Are Investment Advisory Fees Tax Deductible?

 

It surprises me how few questions I receive about the tax deductibility of Investment Advisory fees. I hope that your CPA asks this question as they prepare your tax return, but I fear that some people miss this potential tax deduction. As with many tax rules, this one has quite a number of caveats. Here are three things you need to know:

1. First, we need to distinguish between Investment Advisory Fees (also called Investment Management Fees), Financial Planning Fees, and Commissions. Only Investment Advisory Fees are tax deductible. If you are a client, note that the fees charged by Good Life Wealth Management are Investment Advisory Fees.

Can You Trust Your Financial Advisor?

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Trust is earned and not given. While there’s no shortcut to years of working together and getting to know each other, there is one question that every client should ask their advisor: Are you a Fiduciary?

A Fiduciary has a legal obligation to place your interests ahead of their own. The alternative, of course is a salesperson whose purpose is self-serving: to represent their company and maximize profits. Which would you trust for objective, unbiased advice?

Five Ways To Invest Tax-Free

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“It doesn’t matter how much you make, but how much you keep.” Over time, taxes can be a significant drag on returns, especially for those who are in the higher tax brackets. Today, many families are also hit with the 3.8% Medicare surtax on investment income. If you are in the top tax bracket, you could be paying as much as 43.4% (39.6% plus the 3.8% Medicare surtax) for interest income or short-term capital gains.

Should You Invest Or Pay Off Student Loans First?

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One of the most frequent questions I hear from younger investors is whether they should hold off on investing until they pay off their student loans. College tuition has been growing at a rate much higher than inflation for several decades, and for many students, these costs are financed. It’s not uncommon for a student to graduate with six-figures in debt today.

For many, they view their college loans as the monkey on their back and want nothing more that to get rid of this debt as soon as possible. This intense dislike of debt is probably a good thing, especially if it encourages frugal decision making and a focus on financial responsibility. With retirement being 40 years away, investing doesn’t seem to offer the same immediate benefit as plowing as much cash as possible into eliminating student loans.

The problem with waiting to invest is that you miss out on the benefits of compounding. Let’s say Eager Eddie saves $5,000 a year starting at age 30. Earning 8%, Eddie will have $861,584 in his retirement account at age 65. Waiting Walter delays until age 40 to get started, but then invests double of what Eddie saved, $10,000 a year. Believe it or not, at age 65, Walter will still have less than Eddie, only $731,059. Waiting those ten years cost Walter $130,000, even though he contributed twice as much per year once he got started. When it comes to retirement saving, there truly is no making up for lost time.

By contributing to your retirement plan at work, you may be eligible for a company match. But even if there is not a company match, being able to make a tax deductible contribution will provide an immediate benefit of 25%, 28% or more, depending on your tax bracket.

Some will point out that with interest rates of 6% or higher, that there is no guarantee that their investment return will exceed the rate they would save on paying down their loan. Wouldn’t it be better to take the “sure thing” of saving 6% rather than the venturing into the unknowns of the investment world? The problem with this line of thinking is that your debt will decrease each year, so a 6% interest rate will cost fewer and fewer dollars each year. However, as your investment portfolio grows through contributions and compounding, a 6% return will equate to larger dollar growth rates. In other words, a 6% return on a $500,000 portfolio is ten times more than a 6% cost on a $50,000 loan.

My advice is don’t wait to get started investing. It’s not a choice of either-or; you have to find a way to do both investing and paying off your student loans.

A couple of additional considerations:

  • If you ever needed money, you could access your investments (with possible penalties and taxes for retirement accounts), but if you put extra towards your loans, you cannot access that money later.
  • You may be able to deduct student loan interest paid, up to $2,500 per year. This is subject to a phaseout if your income exceeds $65,000 (single) or $130,000 (married). See IRS Publication 970 for details.
  • If you have Federal loans, make sure your read my article on Four Student Loan Forgiveness Programs, which also explains Income Based Repayment plans.

How to Succeed at Financial Resolutions

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I know that New Year’s Resolutions are often lampooned as pointless and misguided, but I, for one, love the idea that people can change and take steps to improve their life. To me, a resolution is the wonderful intersection of optimism to motivate you and realism to recognize that it takes hard work to accomplish worthwhile goals.

