(49) What are the most common mistakes people make when creating their trusts?
I had a client recently ask me, “What are the top three things you see ‘wrong’ in other people’s trusts?” My initial response was that all three issues are the same: not having one in the first place!Among the many benefits an estate plan can provide is ameliorating the impact of what might be called problematic beneficiaries. Many of us can count among our family members individuals with mental health issues, ranging from mild depression to conditions that warrant serious treatment.
(48) Why do I need an estate plan with trusts? Isn’t a will enough?
Let’s begin with a single-sentence answer: If you have particular wishes relating to the distribution and taxation of your assets, the designation of a surrogate for your business or the nomination of guardians for your kids, and you desire to maximize the likelihood that those wishes are actually implemented, I urge you to take control of the process by establishing a well-thought-out estate plan incorporating trusts.
(47) How can financial planning turn my legacy into a “live-acey”?
I’m not interested in my legacy. I made up a word: ‘live-acey.’ I’m more interested in living.’’ At age 77, the author of that quote not only held a seat in the United States Senate, he also took a seat as a crew member on the Space Shuttle Discovery and went into orbit around the earth . . . for a second time. Of course, we are talking about John Glenn. So, what does the life of John Glenn, a true hero, have to do with the financial planning of us earthbound mortals? It has to do with Glenn’s wonderful coinage: live-acey.
(46) Should I employ different strategies for accumulating wealth vs. managing it?
Without question, building a business or career—the "accumulation" phase for wealth—requires its own set of strategies, not to mention risks. Then, as wealth begins to grow, a complementary but somewhat different set of management strategies becomes necessary to protect and preserve that wealth during the client's lifetime and for future generations. We like to say that wealth accumulation is planning scribbled in a notebook, while wealth management requires thorough, in-depth, x-ray type analysis. While clearly different, the two processes overlap and intersect and should force advisor integration.
(45) Should I adopt a "buyer beware" approach to selecting an investment advisor?
Most of us have heard of the legal doctrine “caveat emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.” Caveat emptor warns buyers that if they fail to conduct adequate due diligence before making a purchase, they will have no recourse if the product or service does not meet their expectations.That sage warning also applies to selecting an investment advisor. In short, be cautious: Before engaging an investment advisor, look beyond the attractive surface to ensure that what is hidden is equally compelling. We suggest you start by educating yourself about those qualities that are of critical importance for selecting an investment advisor.
(44) Will the winner of the presidential election affect my financial planning?
If you are reading this before November 8, 2016, Barack Obama is still president, and you have not yet cast your vote for either the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, or the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. But whomever you favor, it is time to get your financial strategy ready for a policy change almost certain to occur no matter who takes the oath of office.History teaches us that a change in presidents nearly always predicts new approaches to the relationships among government and businesses and the individual.
(43) If risk is inevitable, what can I do to manage it?
Much has been written about "risk" as it relates to investing. This includes something called "risk tolerance," a quality or trait that all investors possess and that all wealth advisors are tasked with measuring, on a scale from "low" to "high." A client’s ability to tolerate risk should influence what an advisor suggests be included in a portfolio, as well as an optimal balance of high-/low-risk investments overall. But focusing on investors’ risk tolerance in this way portrays risk as some sort of “uncontrollable force” that exists on its own and that some investors have a stomach for, and others do not.
(42) How do I manage risk with today’s fixed income investments?
In many ways, today’s fixed income is the new equity. Years ago, when you invested in a bond, you earned your 6 or 7 percent annually through maturity and that was that. Now, because of the persistent volatility in the market, investors and their advisors need to treat fixed income almost the same as an equity investment. In short, to-day’s fixed income brings with it the risks most often associated with equities. So, investors need to be more opportunistic and more carefully manage their fixed income risk.A good place to start: Evaluate each of your fixed-income investments individually and, when doing so, ask yourself: “Am I being sufficiently paid for the risk I am taking with this investment?”
(41) Can I boost the impact of my giving with strategies similar to those I use in my business?
The general answer is: Yes, you most certainly can help a charity with the same strategies you’ve employed to create and increase your own net worth. However, the more complex question is: How exactly do you do that? As a member of a high net worth family, you are most likely to incorporate a formal charitable gift arrangement for your favorite causes or charities into your overall financial and estate planning. You may also have been solicited by your local religious institutions or community organizations to contribute to appeals, fund drives or auction dinners targeting specific, often urgent, needs.
(40) Do I really need a "team" of professionals to help me avoid the pitfalls of divorce?
In my experience, most people faced with the prospect of a divorce, think of it as a legal process, governed by state laws and handled by “divorce lawyers.” But, in reality, getting divorced goes well beyond the legal. It is also about family and emotions and, for high net worth couples in particular, very much about money. Few attorneys—and this is meant with all due respect—possess the skills to handle all those variables. Meaning that, in a high-asset divorce, you need to assemble a team of professionals qualified to address each one of those variables. Your Legal Team - Of course you will need legal representation, but be sure to select attorneys who specialize in divorce.
(39) Should I adopt a 'buyer beware' approach to selecting an investment advisor?
