social Security statement that tracks your accrued benefits (online or hard copy) and make a screengrab of it or print it out.
  • Pension matters. Will you receive a bona fide pension in retirement? If so, you want to collect any special letters or bulletins from your employer. You want your Individual Benefit Statement telling you about the benefits you have earned and for which you may become eligible; you also want the Summary Plan Description and contact info for someone at the employee benefits department where you worked.
  • Real estate documents. Gather up your deed, mortgage docs, property tax statements and homeowner insurance policy. Also, make a list of the contents of your home and their estimated value – you may be away from your home more in retirement, so those items may be more vulnerable as a consequence.
  • Estate planning paperwork. Put copies of your estate plan and any trust paperwork within the collection, and of course a will. In case of a crisis of mind or body, your loved ones may need to find a durable power of attorney or health care directive, so include those documents if you have them and let them know where to find them.
  • Tax returns. Should you only keep your 1040 and state return from the previous year? How about those for the past 7 years? Have you kept every one since 1982 or 1974? At the very least, you should have a copy of returns from the prior year in this collection.
  • A list of your digital assets. We all have them now, and they are far from trivial – the contents of a cloud, a photo library, or a Facebook page may be vital to your image or your business. Passwords must be compiled too, of course.

  

This will take a little work, but you will be glad you did it someday. Consider this a Saturday morning or weekend project. It may lead to some discoveries and possibly prompt some alterations to your financial picture as you prepare for retirement.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

Do Women Face Greater Retirement Challenges Than Men?


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If so, how can they plan to meet those challenges?

Why are women so challenged to retire comfortably? You can cite a number of factors that can potentially impact a woman’s retirement prospects and retirement experience. A woman may spend less time in the workforce during her life than a man due to childrearing and caregiving needs, with a corresponding interruption in both wages and workplace retirement plan participation. A divorce can hugely alter a woman’s finances and financial outlook. As women live longer on average than men, they face slightly greater longevity risk – the risk of eventually outliving retirement savings. There is also the gender wage gap, narrowing, but still evident.

What can women do to respond to these financial challenges? Several steps are worth taking.

  • Invest early & consistently. Women should realize that, on average, they may need more years of retirement income than men. Social Security will not provide all the money they need, and, in the future, it may not even pay out as much as it does today. Accumulated retirement savings will need to be tapped as an income stream. So saving and investing regularly through IRAs and workplace retirement accounts is vital, the earlier the better. So is getting the employer match, if one is offered. Catch-up contributions after 50 should also be a goal.
  • Consider Roth IRAs & HSAs. Imagine having a source of tax-free retirement income. Imagine having a healthcare fund that allows tax-free withdrawals. A Roth IRA can potentially provide the former; a Health Savings Account, the latter. An HSA is even funded with pre-tax dollars, as opposed to a Roth IRA, which is funded with after-tax dollars – so an HSA owner can potentially get tax-deductible contributions as well as tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals.  IRS rules must be followed to get these tax perks, but they are not hard to abide by. A Roth IRA need be owned for only five tax years before tax-free withdrawals may be taken (the owner does need to be older than age 59½ at that time). Those who make too much money to contribute to a Roth IRA can still convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. HSAs have to be used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans, and HSA savings must be withdrawn to pay for qualified health expenses in order to be tax-exempt. One intriguing HSA detail worth remembering: after attaining age 65 or Medicare eligibility, an HSA owner can withdraw HSA funds for non-medical expenses (these types of withdrawals are characterized as taxable income).
  • Work longer in pursuit of greater monthly Social Security benefits. Staying in the workforce even one or two years longer means one or two years less of retirement to fund, and for each year a woman refrains from filing for Social Security after age 62, her monthly Social Security benefit rises by about 8%. Social Security also pays the same monthly benefit to men and women at the same age – unlike the typical privately funded income contract, which may pay a woman of a certain age less than her male counterpart as the payments are calculated using gender-based actuarial tables.
  • Find a method to fund eldercare. Many women are going to outlive their spouses, perhaps by a decade or longer. Their deaths (and the deaths of their spouses) may not be sudden. While many women may not eventually need months of rehabilitation, in-home care, or hospice care, many other women will.

Today, financially aware women are planning to meet retirement challenges. They are conferring with financial advisors in recognition of those tests – and they are strategizing to take greater control over their financial futures.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.