Fidelity Investments has undertaken a New Year Financial Resolutions Study for seven years and found that individuals who started 2015 with a financial resolution feel more optimistic, are more debt-free, and feel more financially secure than individuals who did not make a resolution. The key to succeeding with a resolution, in my experience, is having the ability to translate a desire into a clear objective, determining how to accomplish that goal, and then having the discipline to stick to your plan.

In other words, a New Year’s Resolution is just a small scale financial plan. Here are three categories of financial resolutions and how to best achieve those objectives:

1) That one thing you’ve been putting off. A lot of times, people have something they know they should be doing, but haven’t started. Maybe they don’t know where to begin, are overwhelmed by the number of decisions they will have to make, or maybe there just never is enough time.

Here are some classic examples of financial needs that many organized, otherwise responsible people have not “gotten around to”:

  • Starting a college fund for children or grandchildren.
  • Securing a term life insurance policy to protect your spouse or loved ones.
  • Establishing your will and estate planning documents.

If these are on your “keeps me up at night” list, give me a call and we will accomplish these in no time. You haven’t done this before, but we do this all the time. Start now and you could have these New Year’s Resolutions wrapped up before the end of January!

2) Save more. Many families worry they are not saving as much as they should. For some, it may be setting up an emergency fund; for others it may be saving for retirement, college, or other long-term goals.

Whatever your investment need, you are more likely to be successful when you put your saving on auto-pilot with electronic monthly contributions. When you pay yourself first every month, most people find they don’t even miss the money. Spending often takes up whatever amount we don’t save; if we recognize this, then we can also understand that it is usually very easy to adjust our discretionary expenses when our saving is automatic.

While the 401(k) is the classic example of automatic investing, we can just as easily use the same approach for an IRA, taxable joint account, 529 college savings plan, or any other type of investment vehicle. Saving more doesn’t happen by accident. You can’t wait until next December to do something if you expect to be a good saver in 2016.

3) Reduce Debt. If you are looking to reduce your spending to get out of debt, you can follow the same advice of making automatic monthly payments. Focus on paying down your highest interest rates loans first.

If you’re not sure where your money goes every month, your first step is to get better organized. Technology can be a big help; consider an app like Mint or Quicken to track your spending. Increasing your self-awareness is an essential step towards changing behavior.

A financial planner can help you with all of your financial questions and goals. Besides bringing expertise, training, and real world experience, a planner can also offer two of the most important elements of success: a concrete plan and accountability to stay on course.

If you are thinking about including financial goals in your New Year’s Resolutions, don’t go it alone, give me a call! I’m here to help.

Tax Comparison of 15 and 30 Year Mortgages

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I received a tremendous response from readers about last week’s article comparing 15 and 30 year mortgages (read it here). A number of readers astutely asked how the mortgage interest tax deduction would impact the decision of choosing between the 15 and 30 year note. Here is your answer!

For our example, we are looking at buying a $250,000 home, putting 20% down and assuming a mortgage of $200,000. At today’s interest rates, we’d be choosing between a 15 year mortgage at 3.00% or a 30-year at 3.75%. Here are the monthly payments, not including insurance or property taxes.

15 Year Mortgage @ 3.00% 30 Year Mortgage @ 3.75%
payment $1381.16 payment $926.23
difference = $454.93

Over the full term of the mortgages, you will pay the following amounts of principal and interest:

15 Year Mortgage @ 3.00% 30 Year Mortgage @ 3.75%
principal $200,000.00 principal $200,000.00
interest $48,609.39 interest $133,443.23
total payments $248,609.39 total payments $333,443.23

You will pay a significantly higher amount of interest over the life of a 30 year mortgage. The interest payment of $133,443.23 increases your total payments by 67% over the amount you have borrowed. And that’s at today’s rock bottom mortgage rates! I should point out that above 5.325%, the interest portion on a 30 year mortgage exceeds the original principal. In other words, the interest would double your cost from $200,000 to $400,000.

You can deduct the mortgage interest expense from your taxes, but the amount of the benefit you will receive depends on your marginal federal income tax rate. Here is the value of the tax benefit for six tax brackets.

