Young or old, after the financial devastation of the six months, we have more reasons than ever take a fresh look at our financial and estate plans. Most of us planned for increased financial assets in the future. Very few of us has planned for less money.
Those who are retired or plan to be in a few years don’t have a lot of time to sit tight and hope for a recovery. In light of the steep declines in our fortunes, here are some questions to think about:
“How are you doing financially?” Falling stock prices, lower interest rates and reduced dividends at many stalwart companies may also have sliced retirees’ monthly income. Besides causing sharp cuts in spending, it is wise now to consider new ways to get income out of existing assets.
Elderly parents may need your help revising their budgets, or they may need to rework their investment mix. Others may need to explore ways to tap their home equity. If that isn’t your strong suit, you may want to help them find a good independent financial adviser.
From an estate planning point of view, if your assets have been substantially reduced, consider making changes to you estate plans. As an example, one strategy would be to reduce or eliminate specific cash gifts so that the amount set aside in the will for children isn’t eaten up by the once smaller gifts earmarked for distant relatives, charities or grandchildren.
Others may need to take a closer look at their children’s current and future needs in making changes to the estate plan. When one child has lost a good job, or had other financial setbacks, the best approach may not be to leave the entire estate to all children in equal shares.
In these days of financial scandal we all need to be aware of people trying to sell financial products. Among the possibilities: telemarketing scammers promising sweepstakes and lottery winnings in return for initial payments, and slick salesmen selling seniors products or services they don’t need. Senior citizens particularly need to beware of investments that may sound good — offering regular income or guaranteed returns — but that may be inappropriate for retirees.
Many annuities, for instance, come with steep expenses and “surrender” fees, which prevent the holder from withdrawing their money for several years without a huge penalty, making the funds inaccessible in an emergency.
Adult children should ask their parents that question if anybody is trying to sell them something. If the answer is yes, encourage them to talk with adviser before they buy anything.