The retirement safety nets that have existed in the past like Social Security really are a thing of the past. Worse yet, even if they were set in stone they’re not likely to provide enough for the lifestyle you’d like to enjoy with your grandchildren and hopefully great grandchildren!

Add to that the fact that we are all living longer, so we’re dependent on the income we generate throughout our working lives for many more years than previously thought – clearly retirement planning is vital.

Retirement planning is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity. You have to think about how much you’ll need, when to retire, how to achieve enough retirement income to enjoy the lifestyle you want for your later years and what will the government have to contribute if anything?

We take into account your current lifestyle, income levels, projected income leading up to retirement and create a plan that is going to support your needs now and in retirement. While it is hard to predict what the future holds, it’s easy to ensure that yours has at a very minimum the lifestyle you know you want. Talk with one of our specialist team members today on how best to prepare for a comfortable retirement.

Estate Planning

Estate planning, the process of planning how to preserve your assets for your heirs, is not just for the very wealthy. Everyone should engage in some form of estate planning. After working hard for many years, building up a business, and accumulating assets, you should make sure that those assets will not be unnecessarily used up but are preserved for your survivors. Here’s a basic guide to wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools.

An Overview
What constitutes your estate? Essentially, it includes everything you own at the time of your death minus your debts. Occasionally, rules can apply which may bring back into your estate assets you’ve given away, or thought you’d given away.

Taxation considerations for your estate will vary depending on factors such as where you live and the total value of your estate. That’s why it’s so important for you to speak with your accountant to determine the most appropriate way for you to establish an estate plan that works for you.

In addition to a last will and testament, there are other important tools and documents you should consider:

  • Trust
  • Postmortem letter
  • Life insurance

A common misconception is that trusts are only suited for use by the very wealthy. That is just not the case today. People of a wide variety of income levels use them as estate planning tools. Trusts are complex and costly to set up and run, requiring a higher level of services from an attorney than wills. They are useful in accomplishing various estate and financial planning goals. Trusts can be used for many worthwhile purposes, some of which are listed below:

  • Giving property to children
  • Reducing estate taxes
  • Leaving assets to a spouse
  • Providing for life insurance used to pay estate tax

Your accountant, together with your attorney will be able to advise you if a trust is a viable proposition for you.

Postmortem Letter
If you pass away, will anyone but you know where your tax records and supporting tax documents are located? How about your important documents such as deeds, titles, wills, insurance papers? Do these people know who your accountant/ your lawyer/ your broker is? By failing to leave your heirs this information, it will cause a lot of headaches and may also result in additional taxes and costs being incurred without the appropriate documentation.

Life Insurance
The main purpose of life insurance is to provide for the welfare of survivors. But life insurance can also serve as an estate-planning tool. For example, it can be used to finance the payment of future estate taxes or to finance a buy-out of a deceased’s interest in a business. It can also be used to pay funeral and final expenses and debts.

Last Will and Testament

Many people believe they do not need a will. Yet, we believe them to be one of the most important documents you will ever create. A will that is poorly drafted or does not dot every legal “i” and cross every legal “t” can be the cause of endless trouble for your survivors.

We’ve listed 5 very important reasons for ensuring you always have a valid and updated will.

Why A Will Is SO Important:

  1. To Choose Beneficiaries. Many succession laws will determine how your property will be distributed if you die without a valid will. These distributions may be contrary to what you want. In effect, by not having a will, you are allowing the state to choose your beneficiaries.
  2. To Appoint a Guardian. A prepared will allows you to name the chosen guardian by whom your minor children will be cared for in the event of your death and/or the death of your spouse.
  3. To Name an Executor. Without a will, you cannot appoint someone you trust to carry out the administration of your estate. If you do not specifically name an executor in a will, a court will appoint someone to handle your estate, perhaps someone you would not have chosen.
  4. To Minimize Taxes. A properly prepared will is necessary to implement estate-tax-reduction strategies. Your accountant can assist you and your attorney in the preparation of this will.
  5. To Establish Permanent Legal Residence. You may wish to firmly establish domicile (permanent legal residence) in a particular state or country for tax or other reasons. If you move frequently or own homes in more than one state, each state in which you reside could try to impose death or inheritance taxes at the time of death, possibly subjecting your estate to multiple probate proceedings. To lessen the risk of this, you should execute a will that clearly indicates your intended state of domicile.

You should review your will every two or three years, or whenever your circumstances change. A change that might necessitate a change to your estate plan might include:

  • Divorce
  • Having a child
  • Having children move out of the house
  • Acquiring a large asset
  • Selling a large asset
  • A change in the tax laws

Obtaining Finance

Why do we so often feel apprehensive when faced with the prospect of having to obtain financing? Whether it be for a new car, to buy real estate, or simply to fund a vacation – the art of obtaining financing has long been something that seems to have its own set of rules and laws. But does it need to be that way? Perhaps not, if you follow a few fundamental tips when applying for a loan.

To determine whether or not you qualify for a loan, many lenders will evaluate you by a mysterious point system. To make it even more of a mystery, they keep their rating systems close to their chest, so it can be hard for you to determine whether or not you’ll get the credit you’re hoping to.

Your salary or income will be taken into consideration. Your level of income may help you to pass the credit test, but you shouldn’t assume that it will automatically mean you are able to borrow any set amount. Income does not make you credit worthy, and lenders will assess your credit history before approving you.