15 Year Mortgage @ 3.00% 30 Year Mortgage @ 3.75%
interest $48,609.39 interest $133,443.23
15%: $7,291.41 15%: $20,016.48
25%: $12,152.35 25%: $33,360.81
28%: $13,610.63 28%: $37,364.10
33%: $16,041.10 33%: $44,036.27
35%: $17,013.29 35%: $46,705.13
39.6% $19.249.32 39.6%: $52,843.52

Obviously, the 30 year mortgage provides much higher tax deductions, although they are spread over twice as long as the 15 year mortgage. If we subtract the tax savings from the total payments of the mortgage, we end up with the following costs per tax bracket.

Total Cost, after the tax savings
15 Year Mortgage @ 3.00% 30 Year Mortgage @ 3.75%
15%: $241,317.98 15%: $313,426.75
25%: $236,457.04 25%: $300,082.42
28%: $234,998.76 28%: $296,079.13
33%: $232,568.29 33%: $289,406.96
35%: $231,596.10 35%: $286,738.10
39.6%: $229,360.07 39.6%: $280,599.71

It should not be a surprise that even though the 30-year mortgage provides higher tax deductions, that it is still more expensive than a 15-year mortgage, even when we consider it on an after-tax basis.

For most Americans, the actual tax benefit they will receive is much, much less than described above. That’s because in order to deduct mortgage interest, taxpayers have to itemize their tax return and forgo the standard deduction. As a reminder, itemized deductions also include state and local taxes, casualty, theft, and gambling losses, health expenses over 10% of AGI, and charitable contributions.

For 2015, the standard deduction is $6,300 for single taxpayers and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly. So, if you are a married couple and your itemized deductions total $13,000, you’re actually only receiving $400 more in deductions than if you had no mortgage at all and claimed the standard deduction. And of course, if your itemized deductions fall below $12,600, you would take the standard deduction and you would not be getting any tax savings from the mortgage whatsoever.

While the mortgage interest deduction is very popular with the public, economists dislike the policy because it is a regressive tax benefit. It largely helps those with a big mortgage and a high income. For many middle class taxpayers, the tax benefits of mortgage interest is a red herring. With our example of 3.75% on a $200,000 mortgage, even in the first year, the interest is only $7,437. That’s well under the standard deduction of $12,600 for a married couple, and the interest expense will drop in each subsequent year.

Compare that to someone who takes out a $1 million mortgage: their first year interest deduction would be $37,186 on a 30 year note. Simply looking at the amount of the mortgage interest will not determine how much tax savings you will actually reap, without looking at your other deductions, and comparing these amounts to the standard deduction.

Even if you are one of those high earners with a substantial mortgage, you have another problem: your itemized deductions can be reduced under the so-called “Pease limitations”. These limitations were reintroduced in 2013. For 2015, itemized deductions are phased out for tax payers making over $258,250 (single) or $309,900 (married).

Bottom line: If your mortgage is modest, your interest deduction may not be more than your standard deduction. And if you are a high earner, you are likely to have your deductions reduced. All of which means that the tax benefit of real estate is being highly overvalued by most calculations. There is a substantial floor and ceiling on the mortgage interest deduction and it provides no benefit for taxpayers who are below or above those thresholds.

Ceiling: Pease limits on tax payers making over $258,250 (single) or $309,900 (married).
Middle: receive a tax benefit between these two levels.
Floor: no benefit on deductions below the standard deduction of $6,300 (single) or $12,600 (married).

The 15 Year Mortgage: Myth and Reality

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Everyone seems to be talking about Real Estate again. This month, I sat with three friends, and remarkably, all three were looking at moving and buying a new house. Real Estate is hot right now in Dallas, and almost everywhere else, too. The losses from 2009 have been erased and prices are making new highs. Even if you aren’t looking to move, chances are good that your property tax assessment has moved up significantly in the past two years.

Major corporate offices are being built in North Dallas, bringing tens of thousands of jobs to the area. And those relatively well-paid corporate employees are going to want to live in close commuting distance to work. Home owners have equity in their property, and interest rates, which have remained low, are expected to start creeping up. Many feel like right now is the perfect time to move up to their dream house. It has been a seller’s market, with many houses being sold quickly and often meeting or exceeding asking prices.