Most of us have heard of the legal doctrine “caveat emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.” Caveat emptor warns buyers that if they fail to conduct adequate due diligence before making a purchase, they will have no recourse if the product or service does not meet their expectations. That sage warning also applies to selecting an investment advisor. In short, be cautious: Before engaging an investment advisor, look beyond the attractive surface to ensure that what is hidden is equally compelling. We suggest you start by educating yourself about those qualities that are of critical importance for selecting an investment advisor.
(38) Why should I insist my advisors work less independently and more as a team?
To answer your question, let’s begin with a story: A financially independent client of mine met with his wealthy aging mother and the two agreed that the proceeds from her estate should go not to him, her son, but should skip a generation and go directly to her grandson. Shortly thereafter, the mom’s attorney, who had set up her revocable living trust with generation-skipping provisions, called me to help identify the best way to complete the transfer of the mom’s assets to the trust. After reviewing the finances of my client’s mother, I discovered that most of her money was in non-qualified annuities.
(37) Why is it important for me to understand the 'psychology of money'?
According to legend, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said to Ernest Hemingway, “The rich are different from you and me,” to which Hemingway responded, “Yes, they have more money.” High net worth families certainly live differently than families of more moderate means, and, without question, money does affect one’s psychology and behavior. But, in the context of the effect of human emotion on a person’s investment decisions, and the effect of those decisions on the markets, those across the wealth spectrum actually share more commonalities than differences. This article strives to raise awareness about the “psychology of money.”
(36) What are some creative ways of benefiting from irrevocable trusts?
Irrevocable is not a welcoming concept. We humans are not comfortable with anything that is “not capable of being changed” or “impossible to revoke.” And that sense of finality may well be the reason why investors are often slow to include “irrevocable trusts” in their strategies. But if you are willing to overcome these typical hesitations by exploring the often-underutilized opportunities trusts afford, then you, your estate and heirs are likely to celebrate their many available benefits. When you move part of your estate into an irrevocable trust, you do relinquish ownership of those assets. But the transfer from your estate into an irrevocable living trust (“living,” because it is created during your life) may protect those assets from creditors or lawsuits under current law.
(35) Does the traditional 'glide path' retirement formula still work?
As Archie and Edith used to sing, “those were the days,” and they certainly were, at least in terms of retirement planning. But times have changed. Today, the traditional “glide path” strategy, where after retiring you got 5 percent out of your Treasuries and “were good” is almost irrelevant. With rates hovering at or near zero, many believe that formula is no longer a viable option. Keeping in mind that retirement planning has a lot to do with percent-ages and expectations, the new rules of retirement apply from the average Joe right up to the highest net worth families.
(34) What is ‘tax diversification,’ and how can it benefit me?
Most investors associate “diversification” with the mix of investments in their portfolio and use it as a strategy to reduce risk. The same strategy works for considering the one place you lose money: taxes. We call this approach “tax diversification,” and in many respects, it works and benefits you the same way diversifying your investments does. In simple terms, tax diversification is less about where you invest and more about how to reposition your highly appreciated assets so that when you pull money out, you avoid getting hit with higher taxes.Historically, many investors have put money into IRAs and other tax-qualified plans for deductibility and tax deferral, while their businesses, stocks and real estate became highly appreciated.
(33) Is it possible to increase my charitable giving and improve my financial position?
Every year, the government knocks on your door to collect taxes. Once your income is in the government’s coffers, the government allocates a portion of it to a number of expenses, including those incurred for the common good and in the public interest, such as social security, unemployment, Medicare, health and military. Your direct control over the allocation of the government’s collections is zero—that job is left to the legislative and executive branches. When we consider the inefficiencies of a large government bureaucracy, as well as the influence that special interests and politics have on such allocations, it is no overstatement to say that your “contribution” to the common good and public interest via taxes gets diluted.
(32) How can I modify a concentrated position and help lower my risk?
Recognizing that you have a “concentrated position” and that you need to modify it counts as a significant first step in helping to reduce your risk. We say “significant” because high net worth business owners and corporate executives often: a. do not realize they have a concentrated position; orb. realize they have a concentrated position but are reluctant to change it. While owners and executives often share traits A. and B., their positions become “concentrated” differently, so the strategy to modify or “hedge” these diverse concentrations differs as well.The Business Owner Hedge: Whether you built a company “from the ground up” or inherited it, the likelihood is that most of your assets are tied up in your business. Let’s say it is a well-run and profitable company that manufactures house paint and markets its products domestically.
(31) How do I manage risk with today’s fixed income investments?
In many ways, today’s fixed income is “the new equity.” Years ago, when you invested in a bond, you earned your 6 or 7 percent annually through maturity and that was that. Now, because of the persistent volatility in the market, investors and their advisors need to treat fixed income almost the same as an equity investment. In short, today’s fixed income brings with it the risks most often associated with equities. So, investors need to be more opportunistic and more carefully manage their fixed income risk. A good place to start: Evaluate each of your fixed-income investments individually and, when doing so, ask yourself: “Am I being sufficiently paid for the risk I am taking with this investment?”