You can be pretty well assured that you’ll be scored on the number and types of existing loans and credit cards you have. In fact, one of the ironies of obtaining financing is that it is a lot easier to do so once you’ve already used other types of credit. The most highly desired options for establishing a credit rating are travel and entertainment cards, followed by bank credit cards and department store charge cards. It is also helpful for you to have established a consistent record of paying your bills on time and card installments on time. You should eliminate any credit cards you have that you don’t use because lenders could interpret your long list of cards as meaning that you have the potential to run up a lot of debt. You should be aware that traditionally lenders will take closer notice if you have a history of using finance providers for credit. Finance providers are known to carry a significant percentage of clients who present higher credit risks than most banks will accept. However, if you do have financing with an outfit such as this, and you have a solid payment history, you shouldn’t lose any additional points.

Also taken into account will be your current financial commitments. A rule of thumb guideline is that if more than 35% – 40% of your gross income goes into paying off current debts, including mortgage and auto loan payments, lenders are not likely to approve your application. In general, you are better off if you own your home rather than rent, and if you already have a savings or checking account (with a positive balance!).

In most countries, you are entitled to obtain a copy of your credit report if you are refused financing. Mistakes have been known to happen, so you may need to clear them up and re-apply. Or you could go to another lender. Each one has its own minimum standards, so you may find one that is prepared to take a greater risk in order to provide finance. Finally, if you are one of the fresh-faced, new to the credit world order, here are some tips you can take to establish a credit rating:

  • Open and use a checking account
  • Start a savings account and make regular deposits (and minimum withdrawals!)
  • Join a credit union where you work
  • Take out, use and repay promptly your bills on a department store credit card. Tip: Department store cards are usually easier to acquire than bank and credit cards, which generally require you to earn a certain minimum salary, and also have several other credit requirements.
  • In some countries, you can open a ‘secured’ credit or bankcard account, where you deposit funds into an account, and can operate a credit card from those accounts. Often 6-12 months of solid and reliable usage with one of these cards will be sufficient to establish a credit rating.

In many cases where obtaining financing is required, it is important that your attorney and accountant are involved from the start. Contact us if you’d like some assistance in determining how best to apply for financing, and to ensure that all the necessary steps are covered.

Buying and Selling Real Estate

Once you are ready to buy a home, you will need to be as informed as possible. We can help you determine how much money to save for a down payment, how to work with a real estate agent, how to negotiate and what you need to know about closings. We’re also specialists in helping you structure your mortgage so you’ll gain the maximum benefits from your investment. Contact us if you’d like to discuss this in more detail.

Funding Higher Education

We all want the best for our children – for them to have every opportunity to grow and learn and to make a success of their life. The challenge we face as parents of young is how to properly fund our children’s education without draining our current cash flow.

What should you do if they are a few years away from college and your education fund won’t be enough? How can you increase your chances of getting financial aid? What tax benefits might be available to you? Your professional advisors are able to help you answer these question and any others you may have. With the costs of a college education rising every year, the keys to funding your child’s education are to plan early and invest shrewdly. However, there are steps you can take if you get a late start. Moreover, there are a number of effective techniques for increasing financial aid opportunities and reducing taxes.

The thought of funding your child’s education—the cost of which has grown at about 6% a year— can be mind-boggling. However, proper planning can lessen the financial squeeze considerably, especially if you start when your child is young.

We can help you to make the right financial decisions and begin saving for that college education today.

Having a Baby

Preparing for the pitter-patter of little feet can be such an exciting, heady time that it can be easy to overlook some of the more serious issues relating to this event. As soon as you start your family, financial planning for the future becomes even more essential. How will you finance childcare, medical bills, food, education, clothing, toys, and education savings? What will you need to spend money on and how much will each item cost? It’s important to take into consideration the ongoing costs associated with starting and raising a family. To get you started, here are some of the things you’ll need to factor into your financial planning:

  • Doctor and hospital expenses
  • Nursery furniture and clothing
  • Baby supplies and equipment
  • Formula
  • Childcare
  • Healthcare
  • Toys and clothes
  • Education costs
  • Extra curricular activities (e.g., ballet classes, school camps, sporting events and activities)
  • Doctor and medical expenses
  • Increased insurance

Be certain you’re well prepared. Talk with us today about how best to prepare for a life-changing event such as the birth of a child.

Preparing for Marriage or Divorce

Goodness knows you have more than enough to organize when you’re preparing for a marriage. Not only is it a time filled with excitement and happiness – it’s also a hectic busy time. All too often the financial implications of marriage (and of divorce and re-marriage) are overlooked, or not considered fully in the excitement.

People who have recently changed their marital status or who are planning such a change may have important financial and legal decisions to make. These decisions might deal with property ownership, providing for children’s welfare, postmortem planning and day-to-day finances. You should always consult with your financial advisor to discuss the financial steps appropriate to a change in marital status.

If, at the other end of the scale, you are considering a divorce, it’s imperative that you take appropriate action to plan for the dissolution of the financial partnership in your marriage. Such dissolution involves dividing the financial assets you have accumulated during the years of marriage. If there are children involved, future support given to the custodial parent must be planned for. If you take the time and the correct measures now to prepare and plan for all eventualities, it will pay off later on. As always, you should seek the advice of your professional advisors to ensure you take the steps that are appropriate to your individual situation.