Anyone who has read this blog or my book, knows that I recommend home buyers consider a 15 year rather than a 30 year mortgage. Let’s go through those numbers in detail and consider the myths and reality of your mortgage decision.

For our example, let’s assume you are buying a $250,000 house and putting 20%, or $50,000, down. You will finance $200,000 through a mortgage.

At an average current rate of 3%, your monthly payment on a 15 year mortgage (not including taxes or insurance) is $1381.16. The 30 year mortgage will cost you approximately 3.75%, but your monthly payment will be only $926.23.

15 Year Mortgage @ 3.00% 30 Year Mortgage @ 3.75%
payment $1381.16 payment $926.23
difference = $454.93

A lot of people will look at the 30 year mortgage and will say that it “saves” them $454.93 a month. Let’s break that down. On the 15 year mortgage, your first payment consists of $500 interest and $881.16 in principal. On the 30 year note, the first payment includes $625 in interest while only $301.23 is applied towards interest. Most of your payment on the 15 year note is going towards principal, building your equity, where as most of the 30 year payment goes towards interest. So, even though the 15 year note costs $454.93 more, in the first month, it applies $579.93 more towards your principal.

15 Year Mortgage 30 Year Mortgage
payment $1381.16 payment $926.23
principal $881.16 principal $301.23
difference = $579.93

After making 10 years of payments, your remaining balance on the 15 year note would be $76,864.99 and you will have paid $42,604.59 in total interest. On the 30 year, $200,000 mortgage, your balance after 10 years is still $156,223.55, and you will have paid $67,371.29 in total interest. At this point, the person who chose the 15 year note has paid off most of their loan and has the end in sight.

15 Year Mortgage @ 10 years 30 Year Mortgage @ 10 years
Balance $76,864.99 Balance $156,223.55
Interest Paid $42,604.59 Interest Paid $67,371.29

Assuming your home value increases a modest 1% a year, here’s a look at how your home equity would compare after 10 years under both mortgages.

15 Year Mortgage @ 10 years 30 Year Mortgage @ 10 years
Home Value $276,156 Home Value $276,156
Balance $76,865 Balance $156,224
Equity $199,291 Equity $119,932
Difference = $79,359

The nearly $80,000 difference in equity after 10 years shows how the 15 year mortgage is a really another way of “forced savings”. You would have equity to buy another house if you should want or need to move. Or if you’d like to retire, a 15 year mortgage may enable you to have no house payment when you reach retirement age.

So far this is pretty simple. But you may be wondering, what if I were to choose the 30 year mortgage and invest the difference of $454.93 per month? If you did this for 10 years, and earned 7%, you would have an investment account with $78,740. That’s almost the same as the difference in equity in the chart above.

Let’s take this further and assume that you invest the $454.93 for the full 30 years. How would this compare to paying the 15 year mortgage and then investing $1381.16 for the following 15 years?

15 Year Mortgage 30 Year Mortgage
Pay mortgage for 15 years, then invest $1381.16

for the next 15 years, at 7%

Invest the difference of $454.93 for 30 years, at 7%
Investment Value $437,760 Investment Value $554,959

This shows that choosing the 30 year mortgage and investing the difference versus a 15 year mortgage could generate a better outcome over 30 years. So then why would I suggest that home buyers choose the 15 year product instead? Here are two reasons:

1) If you go to a bank, mortgage broker, or realtor and say that you can afford a $1381 per month payment, they are not likely to help you decide between a 15 or 30 year mortgage. Rather, they will assume you will choose the 30 year note and then tell you how much house you can “afford”.

Instead of looking at the $250,000 house in our example, you could afford a $370,000 house with a 30 year note. And you will not be investing the $454 per month difference as in the theoretical example. With the more expensive house comes more expensive costs, including taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance.

People who become wealthy look at their housing as a cost, not as an investment. While you can afford a more expensive house under a 30 year mortgage, that doesn’t mean that it is in your best interest to do so, if you have other financial goals such as retirement.

It is vitally important to remember that there is a conflict of interest throughout most the real estate industry. People who are paid commissions have an incentive to put you in the most expensive house and mortgage that the bank will allow them to sell. They do not get paid to help you retire, save in your 401(k), or send your kids to college. It’s remarkable to me that six years after the sub-prime crisis that there has been so little change to the fundamental conflicts of interest in the real estate industry.

2) I don’t know very many people who actually have the discipline to invest the $454.93 a month they would “save” with a 30 year mortgage. More likely, they will increase their other discretionary spending (cars, vacations, furnishings, etc.) that accompany “keeping up with the Joneses” in a nice neighborhood.

The only way someone would be able to make it work would be automate the process and establish a recurring monthly deposit of $454 into a mutual fund or IRA. By the way, the 30 year example above only showed a good outcome because I assumed the investment was made into stocks and earn 7% for 30 years. If you put that money in cash and only earn 3%, the 15 year mortgage produces the superior outcome. The 30 year mortgage only produces a better outcome if you can greatly exceed the cost of borrowing (3.75% in our example). Here’s what it looks like if returns are only 3% over 30 years:

15 Year Mortgage 30 Year Mortgage
Pay mortgage for 15 years, then invest $1381.16

for the next 15 years, at 3%

Invest the difference of $454.93 for 30 years, at 3%
Investment Value $313,486 Investment Value $265,105

My fear of the 30 year mortgage is that it is not used by consumers or real estate professionals to maximize saving and growth investing. If it was, it would be a good tool for increasing your net worth. Rather it is used to maximize the amount of home you can purchase today.

For professions where career income is expected to rise only at the rate of inflation (such as teachers and musicians), your income is not going to increase fast enough to enable future saving when you take on a jumbo-sized mortgage. The result is that all your disposable income will go towards the house, with very little towards retirement, saving, or investment.

If today’s real estate market has you excited, be careful. It’s great that your home value has shot up 20% or more in the past couple of years. That makes it a great time to downsize, but actually an expensive time to buy a bigger house. We are lucky in Dallas that Real Estate prices have remained affordable; in many cities on the coasts, home buyers have no choice but to use the 30 year mortgage because prices are so high. If you start with the 15 year mortgage in mind when you are considering how much house you can afford, it can help you increase your net worth faster.

What Skills Do You Need to Succeed in Finance?

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Article by Andy Masaki

Success and prosperity come when you master the most sought after financial skills.

Curious to know what those skills are? Want to imbibe them to be a successful man or woman in your community? Good.

Here are the four skills that are essential to being able to accomplish your financial goals. We all have these skills at some level, but often need a reminder of how fundamentally important these skills are to your overall financial well-being.

Skill #1, Organization: Are you on the brink of retirement? If you want to have a peaceful financial life after retirement, then you can’t skip the first step of taking the time to thoroughly understand all the complex, moving parts of your retirement plan.

First, you need to gather all your financial documents and calculate how much have you saved in all of your investment accounts and retirement plans. Download a copy of your most recent Social Security statement from ssa.gov.

Next, evaluate your family’s medical needs and consider what health plans you may need in addition to Medicare. If you or your spouse will be under age 65 at retirement, research what options you may have for health insurance before you are eligible for Medicare.

Third, check your estate planning documents. Make sure all your information and beneficiaries are in proper order. If your plan is more than five years old, have it reviewed by an attorney to make sure your documents are appropriate for your current needs.

Fourth, organize your tax papers and have a talk with your CPA or tax planner. Discuss the possible ways to save tax in light of your retirement.

Fifth, find out details of your employer’s benefits to retirees. Have a talk with the HR and ask about your options. Submit the required documents to the HR so that you can enjoy all the benefits after retirement.

Sixth, create an emergency fund that will help you survive for at least 12-24 months.

Seventh, plan a budget as per your monthly expenses and needs. Make sure you include annual expenses, such as taxes or insurance premiums, and also set aside money for unexpected bills, such as home or auto repairs.

Skill #2, Strategic Planning: The ability to create a powerful strategy for achieving your goals is a commendable skill. This requires you to focus on your long-term goals and create a specific, detailed plan which will get you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future. Keep an eye on the prize and collaborate with your financial advisor to achieve results. Positive outcomes will motivate you and drive you towards financial success. Negative outcomes will force you to revisit your plan and adjust your course as necessary.

Skill #3, Risk Management: Be it personal finance or investments, there will always be some risks. It is essential that you understand the specific kinds of risks you are taking with each investment, as well as the overall level of risk associated with your entire portfolio.

Research thoroughly before making an investment or adopting a financial plan. Read articles, talk with people, and never be afraid to ask questions. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Apart from investments, there are a few additional things you need to consider. Review your current insurance policies and make sure you know what would be covered and what would not be covered. Make sure you understand your home, auto, and umbrella policies. Check with your financial planner about your individual need for life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance . Not everyone needs every type of insurance, but if you do need insurance, not being covered can be a catastrophic blow to your financal success. Don’t risk everything to save a little.

Skill #4, Keep Learning: To lead a successful financial life, you need to continue to learn. Tax laws and investment regulations change continually. What never changes is that well-informed investors are better positioned to understand their options and seize the opportunities which can help them achieve their goals. Financial planning is not a one-time event, but an on-going process.

Developing your financial skills is a lifelong process, but it doesn’t have to become a full-time job. Focus on the essential decisions you have to get right and keep things simple. Get organized, make a good plan, scrutinize your risks carefully, and keep learning. If you cultivate these four skills, you will make better financial decisions that can lead to success.

Author Bio: Andy Masaki is an editor with Oak View Law Group and contributes specifically on personal finance topics. You  can also find him fielding queries based on money management topics at various online communities and social media platforms.

Vulnerability Analysis

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You’ve worked hard, saved for decades, and have saved a nice nest egg for yourself and your family. One day, you are involved in a serious auto accident and the other party sues you. A sympathetic jury finds you liable for $10 million from the accident. How much of your assets could be seized by creditors?

You probably have never thought about this question, and hopefully, you will never be in such a scenario. However, we live in a litigious society, and if you have wealth, you can be sure that there are thousands of attorneys who would jump at the chance to bring a lawsuit against someone with deep pockets.

What we offer our clients is a Vulnerability Analysis, where we look at all of your assets and calculate what percentage of your assets could be seized by creditors. The goal of our Vulnerability Analysis is to determine the creditor status of each asset and help you substantially shift your wealth into assets which are exempt from creditors.

We will determine how much of a buffer your insurance will offer and show you which of your assets could be attached by creditors. We will make recommendations for moving funds to accounts, assets, and trusts which will offer creditor protection. It’s important to take these steps today, because you cannot “hide” assets from creditors after an event has occurred. By undergoing our Vulnerability Analysis process, you will know you have protected a large portion of your wealth from creditors, if you should ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being sued.

Each year, we can update your Vulnerability Analysis and make sure that you are protecting your family. While this analysis is particularly valuable for doctors who potentially face malpractice claims, it is also beneficial for anyone who owns a business or property. And while some professionals are keenly aware of the possibility of being sued, the reality is that almost anyone could be sued, even for the actions of their teenage children.

You may have done everything right for the last 25 years, but if all your assets are in non-exempt accounts, then your vulnerability is 100% today. That’s why the value of financial planning includes much more than just which mutual funds you pick. Our Vulnerability Analysis process is included for our Wealth Management clients; call or email me to find out how you can become a client.

I was the driver of the car in this photo. On June 15 of this year, another driver ran a red light and hit us, totalling the car. The other driver admitted he was at fault, was distracted and didn’t see the red light. Luckily, we all survived. You always think these things only happen to other people, but accidents can happen to anyone. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Financial Planning for the Sandwich Generation

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Nearly every day, I talk with someone who is a member of the “sandwich” generation. No, this isn’t a group of people who like peanut butter and jelly. The sandwich generation refers to people, primarily Baby Boomers, who are caring and providing for both their own children and older family members, most often their aging parents.

This can create quite a strain, emotionally and financially, as adults have to prioritize their time and money to care for their own children as well as their aging relatives who may be dealing with health issues, financial problems, and sometimes declining mental faculties and decision making abilities. Needless to say, given these competing demands, their own retirement planning is often the casualty. Some become full-time caregivers and may be out of the workforce for years while they care for an ailing family member.

In recent months, I’ve heard many sad and difficult situations, including:

  • An 89-year old Grandmother who decided to have cataract surgery only when they said if she did not have surgery, they would take away her driver’s license. No one wants to lose their independence, but maybe her driving isn’t such a great idea, both for her own safety and for others on the road.
  • A relative’s 90-year old mother fell and could not get up. She was unable to reach a phone and spent more than four hours on the floor before someone found her. This was not her first fall incident, and still the children had to go to great lengths to convince their parents that they needed to move to a retirement home. The parents are nearly broke, so the bills will be paid by the son, who is also providing for two college-aged children.
  • A friend’s mother went into hospice and passed away shortly thereafter. He spent the whole summer sorting through her belongings and trying to ready her home for sale. Given her vast collection of items, there are still many months of work ahead.
  • A friend’s older sister was diagnosed with ALS this week. She lives alone, but recently suffered a nasty fall which resulted in a large gash to her head.
  • A statistic from the MIT AgeLab: for people over the age of 70, a broken hip has a 50% mortality rate within 18 months. This is not usually a direct result of the injury, but from a rapidly declining health situation if they become wheelchair-bound. It’s use it or lose it, when it comes to our mobility and health.

We are living longer today, which is a great blessing. However, it also means that many of us will live to an age where we may eventually need some assistance. This is a good problem to have. If everyone only lived into their 50’s, like we did in the 1800’s, we wouldn’t need to address these issues! We should be thankful that medical advances have so greatly extended our longevity over the past century.

While there are many difficult emotional aspects to these conversations, there are many financial considerations as well. If you are part of the sandwich generation, we can help you navigate the difficult decisions you face with your aging parents while making sure that you are also managing your own financial goals.

People who have these conversations with their financial planner in their 60’s may save a great deal of stress and burden on their children in 15 or 20 years. We can help you plan better to make sure that your future doesn’t depend on your children’s finances and generosity. Here are some thoughts about how you can remain healthy and happy as you age:

  1. Create an income plan that budgets for rising health care costs. You do not want to run out of money in your 80’s and have to spend down your assets to qualify for Medicaid. That may be a safety net, but it is a lousy plan.
  2. Work on your home to create a physical space which will allow you to “age in place”. A safe home can not only help prevent injury, but can allow you stay independent for longer.
  3. While no one wants to be in a nursing home, if you live long enough, it is almost inevitable that you will eventually require some help with the Activities of Daily Living. Some are in denial about their abilities in this regard, and it is only a major event, like a broken hip, which eventually prompts a move.
  4. A Long-Term Care insurance policy can pay for home health care. Rather than thinking of an LTC policy as a “nursing home” policy, think of it as the policy which can keep you out of a nursing home.
  5. Today’s retirement communities offer a wide range of services, from truly independent living to round-the-clock skilled nursing. There are many benefits to being part of a community and spending time with friends who have similar interests and backgrounds. Health care professionals are beginning to recognize the significant impact that a social network has on healthy aging.
  6. Create an estate plan which will not create an unnecessary burden on your heirs. Don’t leave a mess for your children to have to clean up.
  7. Reduce taxes on your estate and your heirs. I saw two unfortunate tax situations this year which could have been avoided with better planning. In one situation, an elderly aunt made her nephew the joint owner of her home. The result: no step-up in cost basis on this out-of-state property! In another situation, a father made the beneficiary of his IRA a trust. The IRA was distributed to the trust and was not correctly established as a stretch IRA. As a result, the entire distribution is taxable in 2015. And since the beneficiary was a trust, the applicable tax rate will be 39.6%!

If you are already retired, we can make sure you have a retirement income plan, health care funding, and an estate plan to carry out your wishes. Don’t wait. Our cognitive abilities decline slightly each year, so it’s best to make these decisions in your 60’s or early 70’s and not wait until your 80’s or 90’s.

Men, especially, seem to be in denial about the importance of this planning. Typically, the husband does die first and most retirement homes I have visited are 60% to 90% women. So gentlemen, if you don’t want to plan for yourself, plan for your wife. If you fail to plan for her, sorry, that’s just plain irresponsible. And hopefully you agree she deserves better.

Whether you are in the sandwich generation or just want to make sure you aren’t going to make your children part of the sandwich generation in the future, financial planning can help.